Central Tallinn road work uncovers 18th century bridge

Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Vladimir Svet (Center).
Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Vladimir Svet (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Extensive roadworks, one of several such projects in central Tallinn at present, have revealed an 18th-century bridge that had been buried under one of the capital's main through-routes, Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Vladimir Svet (Center) says.

News portal Delfi reports (link in Estonian) that a solution to the historical item, in relation to the road reconstruction work, has yet to be found, with funding being one of the key factors.

Whether the discovery will hold up the ongoing work even further is also not yet clear, Delfi says.

The Härjapea river bridge used to span the river of the same name – as in many cities, this river still exists but flows along subterranean channels beneath street level, in this case the Pronksi-Jõe route, which runs northward to the harbor area.

Svet said the find was "interesting", adding that experts are currently looking at ways to preserve the structure after the through-route has been refurbished, work that began last fall; "I have to confess that this may be quite an expensive and complicated undertaking," Svet continued.

While the bridge was built in the 18th century, by the 1930s its unpleasant odor and appearance led to its being covered over – should the river ever flow near street level again, it would require cleaning, Svet added.

However, the deputy mayor says he believes "that we are talking about very large investments here, which the city currently lacks the budgetary resources for."

Jõe tänav, one of the central Tallinn streets subject to the current, ongoing and extensive road works, gives a hint at the area's past – Jõgi, or Jõe in the genitive case as with most street names, means river, in Estonian.

Svet suggested as one possibility keeping the river covered over, but visible, for instance through a strengthened glass panel – a solution found with archaeological remains discovered during the revamping of Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square) over a decade ago – though this would have to contend with the fact that the streets in question carry heavy traffic.

Ultimately, Svet told Delfi, it is too early yet to say what will happen with regard to the Härjapea River, or whether and to what extent the situation will hold up the construction work, which started in October 2022.

Traffic in central Tallinn has been severely disrupted all summer thanks to several major roadworks projects all coming at once. In addition to the Pronski-Jõe work, the tram extension to the Old City Harbor, infrastructure pipelines below Liivalaia, the refurbishment and extension of Vana-Kalamaja and the reorganization of the Tondi road/rail/tramline intersection are also ongoing.

Finding items of archaeological interest during the course of such work in the capital is a common occurrence.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Delfi

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