Ringstrasse trams and trees
A new golden age of building came to Vienna, based on this gracious Ringstrasse: all the city’s monumental institutions were located there. The buildings already present in the Innere Stadt were churches and imperial buildings; the new Ringstrasse developments were buildings which stressed secular culture and the new constitutional government, including the Parliament, Rathaus, University.
Staatsoper/Opera House 1863-9 was one of the first classical buildings along Ringstrasse. Presumably the architects chose the Italian Renaissance style since that era had been important for art and music. Visitors and tourists could walk around the very sumptuous interiors, then go straight to the Hotel Sacher for an after-the-performance supper!
Opera House, 1869
This was followed by the Museum of Natural History and Parliament House, classical architecture in the Habsburg taste. The Museum of Natural History 1872-91 was one of the important museums of this type, built to house the extraordinary collection of the Habsburgs. The museum’s two buildings were designed by Gottfried Semper and Karl von Hasenauer.
Demel’s pastry shop in Michaelerpaltz was first founded in 1785. Patissier Christoph Demel acquired the business in 1857 and moved to its present position in 1888. An elaborate ground floor window-display showcased the confection shop. An upstairs café, the meeting point for the old high society.
A majestic palace, the Vienna residence of the Prince of Württemberg, was built on the magnificent Ringstrasse in 1863. Transformed into a sumptuous hotel for the world exhibition in 1873, Hotel Imperial still showcases the C19th romance of Vienna with marble, statues and spectacular crystal chandeliers. Right from the beginning it enjoyed a world-wide reputation as close to the opera, equipped with highest elegance and large comfort. The Sacher Hotel has been popular with the rich and famous ever since it opened in 1876 by pastry chef Franz Sacher's son, Eduard Sacher and his wife, Anna. Potatomato Blog concentrated on Ringstrasse food (naturally!) and reported that Sacher’s was still top notch.
Yet by 1873 Vienna held a reduced image in the minds of the rest of the world. The Austria-Hungary Empire had lost a significant amount of land and power over the last two decades, and a war with France and conflicts with Prussia had triggered internal social and economic upheavals. So there were several specific goals for a World Expo. Vienna wanted show off its economic reconstruction and position itself as a centre of exchange between the East and West, an empire equal in importance to France and Britain.
In 1870 Emperor Franz Joseph approved the Expo plan and put Baron Wilhelm von Schwarz-Sendborn, the man who had organised Austrian exhibits at previous world's fairs, in charge. Baron Schwarz-Sendborn wanted "a truly universal exhibition that would embrace every field on which human intellect has been at work".
The opening of the Vienna World Expo 1873 was an expression of the Habsburg monarchy’s material progress and economic achievement. The years of expansive commercial enterprise in late 1860s-early 1870s were characterised by railroad and industrial expansion, and the growth of Vienna. I won’t discuss the Expo’s location and facilities since Prater Park is nowhere near the Ringstrasse. But we need to note that the old railway station in the city had become too small and had to be rebuilt in time for the Expo. The splendid new Nordbahnhof building was completed in 1865, along with its sculptures and fresco painters.
Mozart in a Ringstrasse Park
Eventually the Ringstrasse parks were filled with musicians’ statues: Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss, and concerts offered music by Mendelssohn, Schubert, Mahler, Brahms and Johann Strauss. The poet Frederick von Schiller was also celebrated, in front of the Fine Arts Academy. The Vienna of Franz Josef took its culture very seriously. Even today, if something really matters in Vienna, it's on the Ringstrasse.