Palais Württemberg – Hotel Imperial
1, Kärntner Ring 16
Architects: Arnold Zenetti, Heinrich Adam
1862 – 1865
The client – The Palais turns into hotel – War, soviet occupation – Reopening
Facade – Portal – Grand Staircase
(if you want like to see many more pictures please go to the link at the end of page!)
History – the builder
The Imperial Hotel began its history as a palace. It emerged as one of the 1st buildings on one of the best and most expensive grounds, with unobstructed views to the Karlskirche.
Even for a Adelspalais (noble palace) it was very representative. The room was divided wastefullly: Just the grand staircase would have provided space for two apartments in a normal apartment building. Who had built this way, did not have to pay attention to his money.
The client was according to this an illustrious figure: Closely related to the Württemberg Royal Family (1806 establishing the Kingdom of Württemberg) came Duke Philipp of Württemberg (1838 – 1917), son of Alexander Friedrich Wilhelm of Württemberg 1838 in the French Neuilly into the world.
His mother, a princess of Orleans, died a few months after Philip’s birth, so he was baptized and brought up by his grandparents, the French citizen-king Louis Philippe, the last official King of France and his wife, Queen Marie Amelie, in Paris.
Duke Philipp of Württemberg
With ten years Philip had with the royal family in 1848 to flee from the revolting crowd of the capital and he returned to Bayreuth.
His father had later again married, to the displeasure of the Son, because the marriage was morganatic: she was his housekeeper.
Philip pursued a military career.
Shell Palais Württemberg
marriage with (female) Habsburg
In the great conflict between Austria and Prussia, he was on the side of the Habsburgs and counted as one of the losers of Hradec Kralove (Königgrätz).
The Württemberg were on par with Europe’s most powerful royal houses. Philip asked for the hand of the youngest sister of Empress Elisabeth, Princess Sophie, but the marriage did not materialize.
Finally, his love brought him to Vienna, the Duke married into the Habsburg family.
In 1865 he married Archduchess Marie Therese (1845 – 1927), daughter of Archduke Albrecht (Monument Albertina ramp), granddaughter of Archduke Charles, the victor of Aspern (Memorial Heldenplatz).
The marriage took place in the court chapel of the Hofburg in Vienna.
marriage with Habsburg
Together they moved into the newly completed palace on the Ringstrasse.
It was built in 1863-65 by the Munich architect Arnold Zenetti, according to the plans of Heinrich Adam (grave Central Cemetery).
His wife had recently suffered a severe stroke of fate: her mother had so strongly caught a cold during the funeral of her brother that she died as a result. And soon should burn her sister Mathilde alive.
This one had dressed a gown made of Indian muslin for the theater. This type of material was impregnated at that time with glycerol to give the fabric more fullness.
Before leaving the theater she wanted to smoke a cigarette. When suddenly her father, who had strictly forbidden her smoking came in, she hid the cigarette behind her baggy dress. The highly combustible, glycerol impregnated fabric immediately went up in flames.
Floor Plan 1st storey
The view to the Charles Church was lost
A clear view to the Charles Church was lost by the building of the Musikverein.
The Duke could not enjoy his palace for long. Because behind it, to the Karlsplatz, there was a leafy park, which gave a clear view over to Charles Church.
But when he returned from Hradec Kralove, one was just digging the foundation of the Musikverein. 1870 was the "temple of music" finished and the beautiful view history.
Musikverein, on your left, behind the Imperial Hotel
That should have been the reason that Philip the following year sold his palace. I think this is one of the many "tales", because all the reception rooms were on the side of the ring road. If the view would have been sooo important to him, he would have also had laid out on the back of the Palais ‘comfortable’ rooms. Anyway, he moved to Strudelhof in the 9th District, a cheaper solution, it was the question here of a spacious villa. Incidentally, it is also told that he had gambling debts and therefore he could not afford the expensive palace on the Ringstrasse anymore.
Duke Philip, who did not feel quite at home in Vienna, lusted after a summer residence in the Salzkammergut.
(The Salzkammergut is a resort area located in Austria. It stretches from the City of Salzburg eastwards along the Austrian Alpine Foreland and the Northern Limestone Alps to the peaks of the Dachstein Mountains, spanning the federal states of Upper Austria, Salzburg, and Styria. The main river of the region is the Traun, a right tributary of the Danube. The name Salzkammergut literally means "Estate of the Salt Chamber" and derives from the Imperial Salt Chamber, the authority charged with running the precious salt mines of the Habsburg Monarchy.)
In addition to hunting around Gmunden the Duke dedicated his passion to the emerging photography.
The architect Heinrich Adam built for the Duke and Duchess in 1872 Villa Maria Theresia in Altmünster according to a French style high above the Lake Traun.
In the summer of 1875 they moved in, 1878-80, the chapel was rebuilt by Heinrich von Ferstel.
Summer residence in Altmünster in Gmunden
As the succession of the Stuttgart parent house fell on Philip’s son Albrecht, Philipp moved in 1905 with his family to the Stuttgart Prince Palace. After his death in 1917 his widow Maria Theresa spent her lonely summers preferably in Altmünster until she died for herself in 1927.
The Palais becomes Hotel
The palace was in 1872 in the hands of the Budapest hotelier Johann Frohner. As businessman he sensed with the approaching World’s Fair his chance.
And he knew that there was a lack of representative lodging in Vienna, so he turned the magnificent building into a hotel.
At the opening Emperor Franz Joseph I also was invited, which was served a cake. It is said that he had it appreciated, so was the Frohner cake, currently called Imperial Torte, born. The special thing about it: it is square.
An original recipe of the Imperial Torte from the 19th Century, however, is not handed down. She is known for only a few decades. At that time it was begun to offer it as a house cake at Café Imperial.
Several years ago was launched a marketing campaign and it was accomplished that the Imperial Torte today is sent around the world and one, according to the house, needs a total mass of 40 tonnes per year for it.
Imperial square cake
Café Imperial, recording 1941
The courtyard becomes a winter garden.
Donauweibchen (Danube maiden) copy
Frohner had a sense for staging. The glass-covered courtyard became a dining room with conservatory flair.
In the middle was a copy of the Danube female from the city park. Today she is at the end of the grand staircase.
The newspapers were ironed so guests did not have ink on their fingers. And the butler service is available to this day.
Who has once looked into it, knows why we put most of our state guests there – it is just not a "normal" hotel, but still a palace, one of the most magnificent!
Between the lobby and the Café Imperial runs a narrow passage where the house’s history is told in pictures and text. And it is also worthwhile to study the guest list shown there.
Lobby to Frohner times
2 World War II, Soviet occupation
The war and the occupation had left its mark on the house. Here, since Adolf Hitler took his accommodation at his few visits to Vienna, the hotel had to be equipped accordingly.
On the side of Canovagasse one built an underground bunker, but not in the usual way.
It was just the road dug up, the bunker built into a pit and then the road above concreted again.
Hitler rises from the Imperial
During the Allied air raids on Vienna here many people found refuge, especially the Vienna Philharmonic from neighboring Musikverein.
After the war, the Soviets used the house as an office building. As they moved out of here again after the occupation time, the house was practically empty.
About the state of the Imperial, in which they left it in the mid-fifties, there are different statements.
It appears that the shape of the house may not have been much worse than the other districts of the Soviet Army.
In the stuccolustro of the main staircase of the Imperial a soldier has immortalized himself with a tiny doodle.
Left: the people cheering in front of the Hotel Imperial on 15 March 1938
Swastika flags near the Hotel Imperial
Reopening of the hotel
The large portrait of Emperor Franz Joseph at the end of the stairs, a symbol of a reactionary attitude, remained untouched over the years .
Even as the Imperial again was a hotel, considered Russian politicians the house as a kind of ideological hereditary leasehold.
Only U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger broke this monopoly, as he with his Soviet colleague Andrei Gromyko in Vienna lived at a meeting at the Imperial.
Because Gromyko did not want to spend the night with the representative of a capitalist world power under one roof, he departed angrily in the Soviet Embassy. Also for other state guests, the Imperial is recommended as the 1st address.
Re-opening of the hotel in 1958
Rooms at the Hotel Imperial in the then modern 50’s style
The fact that the English Queen Elizabeth here took up accommodation during her visit to Vienna, was felt as a great honor because the Queen slept on visits abroad only rarely in hotels.
Therefore one replaced the by no means not unrepresentative furnitures of her suite against those from the Imperial Furniture Collection. And for the duration of her stay hung pictures from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in her premises.
Thus, the Queen could at least feel a touch of monarchical past. Finally, the hotel management did remove the seating from the lobby. No one should have the opportunity to insult the Queen, by just remaining seated in front of her.
Queen Elizabeth greets from the balcony of the hotel, in 1969
Plaque Rainer Maria Rilke
Plaque Richard Wagner
During 1916, Rainer Maria Rilke visited in the Hotel Imperial almost daily his "Unforgettable Café" and met here Oskar Kokoschka, Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos.
Austrian Society for Literature
Richard Wagner was at the end of the year 1875 with his family for nearly two months guest of this hotel to prepare for the performance of his operas Tannhäuser and Lohengrin.
The Vienna Schubertbund 50th Anniversary of the death of the artist, 1933
(Sculptor Robert Ullmann)
Important strictly historicist Palais, 1862-65 built by Arnold Zenetti and designed by Heinrich Adam. Monumental free-standing building of the beginning of strict historicism in forms of neo- Renaissance.
The main façade has a 6-axle central projection, which is further emphasized by the three-axis portal.
In 1928, the house was extented on the ring road by two floors. The attic was converted into a continuous balcony on the 4th floor.
1946, the portal has been simplified and the three-aisled hall (lobby) rebuilt to current form.
Floor plan 6th storey
1988 – 1994 followed a general refurbishment and the roof extension (Maurizio Papiri), which on the back of the palace was not very successful.
3 -axis portal above statues representing sovereign virtues.
As the duke had guarded the house round-the-clock, originally flanked two sentry house the wide entrance, which was designed for the entrance of the carriages.
The six-axle central projection visually protrudes a little bit and is rich decorated. The effect is mainly due to the generously employed sculptures of the portal and gable zone.
The statues above the entrance are from Franz Melnitzky and represent personalized Herschertugenden (souvereign virtues): wisdom – old man, lorbeerbekränzt (laurel-adorned) and scroll of honor – Woman with coat of arms, Justice – sword, strength – club.
In addition to the figures, by the same artist have been made reliefs, which were destroyed in 1946, as well as the lunettes.
Statues (ruler virtues)
Hotel entrance: reliefs and lunettes in 1946 destroyed
Above the balconies and windows of the 1st floor can be found the from the Orient stemming griffin motif: two griffins flanking each of them a vase. The lion’s griffon, his head and body seem like that of a lion, but he has the wings of an eagle, he was apostrophized in antiquity as the guardian of the gold. Here he was reinterpreted as the guardian of the house.
In the triangular gable of the roof is an allegory of the house Wuerttemberg to see with the heraldic animals of the house, the deer and the lion. The very striking roof no longer exists, but it fell victim to the fact the hotel was increased in the 20th Century.
Former court (later conservatory, lounge today)
At the times of the Württemberg the palais still hand an open courtyard in the middle. This court allowed, as with all other buildings of that era, the coachmen to turn there after they get off their customers in the driveway.
So the coaches for this had sufficient space, the outrageously expensive main staircase had to be moved to the side. Who enters the hotel lobby of the Imperial today, does not immediately recognize the noble work, but he must climb a few stairs to the right. Such intricateness were then accepted.
The grand staircase leads to the main floor only. The stairs to the upper floors are designed very much simpler. Because here only circulated staff.
Grand Staircase piano nobile
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