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Developed round a fan design

From the seat of a court to a modern city

There are numerous legends surrounding the early days of the fan-shaped city, including that of a margrave Karl Wilhelm returning weary from the hunt and dreaming of a city built according to regular mathematical principles, and that of his quarrelsome wife, Magdalene Wilhelmine, who allegedly forced her spirited husband to build a palace far away from his home in Durlach. The truth was much less poetic than these legends would have us believe. After Durlach went up in flames in the Palatinate War of Succession in 1689, both the town and castle were left to go to wrack and ruin. Empty coffers, the medieval town's tangle of narrow streets and the resistance of its citizens prevented the margrave of Baden-Durlach from going ahead with his ambitious plans for the reconstruction and expansion of the town and Karlsburg in line with modern taste, which at that time was oriented very much to the Palace of Versailles. Karl Wilhelm eventually found an ideal spot for an unfortified residence splendid enough to demonstrate his absolute power near his hunting lodge in the Hardt Forest and it was here, in 1715, that he began building his palace and the fan-shaped city emanating from it. Three years later, the margrave moved his administrative apparatus from Durlach to the new residence in Karlsruhe. The fan-shaped city became a "city of civil servants", as Friedrich List, founder of the German Customs Association, described it in 1825.

For several generations, everyday life for the people of Karlsruhe was determined largely by the life of the court. Most people were either in the service of the court or were economically dependent on the margraves and grand dukes who resided there. This is why the short-lived Republic of Baden proclaimed by revolutionaries in Karlsruhe in 1849 did not by any means meet with the undivided support of the masses. Instead, it was the return of the grand duke Leopold to Karlsruhe following the suppression of the first republic on German soil which received their overwhelming support.

Spritzenwagen im Pfinzgaumuseum
The fire engine of Germany's oldest voluntary fire brigade in the Pfinzgaumuseum

As industrialization progressed, however, the city did indeed emancipate itself from the grand duke and his administration and gradually developed a life of its own. Between 1871 and 1914, the population increased from 36,500 to 145,000. This growth was closely linked to the ascendancy of the Maschinenfabrik Kessler, a metal cartridges factory, Haid & Neu, Junker & Ruh, Hoepfner and Moninger, Sebold and Gritzner in Durlach and Senecca in Mühlburg. The workers who moved into the city to find jobs in Karlsruhe's countless factories accounted for over half the population growth recorded during this period. This influx of newcomers brought about a drastic change in the city's demographic structure too. The proportion of the total working population employed at court, in the military or in the administration fell from 35 per cent in 1825 to just over 22 per cent in 1882 and a mere 15 percent in 1907. Meanwhile, the share of those employed in industry and the skilled trades increased from 54 (1882) to 70 per cent (1907). This means that by the early days of the 20th century, the description of Karlsruhe as a "city of civil servants" was already an anachronism. It was under the Kaisers that the fan-shaped city, whose working population is now employed above all in the service sector (1998: 150,000 out of a total of 190,000), became a big industrial city with a modern, service-oriented city adminstration. No longer dependent on the existence of the court, the city took over responsibility even for such modern-day matters as water and power supplies, traffic, welfare and business promotion. Its growing self-confidence became apparent in numerous urban planning projects. Among the most significant milestones passed on its way to full emancipation from the court was the opening of the Rhine river port in 1901, built by the city on its own initiative and with its own resources.

Mathias Tröndle

Karlsruhe - a young city in the heart of Europe· The planning spirit which gave the city its face· The cradle of democracy and seat of justice
A pioneer in science and research · Technology - the driving force behind business· It's always holiday time in Karlsruhe
Art combines the historical with the modern· Together with our partners into a European future· Milestones in Karlsruhe's history
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