Hamburg City Hall history
The magnificent Hamburg City Hall was constructed in late 19th century when the old city hall was destroyed in a fire in year 1842. The lead designer of the city hall was Martin Haller, backed up by six other architects.
While the planning started much earlier, the construction phase of the new Hamburg City Hall began 1886 and completed 11 years later in 1897. On October 26, 1897, at the official opening ceremony, the First Mayor Dr. Johannes Versmann received the key to the city hall. The new city hall was longed for by the city council, which for the last 55 years had to work in back up facilities!
A symbol for wealth
The new Hamburg City Hall was built in period of wealth and prosperity. The Kingdom of Prussia and its confederates had just defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War and the German Empire had been created. It was imperative that the look of the new Hamburg City Hall should express this wealth and success, but also the independence of the State of Hamburg and Hamburg’s republican traditions.
Hamburg is one of three city-states in Germany, together with Bremen and Berlin, so the Hamburg City Hall would not only be a city hall, but also the seat of the local parliament. By looking at the outside, one can quickly understand they’ve done a pretty good job in symbolizing the wealth and importance of the Hamburg City Hall. The exterior is indeed a magnificent sight!
The total cost of the outsanding Hamburg City Hall was 11 million German gold marks, which was a huge sum at the time.
Why visit Hamburg City Hall?
Many people rate the Hamburg City Hall as one of Hamburg’s most impressive building. The city hall shines with an elaborately decorated and detailed façade. By looking a few meters up, in between the windows, visitors will be able to see beautiful statues of previous emperors of the kingdom.
The architectural style of the Hamburg City Hall halls outside is typical neo-renaissance, a common style of the 19th century which draws its inspiration from many styles with a base in Italian architecture. It is one of the very few completely preserved buildings of this kind in Hamburg today and thus a unique structure in the region.
Over the main balcony, visitors can see a string of text, written in gold. This is a Latin phrase which translates to; “May our descendants strive to preserve the freedom won by our elders” Above this phrase hangs the Hamburg coat of arms; the castle with the three towers.
The Hamburg City Hall itself is quite massive. It has in total 647 rooms divided over an area of 17.000m2. The 647th room was actually discovered by accident in 1971, when a document had fallen behind a file cabinet. Who knows, maybe the city hall holds more hidden rooms to be discovered.
Fountain of health
Visitors walking to the sides of the building can enter the courtyard of the city hall. There one will find a decorated fountain featuring Hygieia . Hygieia as the goddess of health in Greek mythology and its surrounding figures represents the power and pureness of the water. It was built in remembrance of the cholera epidemic that hit Hamburg in 1892 due to overpopulation and contaminated drinking water.
Throughout the years, Hamburg City Hall has been the center for many historical moments. Several Heads of State have visited the city hall and this was the place where in May, 1945, the Nazi commander in chief General Woltz surrendered Hamburg to the British Army.
Today, Hamburg City Hall is very much alive. The building is used, not only for the parliament, but also for public concerts and exhibitions. It is also still today a place for official presentations and meetings with dignitaries.
Hamburg City Hall location
Hamburg City Hall is located in Hamburg, Germany. The city hall is situated in the Oldtown area of Hamburg, near the lake Binnenalster and the central station. For the exact location of Hamburg City Hall, check out the location map to the right.