The Krupp company has taken care of the living situation of its workers early on. In the 1870s, Alfred Krupp continued to build more company apartments and housing estates. He died in 1887.
His son Friedrich Alfred continued the so-called Sozialwerk (social services) after his father’s death. Friedrich Alfred Krupp died in 1902. The eldest daughter Bertha becomes heiress to the Krupp company.
Since she was still a minor, her mother Margarethe Krupp, wife of Friedrich Alfred, took over management.
On October 15th, 1906, Bertha Krupp married the Prussian diplomat Gustav von Bohlen and Halbach. On this occasion, Margarethe Krupp made the northern part of the property, around 50 hectares, available to the foundation. She also donates a million marks for the ambitious project. The deed of the foundation is signed on December 1st, 1906. The obligation to nonprofit laid down therein still determines the self-image and the economic activity of the company.
“The origin of the Margarethenhöhe myth lies in the social vision of a far-sighted woman.”
Network Of European Garden Cities – www.european-garden-city.net
On July 24th, 1908, the foundation board decided on the 34-year-old architect Georg Metzendorf from Hesse. The building site, which he inspected in 1908, is located between Lührmanstrasse and Mühlbachtal. It borders on Sommerburg to the east and Nachtigallental to the west. The official contract with Georg Metzendorf began on January 1st, 1909. This tied him to his new home in Essen for 25 years as he built what is probably Germany’s first garden suburb: the Margarethenhöhe.
Artisans from all over the country were drawn to Essen. The first construction phase had just begun and innovative two-storey Kleinwohnhäuser (small houses) with comfortable furnishings were created. This includes central heating, an economical division of space, and – the European Garden City network describes it as “revolutionary” at the time – a bathroom.
The young architect Metzendorf plans exactly the opposite of the multi-story buildings that were typical for that time. Due to his sensitive nature, Metzendorf had quickly become a popular figure.
“With horse and carriage the furniture was brought over the present Lührmannstrasse.”
Rixa Countess von Schmettow – Magazin der Margarethe Krupp-Stiftung (Vol. 2, December 2017)
The first houses on the bridgehead were built in 1910. The 172-meter long pedestrian bridge over the Mühlbachtal was also completed at that time. A year later, the first families moved into the small houses on Steile Strasse (steep street), using horses or carts to transport their belongings.
The Schatzgräberbrunnen (treasury tomb well) on the Kleine Markt (little market) was built in honour of the founder Margarethe Krupp. Created by the sculptor Joseph Enseling the well was inaugurated on July 20th, 1912. On the same day, residents had gotten the chance to walk on their new promenade at the Sommerburg.
“A small town without infrastructure, it would have been unthinkable in the old days.”
Rixa Countess von Schmettow – Magazin der Margarethe Krupp-Stiftung (Vol. 2, Dezember 2017)
Emperor Wilhelm II was impressed by the modern settlement as he visited it on August 8th, 1912. The development continues, the infrastructure is constantly improved: A small town with restaurants, bakers, butchers and hairdressers came into existence.
In the year 1913, after four construction periods, about 1,500 people lived in 360 apartment.
In 1915 the board of foundation directors received a magnificent meeting room made entirely of walnut wood. Located on the first floor of the restaurant “Margartethenhöhe“.
In 1916 the Protestant school was founded under principal Marens.
Empress Auguste Victoria visited the garden city on June 20th, 1917. The couple Bertha and Gustav Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach personally guided the visitor through the Margarethenhöhe.
Artists were also drawn to Essen and the Höhe. In 1918 the painter and graphic artist Hermann Kätelhön moved into the small studio building at Sommerburgstrasse 18, which was specially built for him on Margarethe Krupp’s will.
There was not yet a school building of its own, but on April 22nd, 1914 the Catholic elementary school provisionally opens its doors for classes. At that time, twelve classes were distributed to four different school buildings. Dietrich Hegmann becomes the first principal.
In December 1914, the tram was extended to the new Am Brückenkopf stop.
The construction of settlements continues and in 1921, 16 multi-storey buildings with 96 apartments were built on the west side of Sommerburgstrasse. But the years of inflation became noticeable from 1922 onwards.
The new craftsmen received an advance of 5,000 marks each for the purchase of coal and potatoes. Georg Metzendorf’s annual income is set at 60,000 marks in February; from September 1st, his income increased to 333,300 marks.
Positive development: Two years later, religious life finally found its way up, the Catholic emergency church “Zur Heiligen Familie” was inaugurated on May 25th, 1924. The first Corpus Christi procession was celebrated on June 22nd. In the same year, Protestants celebrated their first service in the new evangelical Gustav Adolf House on December 21st.
Construction of the elementary school An der Waldlehne began in 1927.
The era of Margarethe Krupp ended on February 24th, 1931 as she died at the old age of 77. In the same year, the 25th anniversary of the foundation is celebrated and a memorial service for Margarethe Krupp was held.
“With the construction, Margarethe Krupp and Georg Metzendorf have undoubtedly created a historically valuable highlight that will reach far into the future.
Margarethenhöhe Das Jahrhundertwerk, Margarethe Krupp-Stiftung, 2006
In 1933, Georg Metzendorf, who was seriously ill, asked for his early retirement on April 1st. On January 8th, 1934, the city of Essen honoured Georg Metzendorf for his 25th anniversary serving the city. The creator of Margarethenhöhe died on August 3rd at the age of 59. The Hohlweg was renamed to Metzendorfstrasse in his honour a short time later.
In 1937, Bertha and Gustav Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach donated another 16 hectares of land on Sommerburgstrasse, honouring the 125th anniversary of the company.
Construction progress stagnated in the years of war. The first major damages from airstrikes were noted in 1942. In 1943 the school An der Waldlehne was evacuated to Württemberg (located in the south of Germany). At the end of the war, 474 of 1,681 apartments were destroyed, 230 badly damaged and only 62 remained intact. 44 per cent of buildings were uninhabitable. On May 1st, 1945, Margarethenhöhe had 2,407 residents.
One year later, the foundation, representatives of parties, churches and charities founded a “Democratic Working Group”, which sole purpose was to reconstruct the settlement.
Even if there were deficiencies, around 1,250 apartments were re-occupied in December 1946. On September 15th, 1947, the Höhe got its weekly market with 18 stands for the first time in its history. This still exists today. Just one year later, on January 1st, the settlement with 7,781 inhabitants and 138.4 hectares became its own district and no longer belonged to Rüttenscheid.
With the building project “Dach und Fach” (Roof and Walls) the foundation started what will later be known as the “New” Margarethenhöhe, spending 68.000 DM (Deutsche Mark = German Mark). As part of the first post-war building exhibition, a model settlement with 33 sample houses was built on the new Lührmannwald Straße.
However, the construction of the “new” Margarethenhöhe south of the Lührmannwald Straße followed entirely different urban planning and architectural criteria. Multi-storey row construction, set in wide green areas, created a clear contrast to the designs of the “old” Margarethenhöhe.
The first three construction phases of the “New” Margarethenhöhe project began in summer of 1962. 400 apartments were planned, divided into one- and two-family houses and three high-rise buildings.
The Margarethe Krupp Foundation celebrated its 50th anniversary on September 15th, welcoming guests like German President Theodor Heuss. In 1957 the jury presented the models for the new part of the Margarethenhöhe. The construction of the extension was carried out from 1962 to 1980 according to plans by the competition winner Dr Wilhelm Seidensticker.
The Margarethe Krupp Foundation celebrates its 75th anniversary on December 1st, 1981. In 1983, part of the houses on the Lührmannwald was demolished and redesigned. 82 publicly funded new apartments were built.
The foundation’s supervisory board decides to build a museum apartment that can still be visited today.
“Margarethe Krupp expressly called the foundation a gift for the citizens of Essen.”
Board of Directors of the Bürgerschaft, Essen Margarethenhöhe e.V
Six years later, in 1987, a large part of the “old” Margarethenhöhe was placed under monumental protection.
On the occasion of the 100th birthday of the Margarethe Krupp Foundation, speakers cite the founder: “Margarethe Krupp has expressly described the foundation as a gift for the citizens of the city of Essen. So we – of course – remember her gratefully today (…). ”