Nestled on the shores of Lake Schwerin in Germany, the Kurhotel Zippendorf stands as a testament to the city’s rich history and over a century pf political changes and chaos, but also paints an all-too-common picture of neglect and indifference. Like with so many (formerly) grand buildings in Germany, the Kurhotel weaves an all too familiar thread through the highs and lows of German history – ending more often than not on low note.
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1910 – 1933: The Grand Beginnings of the Kurhotel Zippendorf
Germans have many quirks, but one that I think we can all positively agree on is their love for nature and its health benefits. The practice of Climatotherapy dates back to the early 19th century, primarily with the establishments of Lung Sanatoriums (such as the one in Oranienburg) to help tuberculosis patients. The German Doctor Alexander Spengler was pioneer when it came to this subject as he noticed that the people who lived in the higher regions of Switzerland didn’t contract tuberculosis, which was mainly due to the high mountain climate. After publishing this theory, multiple sanatoriums opened in Davos, to cash in on the new “Air Spa” treatment.
The designation “Luftkurort” (lit. Air Spa) spread throughout German towns – who saw it as a great opportunity to increase tourism in their regions. To date, over 300 regions in Germany are officially recognized as a “Luftkurort” – meaning that their air quality and climate is proven to be “beneficial for your health.
Now why are we talking about Luftkurorte? Well, the origins of the Kurhotel Zippendorf date back to the year 1909, when a group of entrepreneurs in Schwerin founded the “Kurhaus GmbH” (Kur = Treatment) with the intent of establishing the Zippendorf as a Luftkurort to increase tourism. The Kurhaus GmbH built decided to build a massive spa hotel overlooking the Schweriner See (the fourth largest lake in germany), so they hired the architect Paul Korff.
Paul Korff – born in 1875 in Laage – was a German builder and Architect and best known for building/designing department stores, manor houses and stately homes throughout Germany.
Korff designed a stately hotel with 65 rooms, reading rooms, a lady’s lounge and a closed veranda and terrace overlooking Lake Schwerin. The Kurhotel Zippendorf opened its doors on the 1st of July, 1910 and adversities itself to the masses with having the newest amenities; Baths, electric lights, a cooled dining room as well as sailing, fishing and tennis amenities.
The Kurhotel faced multiple issues since the day of its opening, though many not of their own making. While Zippendorf now had a nice spa hotel, the city seemingly wasn’t interested in investing in the neighborhood, leaving many of the sidewalks unkempt, the beach was essentially being used as a dump by the locals, and through some mismanagement – the quality of the water had rapidly decreased. All in all, not a very attractive situation, and the hotel struggled to maximize its bookings over the next few years.
With the outbreak of the first world war, even less tourists found their way to the Kurhotel Zippendorf forcing the owners to sell the hotel to a businessman named Friedrich Schwarz in 1919. In a stroke of bad timing for the old owners, Schwerin fully incorporated the neighborhood of Zippendorf in 1920, built a brand-new tram connection (with a stop directly in front of the Hotel) and even cleaned up the beach. These measures helped boost tourism in the area and the hotel bookings were full, and even attracted the famed journalist and writer Kurt Tucholsky to spend a few nights at the hotel with his then girlfriend (and later wife) Mary Gerold in February of 1923.
This stroke of luck wouldn’t last though – and the hotel bookings dropped again, eventually cratering due to the economic shock of the great depression. Schwarz, who also owned 2 other hotels in Schwerin was struggling to keep his businesses running, and several fires broke out in the Kurhotel Zippendorf over the next few years (some might speculate insurance fraud…).Schwarz declared bankruptcy in 1931 and the Kurhotel Zippendorf was foreclosed in 1933.
1933 – 1945: Nazis, Sudeten Germans and the Luftwaffe
The new owner Max Otto Kirst faced the same issues as Schwarz and the previous owners, struggling to turn a profit with the Kurhotel. With the rise of the Nazis however, the Kurhotel found a new source of income, renting out its space to Nazi conferences and events from 1933 onwards.
The Kurhotel Zippendorf was briefly used to house refugees from the Sudetenland in 1938 – though this seemed to have caused some tensions, as Kirst ended up losing his hotel license a year later due to his alleged poor treatment of the refugees. The Luftwaffe took over the hotel in 1939, incorporating it as part of an aviation school. Supposedly an ani aircraft gun was installed here during the later stages of the war. By 1944, the Kurhotel Zippendorf was turned into an auxiliary hospital for the Luftwaffe.
1945 – 1990: Refugees, a Childrens Home and a Sports Club
After the end of the second world war, the Kurhotel Zippendorf was used to look after concentration camp survivors and refugees, before being turned into a holiday home by the regional government in 1949. The owners, the family of Max Otto Kirst were expropriated in 1950, and the East German State took over ownership over the former hotel.
The property was repurposed as a children’s home in 1952, housing over 120 boys and girls, as well as in some cases their mothers. This didn’t last long, as on only three years later, the kids had to move out and make way for the SC Traktor Schwerin (Sports Club Tractor Schwerin), a sports club focused on boxing, athletics, volleyball and sailing. The SC Traktor Schwerin was quite successful on the national and international sporting stage, producing several Olympic medalists over the years.
The club would use the hotel as its clubhouse as well as a boarding school and sport hotel from 1953 until 1984, when it was sold to the VEB Kombinat Lederwaren Schwerin (a state-owned textile company), which continued to run the boarding school, but also added a further education institution.
1990 – 2017: The Treuhand moves in
The infamous Treuhand took over the hotel in 1990 and saw some potential in the building, and saw to it that the roof was completely fixed, and that both the electric cabling and heating system was renovated. Despite all this, no legitimate investor could be found and the Hotel Zippendorf fell into a state of disrepair.
The Hotel was auctioned off again in 2008, and the new owner planed renovate the Kurhotel Zippendorf and turn it into a Health Academy, featuring both a hotel and restaurant, but after several years of no development progress, it was sold off again in 2012. The Project development company that purchased the hotel planed on turning the hotel into apartments, only to pull out a year later.
The Hotel was sold off in 2016 to an architecture firm from Munich, which planed on turning it into luxury apartments as well as constructing two new buildings on the property. The curse of the Kurhotel struck once again two of the investors pulled out in 2017, leaving the current owners looking for new partners to realize its plans.
Kurhotel Zippendorf Video
As is evident from the photos, the Hotel is in terrible shape, so most of the footage is from the ground floor. We decided against using a drone as we were in a bit of a rush to catch a train, and we didnt want to attract any unecessary attention as the property is quite central. Eitherway, we hope you enjoy the video.
The Kurhotel Zippendorf Today (2023)
The years have not been kind to the Kurhotel Zippendorf. Despite having received a new roof on the early 90s, the entire building has been gutted and heavily vandalized since. Several fires have “mysteriously” broken out over the years – the last one in January 2023. The roof has also sprung a few holes – which the current owner has temporarily fixed with a giant blue tarp, though this seems to have only had a placebo effect.
Virtually every floor has large holes in it, allowing you to essentially look up, and in some cases even out of the attic. Traversing past the first-floor staircase is obviously a terrible idea, as its quite clear that such an endeavor will highly result in someone falling through the floor/ceiling.
For obvious reasons, the owner has placed a large and secure fence around the entire property to try and prevent people from getting in and potentially hurting (and or vandalizing) the place. There is a small forest pathway which runs directly alongside the Kurhotel, which does give a lovely view of the building – and if one is in the area, it’s worth taking a quick glimpse of what’s left.
In theory, renovation should have started at some point in 2023, but as of yet nothing has happened and its unlikely anything will change anytime soon. At this point it’s just a question what will happen first, the owner finding new partners to renovate the building, or it burning down with the next arson attack.
Kurhotel Zippendorf Address
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