Spanning three centuries
The Thirty Years War (1616-1648) left Potsdam a nest which was cut off from all trade routes and lay on an island surrounded by the river Havel and ist branches and a number of lakes. It was only after the Elector Frederick William founded the electoral municipality of Potsdam and had a new palace built around 1660 that links with the surrounding area were improved by the building of bridges.
For the population of Berlin, Glienicke Bridge was “the back of beyond”: a coach journey at the end of the 17th century took around eight hours - a day`s journey.
The wooden bridge was very susceptible to the effects of the elements and had to be repaired a number of times. As industrialization and traffic steadily increased - a daily mail coach link between Berlin and Potsdam was set up in 1754, the first Prussian avenue linking linking the two royal capitals was built across the bridge between 1792 and 1795, the first Prussian railway from Berlin to Potsdam was opened in 1838 -, a new bridge was needed.
The architect and master builder Karl Friedrich Schinkel was commissioned to design a new bridge across the river Havel. Between 1831 and 1834 the second Glienicke Bridge was built of bricks in accordance with Schinkel`s plans. The bridge had ten arches and ist central wooden section could be raised to allow vessels through. This reflected the large increase in steamer traffic on the river.
The edifice fitted in perfectly with the surrounding palace and park landscapes of Glienicke, Babelsberg and Potsdam, sites which the garden architect Peter Joseph Lenné had been principally responsible for designing. Alexander von Humboldt is reported to have said that the view from Glienicke Bridge vied with the most beautiful places in the world.
However, this new architectural masterpiece was unable to cope with the increasing volume of traffic for very long. In the first year of the 20th century just under 20.000 vehicles crossed the relatively narrow bridge in peak months. The cumbersome movable wooden structure slowed down the increasing steamer traffic on the river unnecessarily.
A competition was held in 1904 to find a new design, which was to be in steel and have the outer appearance of a suspension bridge. The design submitted by the Duisburg bridge building company Johann Caspar Harkort was the one which was realized. The bridge was ceremonially opened on 16th November 1907.