Altstadt (Frankfurt am Main)

The Altstadt is the smallest district of Frankfurt, covering less than half a square kilometre. The area is completely built-up with the only open spaces being accounted for by the Main and the river bank, the streets, squares and backyards. The construction descends predominantly from the reconstruction phase of the post-war era, aside from which there are numerous historical buildings partly reconstructed after their destruction in the Second World War.

Approximately 3,400 people reside in the Altstadt of which an estimated 32% are of foreign origin. This is above the ratio of the entire town, but far under that of the other town quarters. The adjacent Neustadt, for example, is home to 44% non-German inhabitants.

By far the largest employer in the old part of the city is the city's administration. Even today the Altstadt is the political centre of the city. The city council, magistrates and a considerable part of the city departments are located in Römer square, either in the town hall itself or in the surrounding properties.

Other important factors of the economy are the retail and tourist industries. Although there were still numerous small industrial businesses in the narrow lanes up until the Second World War, the retail sector now outweighs all other types of business. Particularly in Neue Kräme and Töngesgasse many niche eateries can be found. In Berliner Straße there a numerous shops specialised on Asian tourists who come to the city for extensive shopping trips. The Fahrgasse and the quarter around the Weckmarkt at the cathedral form the traditional centre for antique dealers in Frankfurt.

The Mainkai (Main quay), as the name suggests, stands on the oldest harbour in the city. Ships are still moored there today; however, these only serve tourists along the Main and the Rhine. Ships transporting goods are instead found, as in the city's early days, in the main harbours of Frankfurt.

The city's founding legend names Charlemagne as the city's founder, which corresponds to the oldest surviving documentary mention on the occasion of a donation to the St. Emmeran monastery near Regensburg on February 22, 794, but not the archaeological finding. Accordingly, the Royal Palatinate Frankfurt was only created under the son of the legendary founder, Ludwig the Pious, between 815 and 822.

Wall ring around the core settlement on the Samstagsberg. (chromolithography by Friedrich August Ravenstein from 1862 with overlay according to archaeological findings)

According to the current state of research, the core settlement was to be located on the Samstagsberg.

Archaeological findings on the Römerberg, and most recently in the area of the Old Nikolaikirche, showed slight remains of a wall to be considered Carolingian, which would presumably surround the settlement on the Samstagsberg and, in a continued process, would also satisfactorily explain the striking rounding of the plots on the former Goldhutgasse. If one follows this assumption, the wall in the south was roughly limited by the course of the later Bendergasse, the northern and western extent can only be guessed at. Overall, however, there is a typical, ring-like fortification, the former row of buildings in the eastern part until the destruction of the Second World War was reflected by the parcels within their former borders.

In the 9th century the Palatinate Franconofurd developed into one of the political centres of the eastern Franconian empire. Around the year 1000, the old town area was fortified under the Ottonian dynasty with a wider wall ring. It is unclear whether the core settlement had already expanded beyond the Carolingian wall at this time. Recent publications cautiously point out that at the earliest from the middle of the 10th century there was a very long transition from the post house to the half-timbered building with stone foundations, the scanty findings actually point to a slow expansion of the city limits at that time.

Plan of the old town in 1628 by Matthäus Merian : The irregularly-shaped street grid of the Dom-Römer area opposite the rest of the old town is just as recognizable as the surrounding stevedore wall. (copper engraving)

After the Carolingian Palatinate probably ended with a fire between 1017 and 1027 and the rulers of the Salians showed little interest in the city, the settlement activity only expanded again significantly with the active support of the Staufer in the 12th century. King Conrad III had a royal castle built on the Main in the middle of the 12th century with the Saalhof, which is still preserved in parts from this period . A little later, the urban area was enclosed with a wall named after the Swabian noble family, the course of which is still clearly visible in the shape of the city due to small remains above ground.

Until the destruction of the Second World War, the street map was still recognisable from this period. This is clear from an impression of the street network from the early 14th century which shows that the Altstadt had already taken the form it would take for centuries.

Most of the church and monastery foundations and the construction of the most important public buildings, most recently the town hall through reconstruction in 1405, fell into this first political and economic heyday through the acquisition of numerous imperial privileges.

View of the cathedral from Paulskirche, 1866 (Photography by C. F. Mylius)
Salmenstein's house in the Frankfurt city fortifications, demolished in 1810 (depiction from 1886), model for the town hall tower "Kleiner Cohn"

Over the course of the centuries, the population of the city always continued to increase, whereby the population density of the Altstadt continuously increased. The buildings finally had up to five full storeys and (due to the usual, very steep roofs) several attics. Each floor protruded outwards in excess of the one beneath it so the inhabitants of the highest floors could reach out and touch the hand of the person living on the other side of the alley.

The old town began to display a clear structure with three north–south axis identifiable: in the west the Kornmarkt ran between Bockenheimer Gate (to the church later erected and named Katharinenpforte) and Leonhardstor (tower) next to Leonhardskirche (church) on the Main. In the middle of the district Neue Kräme connected the two largest squares of the Altstadt, Liebfrauenberg to Römerberg and further towards the south lying Fahrtor on the bank of the Main and the harbour there. The Fahrgasse ran east of the cathedral from Bornheimer Gate near today's Konstablerwache to the Main bridge. It was one of the most busy streets for Frankfurt traffic in the 20th century.

In 1785, Johann Georg Christian Hess took office as city architect. In 1809 he wrote a set of articles for the city of Frankfurt on behalf of the Grand Duke Carl Theodor von Dalberg, which basically remained in force until 1880. It made classicism mandatory as an architectural style. Hess was influenced by the spirit of the Enlightenment and campaigned radically for the architecture of classicism. He refused to preserve the numerous medieval buildings in Frankfurt because they did not meet his hygienic and aesthetic requirements. In the new town and in the new neighbourhoods emerging outside of the city walls, which were torn from 1804 to 1808, he effortlessly prevailed with his ideas, but in the old town he encountered stubborn resistance from conservative citizens. Only the new public buildings emerging in the old town, e.g. B. the Paulskirche (1833) or the Alte Börse (1843) on Paulsplatz corresponded to his classicist ideal.

In the 19th century, Frankfurt was considered one of the most beautiful cities in Germany due to the numerous classical buildings. The medieval old town, on the other hand, was considered backward and outdated.

I chose a capital like this In the core citizen food horror. Crowds of alleyways, steep gables, Restricted market, cabbage, beets, onions; Meat banks where the Schmeissen live, To feast on the fat roasts; You will find it there at all times Certainly smell and activity. (Faust. The tragedy, part four, act four. High mountains)

The city historian Anton Kirchner also wrote in 1818 in his panel work Views of Frankfurt am Main about the buildings of the old town. The classicist zeitgeist is clear from the description:

The overload with carving and lappy artistry and the shapeless three- and four-story roofs make them easily recognizable by the eye. They do not belong to any order of architecture.

The economic and political focus of Frankfurt has been the Neustadt since the Napoleonic Wars. After the restoration of the Free City of Frankfurt at the Vienna Congress, the Bundestag took its seat here in the Palais Thurn and Taxis.

Frankfurt became the European financial centre with the banking houses Bethmann, Rothschild and Gontard. The trade fair business no longer played a role in goods traffic; instead, the city's good transport links became the engine of the economic upswing. Around 1830 steam shipping was introduced on the Main, in 1836 Frankfurt joined the German Customs Union and as early as 1839 there was an important node in the emerging German rail network.

This economic boom passed the old town. At the latest after the annexation of Frankfurt by Prussia in 1866, the wealthy citizens moved to the new districts outside the ramparts, especially to the Westend. The city centre gradually shifted to the new town, where numerous Wilhelminian style buildings were erected at the Hauptwache, the Zeil and the Roßmarkt. The former exhibition halls in the buildings of the old town were transformed into warehouses or second-hand shops, the long-established craftsmen were forced to move to the new town with their customers. When the new small market hall between Fahrengasse and Hasengasse was built between 1877 and 1878, the traditional parapets also disappeared. The former Coronation Trail Markt no longer deserved its name, which was a symbol of the beginning social and structural deterioration of the old town. The horse-drawn tram, which started operating in 1872, did not reach the old town either.

The early photographs of the old town, for example by Carl Friedrich Mylius, or the watercolors by Carl Theodor Reiffenstein not only show the picturesque and beautiful sides of the old town, but are also witnesses of their decay.

The first street widenings were made in the second half of the 19th century in order to better open the old town to traffic. In 1855 the Liebfrauengasse between Liebfrauenberg and Zeil was built, in 1872 the Weißfrauengasse in the west to connect the old town with the train stations at the Taunusanlage. The associated loss of historical building substance, in particular the demolition of the white deer, was accepted.

The Lower Main Bridge and the Upper Main Bridge were built in 1874 and 1878. The Old Bridge and Fahrgasse lost their importance because the traffic flowed around the old town as far as possible.

The medieval houses, not to mention their backyards, were now often in poor condition. The hygienic conditions improved with the construction of an alluvial sewage system based on the English model from 1867. More and more houses were connected to the drinking water network, especially after the construction of a pipeline from Vogelsberg in 1873. In the course of industrialisation after 1870, numerous workers flocked to the city who quickly found cheap housing in the dilapidated buildings. Large parts of the old town were now considered to be the residential area of the proletariat and poorer petty bourgeois, where poverty, prostitution and crime were rampant.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the structure of the old town had remained largely unchanged since the Middle Ages, as a comparison with Merian copper engravings shows. In the old town alone there were around 2,000 historic buildings. The wooden half-timbered houses were still predominant, although there were a few stone patrician houses and numerous public buildings. Almost all stone buildings were made of local red sandstone.

The first really far-reaching structural change in the old town took place in the years 1904–1908 with the creation of a new road breakthrough; Braubachstrasse. This was in order to better open up the old town to traffic, especially for the tram. Around 100 old town houses, including art-historical complexes that date back to the Middle Ages, such as the Nürnberger Hof or the Hof Rebstock, were demolished. On the new road, historizing buildings were built, in a style in keeping with the historical styles in the old town.

Frankfurts old town was gradually recognised for its cultural and historical value as one of the best preserved old towns in Central Europe.

The National Socialists planned to replace large parts of the old town with modern buildings in accordance with their ideology. A citizens' initiative, the association of active friends of the old town founded in 1922 under the direction of art historian Fried Lübbecke, opposed these efforts. As of the early 1940s, when these restorations came to a stand still due to the war, more than 600 buildings had been renovated.

Treuner's old town model : very detailed core of the old town in its condition around 1926, from the east.

There were numerous half-timbered buildings in the old town area, however by the time of their destruction in the war, many went with little documentation and recognition because their status as notable historical buildings was only just being realised.

As the war progressed, it became clear that the old town of Frankfurt am Main could become the target of aerial bombardment. The Federation of Friends of the Old Town, therefore, often with the help of external institutions such as the students from the Frankfurt School of Engineering or retired architects, had the entire existing building stock photographed and drawn as of summer 1942.

The destroyed old town from the east according to the rubble model of the Historical Museum

The first serious air raid on Frankfurt am Main hit the old town on October 4, 1943. The Romans and the Area between Liebfrauenberg, Töngesgasse and Hasengasse. Further attacks on December 20, 1943 and January 29, 1944 caused only minor damage in the old town, but destroyed the large amounts of archive materials in the city archive buildings. On March 18, 1944, 846 British aircraft dropped aerial bombs over Frankfurt. They mainly hit the eastern part of the old town and completely destroyed the area around Fahrgasse. They also caused severe damage in the western old town, the Paulskirche burned down completely.

Of the approximately 2,000 half-timbered houses, only one - the Wertheim am Fahrtor house - remained undamaged. The fire department had protected it with a water curtain to keep the escape route from Römerberg to the banks of the Main open.

The last major attack of the month followed on March 24, this time a daily attack by 262 aircraft of the American Air Force. In total, more than 1,500 people were killed in the attacks in March 1944. The main reason for the fact that the number of victims was not higher than in other cities was that, since the summer of 1940, the solidly built cellars of the old town houses had been interconnected. An emergency exit at the Fountain of Justice on the Römerberg alone saved around 800 people.

An impression of the destruction can be seen in the historic model of the Treuner brothers exhibited in the Historical Museum, who in the years before the destruction had measured and reconstructed most of the houses in the old town on a scale of 1: 200. The debris model shown next shows the extent of the destruction of this bombing night. However, it should be viewed with caution, since contemporary photographs show significantly more surviving building remains.

Large parts of the old town were completely rebuilt after the destruction of the Second World War, so that very few historical buildings remained. After the clearing, modernisers and conservaters faced each other - as is often the case at this time - so that there was initially a construction stop until 1952. Even the conservaters, essentially represented by the group of old town friends, did not campaign for extensive reconstruction, but above all called for the preservation of the old road network with a small-scale new construction and the reconstruction of some important buildings.

Finally, albeit with a clear tendency towards modernisation, a mixed solution was found: some prominent monuments were reconstructed, the first being the Paulskirche in 1947 and the Goethe House in 1949. After 1952 followed the Romans square, as well as the Staufen wall, the Stone house, the Saalhof, the Carmelite monastery and the canvas house. From the destroyed endowment churches located in the old town, the cathedral, the Old Nikolaikirche, the Liebfrauenkirche and the Dominican monastery were rebuilt from urban funds from 1952 to 1962. The burnt-out ruins of the Gothic Weißfrauenkirche and the classicist German-Reformed church were removed in 1953.

Of the reconstructed buildings, only the Goethe House was largely restored to the original. Most other reconstructions were more or less simplified (for example the houses Silberberg, Frauenstein and Salzhaus in the Roman complex) or with modern additions (for example the stone house). Much of the former old town was built on in the simple style of the 1950s. The main result was multi-storey houses, partly as block perimeter development, partly as loosened row buildings, often with green inner courtyards.

Furthermore, new main roads were made through the wreckage, rejecting the historical road plan. This was with the ideal of making a car-friendly Frankfurt, which was often desired even before the war. This was realized in the form of the east–west axis, inaugurated on November 16, 1953 as the street at the Paulskirche and from 1955 until today known as Berliner Straße. It connects the also widened Weißfrauenstrasse with the north–south axis of Kurt-Schumacher-Strasse that runs through the inner city centre. In 1955, the ten-story high-rise was completed at the intersection of Berliner Strasse and Fahrgasse. At 30 meters, it is the tallest residential building in the old town.

The area between the cathedral and the Römer initially remained a wasteland, the development of which was long debated. In the early 1970s, the Technical City Hall (1972–1974) and the Historical Museum (1971/72) were two large, monolithic buildings in a brutalist concrete style, regardless of historical layouts and shapes.

Unlike the historical models, the facades of the new buildings with their half-timbering remained unplastered. Some of its structure is extrapolated from known individual constructive forms, photographs and analogue conclusions, since building plans have not been preserved for all buildings. Since the beams and their infill were traditionally plastered or slated, decorative forms were installed in the now visible half-timbering, which were borrowed from other buildings of comparable construction.

Aerial view of the largest reconstructed Altstadt area in 2018 after the completion of the Dom Romer project.

After just a few years, there was considerable structural damage that required extensive renovation. As it turned out, the contracted construction companies no longer had the essential skills for a half-timbered building. For example, the timber from Alsace was not dried long enough and the beams were not properly connected.

The city had eight historical buildings reconstructed as the client, with "the historical district floor plan largely being used as the basis for planning", including the Haus zur Goldenen Waage and the Neue Rote Haus am Markt, the Haus zum Esslinger (also as the aunt's house) Marked Melber) at the Hühnermarkt and the Goldene Lämmchen. In addition, the city had the Alter Esslinger house, the Klein Nürnberg house and parts of the Rebstock farm, located between the latter two. The remaining 32 parcels were awarded to builders who had 7 further reconstructions built. For the new buildings, with which well-known architects were commissioned to plan, there was a strict design statute that stipulated, among other things, the shape of the roof, the height of the buildings and the materials used.

Construction started in 2012. At the end of 2017, the buildings were completed externally. In September 2018, the New Old Town was opened with a three-day festival.

The concrete building of the Historical Museum was demolished in 2012 and replaced by a new building opened in October 2017.

There are numerous sights in the old town - although most of the buildings are reconstructions after severe war destruction. All sights are close together and can be reached by tram and subway.

The Römerberg is the centre of the old town. Here stands the Römer, the historic town hall and symbol of the city. It was acquired in 1405 by the city, which needed a new town hall, as the previous town hall had to be demolished to build the cathedral tower. By 1878 the ten neighboring houses were also acquired by the city and structurally connected to the Roman. The five houses next to each other, whose facade faces the Römerberg, are called Alt Limpurg, Zum Römer, Löwenstein, Frauenstein and Salzhaus. Before its destruction, the Salzhaus was one of the most beautiful half-timbered houses in Germany. It was rebuilt in a simplified manner after its destruction in the war.

In the middle of the square is the Justice Fountain, which was built from sandstone in the 17th century. The construction was replaced in 1887 by a bronze replica. His name comes from the statue of Justitia that crowns him. In contrast to her depictions, Justitia was not blindfolded in Frankfurt. According to tradition, the fountain was fed with red and white wine at imperial coronations.

Wertheim House, the only original half-timbered house in the old town (2013)

The Wertheim House (around 1600), is the only completely undamaged preserved half-timbered house in the old town. It is an ornate three-story Renaissance house with the stone ground floor common in Frankfurt. Opposite is the Rententurm, an important Frankfurt port building, where customs duties and port fees were collected. It was completed in 1456.

North of the Römerberg on Paulsplatz is the New Town Hall, built around 1900 with rich Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque decor, as well as the Paulskirche, where the German National Assembly met in 1848/1849.

In front of the west tower of the cathedral is the archaeological garden, which was built over 2012 to 2015 with the town house on the market, in which the remains of the foundations of the Roman military camp, the Carolingian Palatinate and medieval town houses are open to the public. The streets behind the Lämmchen, Neugasse and the Hühnermarkt, which have been resurrected after the demolition of the Technical Town Hall, with their new buildings and reconstructions have been accessible again since May 2018. With the House of the Golden Waage and the New Red House, two of the most famous half-timbered buildings in the old town were rebuilt. Further reconstructions are the houses Grüne Linde, Würzgarten and Rotes Haus am Markt. Striking new buildings are the Großer Rebstock houses on the market next to the Haus am Dom, Neues Paradies on the corner of the Hühnermarkt, Altes Kaufhaus, the city of Milan and Zu den Drei Römer on the western edge of the new development area.

On the north side of the Old Market is the Stone House, a 15th-century Gothic patrician building. It is the seat of the Frankfurter Kunstverein. A gate passage from the Nürnberger Hof (around 1410), the trade fair quarter of the Nuremberg merchants, has been preserved near the Stone House.

The Kunsthalle Schirn, opened in 1986, stretches south of the market, for example along the former Bendergasse. In the same block, on the north side of Saalgasse, townhouses were built in the proportions of the former old town, but in the postmodern architectural style of the time. South of the cathedral on Weckmarkt is the canvas house, architecturally related to the stone house, which today houses the Museum of Comic Art.

Between the cathedral, Fahrgasse and Main was built in the style of the time in the 1950s. Most of the historic streets of the former butcher's quarter were lost. Quiet, green courtyards were created, whose irregular design and small passageways could remind people with a lot of imagination of the enchanted old town streets. In the former old town there were numerous small fountains, many of which could be saved and put back in the courtyards.

The most striking building in the western old town is the Leonhardskirche, the only church in downtown Frankfurt that remained undamaged in the Second World War. The north portal and the two east towers are still Romanesque, the basilica itself is late Gothic. Cathedral choir Madern Gerthener designed the high choir.

The Goethe House, the poet's birthplace, is located north of Berliner Strasse in the Großer Hirschgraben.

The northern old town is the area between today's Berliner Straße and the Staufenmauer, the former course of which can be seen on the Graben streets (Hirschgraben, Holzgraben). It is the area that the city gained through the second expansion in the 12th century. In contrast to the older part in the area of the former Carolingian Palatinate, which has an irregular road network, the northern old town had an almost right-angled road structure.

The eastern old town, the Judengasse, the Staufenmauer and the Bornheimer Tor, 1628

The main street of the eastern old town was the Fahrgasse. It ran from the Bornheim gate at the Konstablerwache to the Old Bridge; all traffic over the only Main crossing between Mainz and Aschaffenburg passed through this street.

To the east of Fahrgasse is the former Dominican monastery, rebuilt from 1953 to 1957 on the old floor plan, with the Church of the Holy Spirit. It is the seat of the Evangelical City Deanery and the Evangelical Regional Association Frankfurt. To the east of it is Börneplatz, the largest and busiest square in the district. Under changing names, it was the centre of Jewish life in Frankfurt. The Judengasse ended here, since 1882 the Börneplatz synagogue, destroyed in the November pogroms in 1938, was here, and the Old Jewish Cemetery, Battonnstrasse, whose oldest grave monuments date from 1272, is still located here today. In the Judengasse Museum, part of the Frankfurt Jewish Museum, excavated remains of the ghetto and the synagogue can be viewed.

The old stock exchange closed the square next to the Paulskirche, around 1845

Many architectural monuments as well as striking buildings or street corners or entire streets of the old town were lost as a result of the Second World War or due to demolition, some of them were rebuilt or reconstructed - some more than 70 years after their destruction. Here are a few of the most important:

In the old town there are numerous museums that are part of the so-called museum bank along the Main, including the Jewish Museum, the Archaeological Museum in the Carmelite Monastery, the Historical Museum with a focus on city history, the Schirn Art Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art. The Steinerne Haus, seat of the Frankfurter Kunstverein, the canvas house and the Literature house Frankfurt in the old city library are important domiciles of the Frankfurt art scene, which are located in three reconstructed historical buildings.

Among the Frankfurt theatres, three, namely the comedy, the Volksbühne and the cabaret Die Schmiere, have their venues in the old town. In the past, the old town was generally not particularly busy in the evening, except for major events such as the Museumsuferfest. Public traffic has increased significantly since the beginning of the 21st century, especially among tourists. During the 2006 World Cup, numerous soccer games were broadcast in the specially built Main Arena, an open-air cinema for around 15,000 visitors on the northern bank of the Main.