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Schnoor, Bremen

Schnoor is the name of a street in the oldest part of the city of Bremen and also a name for the oldest quarter itself. The district owes its name to the old ship trade. The passages between the houses were often associated with occupations or objects: There was an area in which ropes and cables were produced (string = Schnoor) and a neighboring area, where wire cables and anchor chains were manufactured (wire = Wieren).

Here are the roots of the Hanseatic city of Bremen. The Schnoor quarter had been the economic centre since early history. Fishermen, craftsmen and traders were the earliest Bremen folk and settled in the 10th century in the vicinity of the river. They built thatched cottages on the little island between the rivers Weser and Balge. It is said that the Weser formerly was a side branch of the Balge. The first ferry service was established here, and the first bridge crossing the Weser was built around the year 1240. You can find an old wall and parts of a round tower which was erected around 1200, near the so called Marterburg. In the 13th century Franciscan monks had settled and their St. John’s church was constructed in the following decades.

Today the oldest houses date back to the 15th century. Most of them are from the 17th and 18th centuries. While other parts of Bremen developed with plots of about one square kilometre and merchant’s villas, the plots in the Schnoor have areas which are just enough for a single houses on 55 square metres. The narrow streets were not suitable for the increase in traffic from the 19th century. The quarter became one of the poorest parts of Bremen, a situation that meant renovations were unaffordable. During the Second World Warthe Schnoor suffered only slight damage, so that owners of the houses had to pay a Lastenausgleich after 1945. But by the mid-1950s the houses were in a pitiable state. The Senate of the Free Hanseatic Town of Bremen decided in 1959 to rebuild the historic area of the Schnoor. House owners were invited to restore rundown buildings with financial support from the State of Bremen. This development was in contrast to the common practice in many towns and cities in Germany and Europe until the late 1970s. The situation changed with the Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites 1964 so that after 1970 the Schnoor became a historic district under official heritage conservation through the State Monument Authority. One of the most famous houses which has been preserved in its original state is the Schifferhaus in the street of Stavendamm.

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