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Odessa bridges: Novikov Bridge

24 Apr, 2021
Odessa bridges: Novikov Bridge

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The story about the oldest of the stone bridges in Odessa: the Novikov Bridge, built in 1822-1824.

One can only admire the talent of the Odessa architects of the 19th century, who managed to create a city convenient for life in all respects on a complex, rugged terrain, where the natural imperfections of the landscape grew into the undoubted advantages of the architectural appearance.

Novikov Bridge

In 1822, in the presence of the Governor-General of the Novorossiysk Territory, Alexander Langeron, and the mayor of Odessa, Nikolai Tregubov, the first stone bridge in the city was laid in a solemn ceremony. It connected two sections of Pochtovaya Street (now Zhukovsky street) above the Quarantine Beam leading to the port (now Devolanovsky Descent). It is the oldest of the stone bridges in Odessa (it should be noted that there were dozens of others - wooden bridges.

The construction of the bridge took two years and it was opened in 1824. The author of the project was the famous military engineer Just (Valentinovich) Hauy, and the construction was supervised by the architect Alexander Digby.

Just Hauy

(July 1, 1793 – August 1, 1848)

Born in Paris. French geologist and military engineer. Major Engineer. In 1828 he was elected a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Conducted research on Odessa landslides, underground water, a number of problems of construction buildings and structures. He was the first one who, since 1813, began to analyse the numerous facts of the appearance in just founded the city of Odessa landslides and successfully applied his knowledge in the design and construction of urban objects. He presented his works in French to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1831, thereby making a contribution in the development of Russian engineering science.

Hauy proposed a model of education landslides, which was recognised by all subsequent geologists and engineers. His activities in Odessa developed in cooperation in collaboration with other engineers in several areas, contributing to the successful development of the city of Odessa. He generally applied the Empire style when designing of  buildings, yet a  number of  structures was built as medieval architecture.

Postal Bridge (aka Novikov), formerly Zhukovsky street was called Postal street

Alexander Digby

1758, Tuscany - no earlier than 1840, Russian Empire

Alexander Petrovich Digby Sr. was originally from Northern Italy, from Tuscany. He was one of the many foreign specialists - architects, topographers, builders, who were attracted by the Russian Empress Catherine the Great for the development of the southern provinces newly annexed to the Russian Empire.

Very little is known about his biography before arriving in Russia. He arrived in Astrakhan in 1786 and worked fruitfully as a provincial architect until 1803.

"I am Italian by nationality and a subject of His Majesty the Emperor of Austria, I am 46 years old, I am married, have four children and a mother-in-law widow ... I had the honour to serve Her Imperial Majesty as an architect of the provincial city of Astrakhan from 1786 to 1803 and during this period of time I fulfilled my duties with success and with all zeal ..."

Alexander Digby, 1804

A. Digby senior continued his professional activity in Odessa. Participates in the construction of A. Lanzheron's house. In 1822-1824 he built the first stone bridge in Odessa, which was supposed to connect two sections of Pochtovaya Street above the Quarantine Beam leading to the port. The author of the project is an engineer Just Hauy (in some sources, Digby senior is indicated as an architect, Hauy as an engineer). Presumably in 1825 - 1830 he moved to Kherson.

Novikov Bridge. Photo: Old Odessa

The arched single-span stone Novikov Bridge got its name in honor of Ilya Novikov, a popular entrepreneur in Odessa, who was an active initiator and contractor of the construction. Novikov, of course, pursued personal interests. Not far from the bridge, on Kanatnaya street (Rope street), his rope and cable factory was located. Thanks to the bridge laid over the girder, the shortest convenient road to the city center was opened.

The wide Quarantine Beam was an outstanding obstacle on the way from home to work. And together with the enterprising merchant, the entire urban population turned out to be beneficial, having received an excellent engineering structure and, as a result, a convenient, as they would say now, transport interchange.

The bridge in this last place, that is, along the street to the Commercial Bank, is the most needed

the journal of the Construction Committee dated March 23, 1822

By the way the entrepreneur lived in a house on Gavannaya Street (the Museum of Local Lore is now located there).

The Novikov Bridge has been actively exploited for about two hundred years. It was renovated in 2009.


Historians have established that the poet Alexander Pushkin more than once traveled across the bridge to the first Odessa bathhouse. In those years, this bath was located on Pochtovaya Street, at the very edge of the Quarantine Beam. And the people also say that the great poet loved to stand thoughtfully on the bridge, apparently, so he was inspired. In addition, according to rumor, he met with beautiful ladies here more than once. Obviously muses

To be continued...

The Odessa Journal

The Odessa Journal

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