Central Tallinn Härjapea bridge to be reburied rather than left on display

The uncovered Härjapea bridge is thought to date from the 18th century and spanned a river which now flows under street level.
The uncovered Härjapea bridge is thought to date from the 18th century and spanned a river which now flows under street level. Source: Vladimir Svet

A bridge thought to date from the eighteenth-century which was discovered during the course of one of the many road work projects currently taking place in central Tallinn will be reburied, the City of Tallinn has decided.

The stone bridge spanned the Härjapea River, long since covered over but which continues to flow South to North under Pronksi and Jõe – the latter street name hinting at that fact, since it would literally translate as "river street."

Ongoing major works to the major traffic thoroughfare began last fall, and the excavation revealed the bridge (see cover image).

Vladimir Svet, deputy mayor of Tallinn, told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "We have made a decision that the bridge will stay where it is, and future generations can excavate it and put it on display it if they wish."

On its initial discovery, the idea was floated of making the edifice visible through reinforced glass, something which has been done with archaeological features elsewhere in the capital, but this proved impractical and costly.

The find took construction workers by surprise, as it had not been displayed in plans and documentation relating to the subterranean work, mainly the installation of communications networks.

Ando Pajus, curator at the Tallinn City Museum (Tallinna linnamuuseum), told AK that the bridge is not the only such feature which was found in the course of roadwork but which then had to be reburied.

The remains of the Lurenburg artillery, close to the Drama Theater on Estonia pst. were one such example.

"It would be inconceivable that we would somehow start displaying this under glass there," Pajus said.

As for the bridge, Vladimir Svet said that city authorities had been liaising with heritage protection specialists and taken their assessments into account.

One possibility would have been to have in fact demolished the structure, after modeling it digitally, but this would have worked out no different in terms of costs, than preserving it and making it publicly viewable, Svet said.

"We will certainly consider how the location of the bridge might be marked nearby, on the sidewalk," the deputy mayor added.

Additionally, the subsoil surrounding the bridge will be stabilized, including via the use of polymer foam in void areas.

So far as the ongoing infrastructure works go, the required changes to water drainage and road construction, plus small reroutes to communications connections, will be among the extra tasks to be done – this work will cost the city an additional €16,800 plus VAT, AK reported.

The discovery of the Härjapea bridge, located on Pronksi and Narva mnt, came as a complete surprise to construction workers. Source: ERR

It will also delay the overall project by about a week.

Last week, during the works taking place at the corner of Pronksi and Narva mnt, an arched bridge emerged from the excavation work.

Experts date it from the 18th century, while its condition is quite well preserved, the city says.

It is assumed that it was built at the same time as Kadriorg palace, early in the 18th century during the reign of Peter the Great, and may have been part of road improvements leaving to and from Kadriorg, a couple of kilometers to the East.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'

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