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History

History

Darmstadt in 1626 (Daniel Meissner - Merian, 1626, from: Thesaurus Philopoliticus)

A short introduction

Eberstadt, today a part of Darmstadt, was first mentioned in the year 782, in a document belonging to the monastery of Lorsch. At the end of the 11thcentury "Darmundestat" was first mentioned. On July 23rd 1330, the earls of Katzenelnbogen received their town charter for Darmstadt from emporer Ludwig the Bavarian and shortly after, the city wall was built. Darmstadt has been part of Hesse since 1479.

Between 1618 and 1648 Darmstadt suffered from the effects of the 30 years war. In 1635, 2000 people perished as a result of the plague. In 1668, Friedrich Jacob Merck acquired "die Engel-Apotheke" a pharmacy in Darmstadt, that became the forerunner of the oldest chemical and pharmaceutical  business company in the world today: Merck KGaA.

In 1771 countess Caroline "die Große Landgräfin" and Johann Heinrich Merck from the family of Merck assembled the "Circle of Sentimentalists" ("Kreis der Empfindsamen") with Goethe, Herder and Klopstock among other writers and composers as their members.

Old City and Wedding Tower (Pic.: Stadt-archiv / Felix Rühl)

The grand duchy of Hesse, which had been extended by the province of Rheinhessen in 1816, received a constitution with Darmstadt as its capital on December 12th 1820.

In 1835, the son of a doctor in Darmstadt, Georg Buechner who was recognized as a famous writer after his death, absconded from justice because of revolutionary activities by fleeing to Strasbourg.

In 1836, a higher vocational school was opened in Darmstadt, which was the forerunner of the later school for applied sciences. In 1844, the monument "Langer Ludwig" was built on the Luisenplatz (a sqare riht in the city centre) and in 1886, the steam-engine tramway was introduced into Darmstadt, which connected the city to Eberstadt, Arheiligen and Griesheim.

Darmstadt has also been a home for the avantgarde since the beginning of the 20th century. Between 1898 and 1908, grand duke Ernst Ludwig established the artist´s colony, that became the hallmark of the world-renowned Mathildenhöhe (more information here).

Jugendstil art in the Mathildenhöhe artists´ colony was a centre of reform movements in Germany around the turn of the century, followed by further development of the Bauhaus design concepts.

Darmstadt in 1945 (Pic.: Stadtarchiv / Felix Rühl)

Perpetrators and victims (jewish citizens, social democrats, communists and others) of the dictatorship by the Nazis were also among the Darmstadt population. Close to the end of this time, the Old Town was completely destroyed in an Allied bombing. More than 11 000 people died in one night.

 

Following nearly complete destruction of the inner city, Darmstadt was forced to surrender the title of the capital city of the German state of Hessen to Wiesbaden after the war.

 

The city´s identity had to be re-established from the ground up. Revived civic activities centred around the Technical University and the Mathildenhöhe (Mathilde Heights) artists´ colony.

The printing and publishing industries developed into a decisive economic factor in the second half of this century. This so-called "smokeless industry" enjoyed considerable success until the new computer technologies took its place. Darmstadt played an important role in this process.

Theatre in Darmstadt has been a prominent force twice in this century, most recently in the sixties under its director Rudolf Sellner.

Large and small software companies established around the Technical University, a number of which are now known worldwide. During the same period, international institutes were established here such as the space research organizations ESOC and EUMETSAT, the Heavy Ion Research Association (GSI) and others, to name only a few reasons for the title ”city of science”, which the city has been carrying since 19

The Market Square, around 1930 (Picture: Stadtarchiv)