Saturday, May 18, 2013

Freiburg's Second Founding Father

Otto Winterer in half-relief in Freiburg's minster
The day before yesterday Freiburg commemorated Otto Winterer, its legendary mayor who they say founded the city a second time. Winterer took this position on May 25, 1888, at the age of 42 and retired from office on May 25, 1913, exactly 25 years later. During his tenure he transformed Freiburg, the medieval city, into a modern town doubling its population from 45 000 to 90 000.

Speaking on the occasion of this double commemoration (held a week earlier because of the Whitsun holidays) were Winterer's great-grandson professor Tilman Mayer, the director of Freiburg's Augustinermuseum Tilmann von Stockhausen, and Lord Mayor Dieter Salomon. Note the difference in the spelling of the forenames.

Winterer's great-grandson Tilman Mayer addressing in a grey-headed crowd
 (©Michael Bamberger, BZ)
Winterer, a national liberal, was conservative in preserving Freiburg's cultural heritage and at the same time avant-garde building new schools and bridges, investing in affordable housing projects, assuring a modern water supply as well as effluent disposal, creating a central gas supply, and electrifying the streetcar system as early as 1901. As his great-grandson formulated it: Otto Winterer was designer, innovator, and preserver.

The Wasserschlössle or how to hide a drinking water reservoir behind a historicizing front (©Wikipedia)
Winterer not only preserved Freiburg's historical building stock, e.g., when founding the Münsterbauverein (Society for the Preservation of the Minster) but he longed to exaggerate the existing Gothic and Renaissance buildings vertically. Sometimes, however, he overshot, e.g., when acting according to his maxim: A village has roofs, a town sports steeples.

Exaggerating vertically

The Martinstor before 1900. There is a painting of Saint Martin on its frontface (©Wikipedia)
The Martinstor as it looks today except for the missing painting
Historisches Freiburg)

The Schwabentor in its original form (©Historisches Freiburg)

The Schwabentor highly exaggerated (©Historisches Freiburg)

After the war due to damage and static reasons the Schwabentor had to be stripped down. During the present renovations cracks in the walls of the gate were unexpectedly discovered demanding the strengthening of its foundations (©Historisches Freiburg).
How were all these building activities possible? Winterer was a man of action, straightforward and he had visions, twenty-five years in office, and money. It was the Gründerzeit of the 2nd Reich (founding period) following Germany's unification, a period of robust growth. Most of Winterer's developments were sustainable, e.g., his solid school buildings and most of the original effluent system are still in use.

Winterer's oversized theater (©Historisches Freiburg)
Since Winterer wanted to make Freiburg an attractive town for tourists and rich pensioneers (at that time Freiburg was nicknamed the all-German Pensionopolis) he rounded out the city's historical jewels and the natural beauties of the Black Forest with a generous cultural offerings. The municipal theater he had built by 1910 was the second biggest in the Reich for a population of less than 90 000. It was finished in a period when the times of plenty had elapsed. Otto Winterer died on 26 February, 1915, half a year after the outbreak of the First World War that ended the good old times.

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