Gründerzeit (German pronunciation: [ˈɡʁʏndɐˌtsaɪt], literally: "founders' period") was the economic phase in 19th-century Germany and Austria before the great stock market crash of 1873. At this time in Central Europe the age of industrialisation was taking place, whose beginnings were found in the 1840s. This period is not precisely dated, but in Austria the March Revolution of 1848 is generally accepted as the beginning of economic changes, in contrast to political reforms. In Germany, as a consequence of the large influx of capital resulting from French war reparations from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, and the subsequent unification of Germany, there followed an economic boom, giving rise to the description of these years as the "founders' years".

These years in Central Europe were a time that citizens increasingly influenced cultural development. This was also the epoch of classical liberalism, even if the political demands of the time were only partially met, and then only in the later period. Industrialisation also posed aesthetic challenges, above all in the fields of architecture and craftsmanship, through development of existing forms, rather than innovation as such.

In common parlance the term Gründerzeitstil is often mingled with Historicism, which was the predominant architectural style after 1850 until 1914, leading to a blurring of the terms. In historical context different decades are often also called Gründerzeit. For this reason, the term Gründerzeit is used to refer to several periods; for example 1850–1873, 1871–1890, sometimes 1850–1914 in reference to the architecture, or just 1871–1873.

Leipzig Palais Roßbach
Historicist building by Arwed Roßbach in Leipzig, Germany (1892)


Borsig 1847
Gründerzeit primarily refers to the entrepreneurial boom of late 19th-century Germany. Machine and locomotive ironworks of Borsig AG in Berlin's Feuerland, 1847 painting by Karl Eduard Biermann

The German term Gründerzeit refers to the great economic upswing in the mid-19th century, when the founders of business (entrepreneurs, Gründer) could apparently become rich overnight. Of particular importance for speedy economic development was the rise of a developed railway system. Not only was it a major factor in its own right on the business scene of the time, but it also permitted further development through improved communication and migration. Rural migration to the cities assisted the development of a proletariat, with an attendant increase in social problems.

The stock market crash of 1873, combined with economic overheating due to enormous French reparations from the war, put an abrupt end to this upswing, referred to in German as the founders’ crisis (Gründerkrise), resulting in a twenty-year period of economic stagnation. This crisis caused the theory of economic liberalism to lose ground, and it was also this time which saw the introduction of business control mechanisms, as well as protective customs tariffs.

The Vienna stock market crash led to the Panic of 1873 in the United States, resulting in the Long Depression.

Design and architecture

Tenement Building Callinstrasse Hanover Germany
Historicist architecture at Nordstadt in Hanover

The need for housing rose in consequence of industrialisation. Complete housing developments in the so-called Founding Epoch Architecture style arose in previously green fields, and even today in Central European cities large numbers of buildings from this time can be found together along one single road or even in complete districts. These 4- to 6-story buildings, often constructed by private property developers, often sported richly decorated façades in the form of Historicism such as Gothic Revival, Renaissance Revival, German Renaissance and Baroque Revival. Not only magnificent palaces for nouveau-riche citizens were built, but also infamous rental housing for the expanding urban lower classes.

This phase was also important for the integration of new technologies in architecture and design. A determining factor was the development of the Bessemer process in steel production, which made possible the construction of steel façades. A classical example of this new form is the steel and glass construction of the Crystal Palace, completed in 1851, which was revolutionary for the time and an inspiration to subsequent decades.

Gründerzeit in Austria

In Austria the Gründerzeit began after 1840 with the industrialisation of Vienna, as well as the regions of Bohemia and Moravia. Liberalism reached its zenith in Austria in 1867 during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and remained dominant until the mid-1870s.

Vienna, the capital and residence of Emperor Franz Joseph, after the failed uprising of 1848, became the fourth largest city in the world with the inclusion of suburbs and an influx of new residents from regions of Austria. In the place where the city wall had once stood, a ring road was built, and ambitious civic buildings—including the Opera House, Town Hall, and Parliament—were constructed. In contrast to agricultural workers and urban labourers, an increasingly wealthy upper-middle class built itself monuments and mansions. This occurred on a smaller scale in cities such as Graz, but on the periphery, thereby preserving the old city from destructive redevelopment.

Gründerzeit in Germany

In the mindset of many Germans, the epoch is intrinsically linked with Kaiser Wilhelm I and Chancellor Bismarck, but it did not end with them (in 1888/1890) but continued well into the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II. It was a Golden Age for Germany in which the disasters of the Thirty Years' War and the Napoleonic Wars were remedied, and the country competed internationally on a world-class level in the domains of science, technology, industry and commerce. This was the time when particularly the German middle class rapidly increased their standard of living, buying modern furniture, kitchen fittings and household machines.

The social effects of Industrialization were the same as in other European nations: Increased agricultural efficiency and introduction of new agricultural machines led to a polarized distribution of income in the countryside. The landowners won out to the disadvantage of the agrarian unpropertied workforce. Emigration, most of all to America, and urbanization were a consequence.

Typical Aachen street with early 20th-century Gründerzeit houses
Typical Aachen street with early 20th-century Gründerzeit houses (2)
Another example of Aachen early 20th-century Gründerzeit houses

In the rapidly growing industrial cities, new workers' dwellings were erected, lacking in comfort by today's standards but also criticized as unhealthy by physicians of the time: "without light, air and sun", quite contrary to the then prevailing ideas on town planning. The dark, cramped flats took a large part of the blame for the marked increase in tuberculosis, which spread also to wealthier neighborhoods.

Nevertheless, the working class also saw improvements of living standards and other conditions, such as social security through laws on workers' health insurance and accident insurance introduced by Bismarck in 1883/1884, and in the long run also through the foundation of a Social Democracy that would remain the model for the European sister parties until Hitler's Machtübernahme in 1933. Even today the model of social care developed by Bismarck in 1873 (Reichsversicherungsordnung) remains the contractual basis for health insurance in Germany.

Further reading

  • Baltzer, Markus (2007). Der Berliner Kapitalmarkt nach der Reichsgründung 1871: Gründerzeit, internationale Finanzmarktintegration und der Einfluss der Makroökonomie. Münster: LIT. ISBN 9783825899134. (in German)
  • Hermand, Jost (1977). "Grandeur, High Life und innerer Adel: 'Gründerzeit' im europäischen Kontext". Monatshefte. 69 (2): 189–206. JSTOR 30156817. (in German)

External links

Media related to Gründerzeit architecture in Germany at Wikimedia Commons

Ahlbeck (Usedom)

Ahlbeck is a district of the Heringsdorf municipality on the island of Usedom on the Baltic coast. It is the easternmost of the so-called Kaiserbäder ("Imperial Spas") seaside resorts on the German part of the island, situated right next to the border with Poland and the town of Świnoujście (Swinemünde). Both communities are freely connected by the longest beach promenade in Europe spanning more than 12 km (7 mi) from Bansin to Świnoujście.

First mentioned as Ahlebeck (Low German for 'eel creek') in 1693, fishermen settled the side after Usedom had passed under Brandenburg-Prussian rule upon the 1720 Treaty of Stockholm. In the 19th century, the settlement quickly rose to a stylish seaside resort.

Major attractions include the famous 280 m (920 ft) long Seebrücke and the oldest preserved pier in Germany. Ahlbeck has numerous scenic houses and mansions in the German Gründerzeit style of resort architecture. The bathing resort OstseeTherme is a popular tourist attraction; close to it, there is the architecturally noteworthy Observation Tower Ahlbeck with three observation decks and an elevator.


Altenburg (listen ) is a city in Thuringia, Germany, located 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Leipzig, 90 kilometres (56 miles) west of Dresden and 100 kilometres (62 miles) east of Erfurt. It is the capital of the Altenburger Land district and part of a polycentric old-industrial textile and metal production region between Gera, Zwickau and Chemnitz with more than 1 million inhabitants, while the city itself has a population of 33,000. Today, the city and its rural county is part of the Central German Metropolitan Region.

Altenburg was first mentioned in 976 and later became one of the first German cities within former Slavic area, east of the Saale river (as part of the medieval Ostsiedlung movement). The emperor Frederick Barbarossa visited Altenburg several times between 1165 and 1188, hence the town is named a Barbarossa town today. Since the 17th century, Altenburg was the residence of different Ernestine duchies, of whom the Saxe-Altenburg persisted until the end of monarchy in Germany in 1918. Industrialization reached Altenburg and the region quite early in the first half of the 19th century and flourished until the Great Depression around 1930. Economic malaise set in while Altenburg was in East Germany and continued after German reunification in 1990, evidenced by a decline in population, high unemployment and house vacancy rates.

The main sights of Altenburg are the castle, the Lindenau-Museum, the historic city center (most buildings are from early-modern origin) and the Gründerzeit architecture around the center. The popular German card game Skat was developed in Altenburg during the 1810s and the founder of the famous Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus, lived and worked in Altenburg between 1810 and 1817.

Altenburg lies in the flat and fertile landscape of Osterland on the Pleiße river in the very east of Thuringia, next to the neighboring federal state of Saxony.

Bad Kreuznach

Bad Kreuznach (German pronunciation: [baːt ˈkʁɔʏtsnax]) is a town in the Bad Kreuznach district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is a spa town most well known for its medieval bridge dating from around 1300, the Alte Nahebrücke, which is one of the few remaining bridges in the world with buildings on it.The town is located in the Nahe river wine region, renowned both nationally and internationally for its wines, especially from the Riesling, Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau grape varieties.

Bad Kreuznach does not lie within any Verbandsgemeinde, even though it is the seat of the Bad Kreuznach (Verbandsgemeinde). The town is the seat of several courts as well as federal and state authorities. Bad Kreuznach is also officially a große kreisangehörige Stadt ("large town belonging to a district"), meaning that it does not have the district-level powers that kreisfreie Städte ("district-free towns/cities") enjoy. It is, nonetheless, the district seat, and also the seat of the state chamber of commerce for Rhineland-Palatinate. It is classed as a middle centre with some functions of an upper centre, making it the administrative, cultural and economic hub of a region with more than 150,000 inhabitants.

Café Gerbeaud

Café Gerbeaud, situated at Vörösmarty tér 7 in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is one of the greatest and most traditional coffeehouses in Europe. Today still, it shines in Gründerzeit style with its stucco, the grand chandeliers, the panelling made of exotic woods and its furniture. In 2009 Café Gerbeaud opened its second confectionery in Tokyo, Japan.

Charlotte von Mahlsdorf

Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (18 March 1928 – 30 April 2002) was the founder of the Gründerzeit Museum (a museum of everyday items) in Berlin-Mahlsdorf.

District 1, Düsseldorf

District 1 (German: Stadtbezirk 1) is the central city district of Düsseldorf, the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany and the city's commercial and cultural center. The district covers an area of 11.35 square kilometres and (as of December 2009) has about 75,000 inhabitants.

Despite being one of Düsseldorf's smallest districts by area, Stadtbezirk 1 includes several distinct quarters: the city's Medieval Altstadt is known as an entertainment district with plenty of Altbier pubs and bars, while the adjacent Baroque-style Carlstadt has a very Bohemian character. Stadtmitte is the city's shopping and central business district, extending into the three Gründerzeit quarters of Pempelfort, Derendorf and Golzheim - the latter three also being popular as both business locations and residential areas. The entire district has a high density of institutions and enterprises associated with the arts and culture in general.

The district shares borders (clockwise from north) with Düsseldorf districts 5, 6, 2, 3 and - over the Rhine - District 4.

Fabrik (Hamburg)

The Fabrik (English: "Factory") is a cultural centre in Hamburg, Germany.

It occupies a former machine parts factory in Ottensen, in the Altona district. The building dates from the Gründerzeit (around 1840), and consists of a large, nave-like central hall with wooden girders, overlooked by running galleries on the two upper floors. An old crane still hangs over the entrance as a memorial to the building's industrial past.

The Fabrik was founded in 1971 by the painter Horst Dietrich and the architect Friedhelm Zeuner. Dietrich, who died in 2014, was the director until 2012. He was awarded the 1993 Max Brauer Prize, given by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation. Zeuner received the senate of Hamburg's architecture prize for the renovation, The Fabrik burned down in 1977, but was rebuilt as before in 1979.

Today the Fabrik hosts activities for young people, together with teaching events, lectures, debates, exhibitions, theatre productions and concerts. Many prominent musicians have played there, including B.B. King, Miles Davis, Meat Loaf and Nirvana.The Fabrik is funded partly by its own takings and partly by the city of Hamburg.

Hamm (Westfalen) station

Hamm (Westfalen) (often abbreviated Hamm (Westf) or simply Hamm (W)) is a railway station situated in the city of Hamm in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

It is notable for its station building inspired by art deco and Gründerzeit building styles. The station is one of the important InterCityExpress rail hubs in the eastern Ruhr area and is among the high-profile buildings of Hamm.

Until the decline of rail freight after the Second World War, it featured one of Europe's largest marshalling yards.

Herman Grimm

Herman Grimm (6 January 1828, in Kassel – 16 June 1901, in Berlin) was a German academic and writer.

Grimm's father was Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859), and his uncle Jakob Grimm (1785-1863), the philologist compilers of indigenous folk tales ("Brothers Grimm"). His other uncle was the painter engraver Ludwig Emil Grimm (1790-1863). Herman Grimm is believed to have had only one (known) child at a young age, Martin Grimm. From 1841 Herman attended the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium in Berlin. He belonged to a clique associated with Bettina von Arnim (1785-1859), wife of the late poet Achim von Arnim (1781-1831), and started publishing drama and novels. He began legal and philological studies at the universities of Berlin and Bonn.

In 1857 he visited Rome where the artistic circle of Peter von Cornelius brought his interests to art. In 1859, he married Gisela von Arnim (1827-1889), the Arnim's daughter, and published his treatise, Die Akademie der Künste und das Verhältniß der Künstler zum Staate. His short-lived periodical, über Künstler und Kunstwerke (1864-1867), published many important essays. It also contained some of the first photographic illustrations of art in a magazine. The first volume of his biography of Michelangelo, Das Leben Michelangelos, began appearing in 1868. He wrote his dissertation in 1868 from Leipzig and his habilitation (1870) in Berlin. In 1871 he weighed in on the Hans Holbein "Meyer Madonna" debate concluding against the sound reasoning of the "Holbein convention" of eminent scholars, that the Dresden version was the autograph one.

He accepted the chair in the newly created discipline of history of art (Lehrstuhl für Kunstgeschichte) in Berlin in 1872 and remained there the rest of his life. Grimm published the first (though incomplete) edition of his Das Leben Raphaels in 1872. Grimm's art history writing is characteristic of the period consolidation of standards following unification of Germany, known as the Gründerzeit. When Friedrich Waagen, for example, criticized in the early issues of the Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, Goethe's aesthetic taste of some fifty years before, Grimm, the spokesman for the Gründerzeit, took it personally, refuting Waagen effectively point by point. Grimm's Beiträge zur deutschen Culturgeschichte, essays about important cultural personalities, appeared in 1897. Throughout his life his biographies passed through numerous editions. At his death he was succeeded by Heinrich Wölfflin. His students included Alfred Lichtwark; Julius Meier-Graefe studied under him but did not receive a degree.

Grimm's reputation is that of the arch-Romantic, Gründerzeit art historian. He viewed himself as the intellectual successor of Goethe. His approach to art history was through the "Great Masters", and arranging significance of art through a biographical account of art history. His tastes both typified and led German and continental bourgeois taste. Homer, Dante and Shakespeare were the great writers of their age; in art, only Raphael and Michelangelo could compare. The nineteenth century's adoration of Raphael is in large part Grimm's doing. Wölfflin wrote that Grimm showed indifference to all but the very great. This approach to art history is shared by other historians of his time, including Carl Justi, but was personally savaged in the lectures of Anton Springer. Grimm was one of the first to carefully study reception theory, though this aspect of his work is seldom considered. In the 3rd edition of his life of Raphael (1896) he added a section on Rezeptionsgeschichte. Perhaps because formal analysis and the sanctity of viewing the original work of art mattered so little to him, he was among the first to use lantern slides (reproductive images) in his lectures. Grimm's writings were gradually supplanted by superior scholarship in the twentieth century. His emotional approach to art-historical debate, as evidenced by the Holbein Madonna incident, proved his allegiances were usually closer to nationalism than art history. In Germany, his concept of the [German] hero as a mover of history was embraced by the Nazis, who saw to it that new and repackaged versions of his writings, such as Vom Geist der Deutschen (1943), appeared up until the war's end.

Historicism (art)

Historicism or also historism (German: Historismus) comprises artistic styles that draw their inspiration from recreating historic styles or imitating the work of historic artisans. This is especially prevalent in architecture, such as revival architecture. Through a combination of different styles or implementation of new elements, historicism can create completely different aesthetics than former styles. Thus it offers a great variety of possible designs.

In the history of art, after Neoclassicism which in the Romantic era could itself be considered a historicist movement, the 19th century saw a new historicist phase marked by an interpretation not only of Greek and Roman classicism, but also of succeeding stylistic eras, which were increasingly considered equivalent. In particular in architecture and in the genre of history painting, in which historical subjects were treated of with great attention to accurate period detail, the global influence of historicism was especially strong from the 1850s onwards. The change is often related to the rise of the bourgeoisie during and after the Industrial Revolution. By the end of the century, in the fin de siècle, Symbolism and Art Nouveau followed by Expressionism and Modernism acted to make Historicism look outdated, although many large public commissions continued in the 20th century. The Arts and Crafts movement managed to combine a looser vernacular historicism with elements of Art Nouveau and other contemporary styles.

Influences of historicism remained strong until the 1950s in many countries. When postmodern architecture became widely popular in the 1980s, a movement of Neo-Historism followed, that is still prominent and can be found around the world, especially in representative and upper-class buildings.

Hochstraße (Frankfurt)

The Hochstraße (lit., "High Street") is a short street in the city centre of Frankfurt, Germany, located in the Opera Quarter in the western part of the district of Innenstadt, within the central business district known unofficially as the Bankenviertel (Banking District).

It runs from the Opera Square and the western ends of the Freßgass and Goethestraße high-end shopping streets to the Eschenheimer Tor, along the Wallanlagen park area to the north. The Hochstraße includes several listed buildings from the Gründerzeit era. It also notably includes the Sofitel Frankfurt Opera five star plus luxury hotel and the Hilton Frankfurt City Centre hotel, both facing the Wallanlagen park from opposite ends. The street also has a number of high-end shops, restaurants, select residential buildings and office buildings, mainly for financial institutions. The Hochstraße has a few smaller adjacent streets, including the pedestrian streets Kleine Hochstraße and Kaiserhofstraße, which both lead to the Freßgass main street around hundred meters down the street, and the Börsenstraße (Stock Exchange Street), which leads to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange 50 metres away from the Hochstraße. The street is also located in close proximity to numerous large financial institutions. The Hochstraße is traditionally considered one of the most fashionable streets in Frankfurt, and the street has in recent years regained this position through major developments, particularly the construction of the widely praised Sofitel Frankfurt Opera hotel in a neo-historicist style as a dominant feature of the street.

Innenstadt, Cologne

Innenstadt (German: Köln-Innenstadt) is the central city district (Stadtbezirk) of the City of Cologne in Germany.

The district was established with the last communal land reform in 1975, and comprises Cologne's historic old town (Altstadt), the Gründerzeit era new town (Neustadt) plus the right-Rhenish district of Deutz. Innenstadt has about 127,000 inhabitants (as of December 2008) and covers an area of 16.4 square kilometres.

Julius Wolff (writer)

Julius Wolff (16 September 1834 – 3 June 1910) was a German writer and poet. He enjoyed great popularity in Germany during the Gründerzeit. He was influenced by Joseph Victor von Scheffel.


Meisenheim is a town in the Bad Kreuznach district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It belongs to the like-named Verbandsgemeinde, and is also its seat. Meisenheim is a state-recognized recreational resort (Erholungsort) and it is set out as a middle centre in state planning.


Neukölln ("New Cölln") is one of the twelve boroughs of Berlin. It is located in the southeastern part from the city centre towards Berlin Schönefeld Airport. It was part of the former American sector under the Four-Power occupation of the city. It features many Gründerzeit buildings and is characterized by having one of the highest percentage of immigrants in Berlin. In recent years an influx of students and creative types has led to gentrification.

Neukölln (locality)

Neukölln is an inner-city locality (Ortsteil) of Berlin in the homonymous borough (Bezirk) of Neukölln, including the historic village of Rixdorf and numerous Gründerzeit apartment blocks. The Ortsteil is densely settled with a population of 154,127 inhabitants (2009) and is the most populated one of Berlin. It was characterized by a relatively high percentage of immigrants, especially of Turkish and Russian descent. Since the turn of the millennium an influx of students, creatives and western immigrants has led to gentrification.

Revivalism (architecture)

Revivalism in architecture is the use of visual styles that consciously echo the style of a previous architectural era.

Modern-day revival styles can be summarized within New Classical Architecture, and sometimes under the umbrella term traditional architecture.


Usedom (German: Usedom [ˈuːzədɔm], Polish: Uznam [ˈuznam]) is a Baltic Sea island in Pomerania, divided since 1945 between Germany and Poland. It is the second biggest Pomeranian island after Rügen.

It is situated north of the Szczecin Lagoon (Polish: Zalew Szczeciński; German: Stettiner Haff) estuary of the River Oder. About 80% of the island belongs to the German district of Vorpommern-Greifswald in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The eastern part and the largest city on the island, Świnoujście (German: Swinemünde), are part of the Polish West Pomeranian Voivodeship. The island's total area is 445 square kilometres (172 square miles) (the German part 373 square kilometres (144 square miles); the Polish part 72 square kilometres (28 square miles). Its population is 76,500 (German part 31,500; Polish part 45,000).

With an annual average of 1906 sunshine hours, Usedom is the sunniest region of both Germany and Poland, and it is also one of the sunniest islands in the Baltic Sea, hence its nickname "Sun Island" (German: Sonneninsel, Polish: Wyspa Słońca).

The island has been a tourist destination since the Gründerzeit in the 19th century, and features resort architecture. Seaside resorts include Zinnowitz and the Amber Spas in the west, the Kaiserbad and Świnoujście in the east.


In German, a Vorstadt is an area of a city that is outside the Altstadt (city centre) but tightly connected to it and densely populated, thus distinguishing itself from a Vorort (suburb).

Historically, a Vorstadt was a settlement outside the city walls, sometimes dedicated to specific trades. Later, large Vorstädte appeared in Gründerzeit era. Places named Vorstadt include Vorstadt (Königsberg) and Oranienburger Vorstadt.

Its French equivalent is faubourg.

Historicism and Revivalism in Western architecture and decorative arts
Germany, Austria-Hungary
Great Britain
Greece and Balkans
Nordic countries
Russian Empire and USSR
United States

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