From baronial villa to seminar hotel Springer Schlössl
Today, the Springer Schlössl is home to the Politische Akademie (Political Academy of the Austrian People’s Party) in the Viennese district of Meidling. Strictly speaking, the academy actually consists of three buildings: the historical Springer Schlössl, built in the 19th century; a quaint half-timbered house which is now home to the Julius Raab-Stiftung and our modern hotel, set in tranquil parkland.
The Springer Schlössl was built in 1887 by architects Fellner and Helmer –the most renowned theatre architects of their time – having built around 50 theatres in German- speaking countries (including the Ronacher and Konzerthaus in Vienna and the Frankfurt and Czernowitz opera houses).
Baron Springer bought the entire estate from the Huegel family. Baron Huegel was head gardener to Empress Maria Theresia and he designed both his own estate and the Schönbrunn Palace Park nearby at the same time. There are still no less than 170 protected natural features in the parkland surrounding the Springer Schlössl hotel today, an impressive tribute to the baron’s genius as a gardener.
The sincerest form of flattery
The Springer Schlössl villa inspired so much admiration that it has actually been reproduced in its entirety in two different places: by the Serbian King Milan in Belgrade and by Count Stefan von Karolyi in Hungary. The main hall is particularly impressive: richly ornamented, it is an excellent example of Viennese historicism. It contains some quite unique features of the villa’s outstanding architecture, including the magnificent, sweeping staircase, the glass roof (which floods the hall with natural light) and the gorgeous walnut panelling. Over the years, it proved the perfect venue for small, intimate concerts.
Famous guests at the Springer Schlössl
There have been many famous guests over the years, including actress, and confidante of Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, Katharina Schratt; actor and tenor Alexander Girardi; director Max Reinhardt; Burgtheater architect Baron Hasenauer, and famous Italian opera composer and librettist, Rugero Leoncavallo, who loved giving concerts in the main hall because of its wonderful acoustics.
Hard times for the Springer Schlössl
With the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany or “Anschluss” in 1938, the Springer Schlössl entered a dark period in its history. The owner of the property, Baronesse Rothschild, emigrated to France in 1936 and at the end of 1939, the house was confiscated by the Nazis simply because the owners were Jewish, and then used for training purposes. As the end of the Second World War neared, this meant that it was included on the list of allied bombing targets. In the closing months, the park came under heavy bombardment. No less than 22 bombs hit near the Villa, but miraculously, the main building was somehow spared, although the windows and door frames were all very badly damaged. In 1945, the building was ransacked; Soviet tanks rolled over the fences, leaving the once-beautiful house and park looking utterly desolate.
A new purpose for Springer Schlössl
Following the war, the villa was used as a student hostel by the City of Vienna up until 1953. The worst of the damage to the park was repaired; the bomb craters filled in; rubble and rubbish taken away. Then the estate was handed back to its rightful owners.
In 1953, the heirs sold it to an educational organisation called the Verein der Wiener Volksheime.
Following this, the Vienna branch of the Austrian People’s Party ran seminars and events here.
In 1975, permission was granted to build the seminar hotel. The original buildings were extended and the modern hotel building added. In October 1975, Springer Schlössl became a training and research centre for the Austrian People’s Party. Nowadays, it accommodates five spacious, well-equipped seminar rooms on the ground floor, offices, archives for the Karl von Vogelsang Institute and a large research library. Due to its rich history and wonderful architecture, Springer Schlössl villa is now under protection as a piece of invaluable, cultural heritage.