Virtual Walking Tour in the Center of Suhl
By Dietrich Apel
|Most visitors to Suhl have little idea what they can see and how they can fit as much as possible into the time they have. This Virtual Walking Tour through the center of Suhl will help you in getting started.
The first three photos give you an idea how Suhl had changed in over 125 years. Since the first photo shows the railroad tracks and bridge in the middle of the photo, we know that it was taken after 1884 when the first train came through Suhl. The early Sauer factory is in the middle of the photo. This photo is one of a set of eight. To see all of them go to the archive page-Suhl.
The second photo shows an oil painting by Otto Bruchholz, a local painter and artist that was painted in the 1950s. The mountain on the left is the Domberg with the Hindenburg Outlook Tower on top and the Simson Villa on the side of the mountain above all the other houses. The story is told that when the Simsons applied for a building permit, it was first denied, but the warning that they would move their factories away from Suhl brought a reversal.
The third photo must have been taken shortly before Germany was reunited or shortly there after. You can identify the buildings that date back to the years before World War II by their red tile roofs. The modern apartment buildings in the lower left were built in a section of town where many small gun makers once had their shops and homes along very narrow roads.
The tall apartment buildings on the right don’t seem to fit into this scenic town surrounded by mountains. They were needed because in the Communist years many workers came to Suhl which was even then an important commercial and industrial center. Since unification the population of Suhl has shrunk considerably, reducing the tax base available to the town.
We begin our guided tour at the Gun Museum because here you can park your car in the multi-story parking garage (no free parking downtown) and here various bus routes come together and taxis are always lined up across the street.
An article about the museum and its history is in our Archive (Nr.91-T).
You can also go on a tour through the Museum in our Archive (Nr.48-PG).
The next photo shows the rear of the museum, the Lauter River and the house on the other side of the river that is now used for the administration of the museum. The river once played a very important role in the development of Suhl, because water power drove the mills and forges. From here the river flows underground and only re-surfaces at the Sauer factory where it once had turned the machines before city gas and electricity became available.
The high rise building in the next photo was built before unification and was at the time the tallest building in Suhl. After re-unification several of the top floors were removed and a Restaurant was added on top.
A modern Hotel was also added and might be chosen by those who can’t stay very long.
Above the restaurant is an Observation Deck. From here you can see most of Suhl and all the valleys and mountains around you. It is well worth the elevator ride to the restaurant and from there climbing the stairway to the top.
From the breakfast room of the hotel and from the restaurant on the top floor you can see Suhl from sunrise to sunset and its many lights after dark.
In the next photo with the view of Suhl in another direction look at the mountain on the left. There you can spot the Ringberg Hotel at the very top that was built by the Communist Government but was totally remodeled after Germany was re-united and is now a very attractive modern hotel with many conveniences. From the dining room that is used for a very generous buffet breakfast and buffet dinner you have a great view of both Suhl and Zella-Mehlis.
The round building in the same photo shows the Congress Center that was built at the same time. Here you will find the Suhl Visitor Center that can answer your questions about Suhl.
Here you will also find the“Simson FahrzeugMuseum” where you can see their bicycles, motor scooters, motor cycles and automobiles. They also sell the very good book about the Simson Company with many good photos that include the Simson hunting guns. You can find the Simson story in Section 5 of this web-site.
In the next photo is the view from the observation platform to the grounds that formerly were filled with the buildings of the Sauer Company. Except for the buildings with the red roofs in the foreground, all but one of the other Sauer buildings and a few along the river (not in the photo) were taken down.
The four-story building in the upper left corner with cars parked in front was built during World War II for war production. It is now occupied by the Ehrhardt Car Dealership where on every floor different make Automobiles are on display, including a cut-away model of each make. But it also contains quite a few restored machines that were once used by Sauer. In the stairways between floors old Sauer guns are on display.
After you come out of the high rise building turn right and use the underpass at the end of the street that will lead to the entrance of the former Sauer factory grounds that is now a business center occupied by a variety of business enterprises.
The next photo shows the original old Sauer administration building that was fortunately saved from destruction.
The next photo shows an American soldier on guard at the former gate of the factory. This photo was taken a day after American troops had arrived in Suhl near the end of the Second World War. In the upper left you see the corner of the building shown above.
In the buildings in the photo below Sauer office machines were made. Just above the roof of the building on the left you can barely see the Simson Villa.
When you continue your walk, look to the left and head for the building shown on the next photo. Behind it is the Lauter River that you had last seen behind the Gun Museum.
Along the river were the former extensive machining halls that could no longer serve a good purpose and were torn down.
At the river you can still go to a pedestrian bridge, and from there you can see the remaining outlet where formerly the water that turned the machines flowed back into the river.
Next to a building you will see the big sandstone wheel used as a stepping stone that was most likely used many years ago to grind the outside of gun barrels, driven by water power as shown in the following pictures.
Above- is an old Barrel grinding wheel found surviving on the Sauer grounds
If you have time, go to the four story high building where automobiles are parked in front of it. This building was built at the beginning of World War II for war production. It is now the Car Dealership Ehrhardt that sells four brands of automobiles, every make on its own floor, and a cut-away model of each make.
On every floor you will also see machines that were formerly used in the Sauer factory. They have been totally restored, look like new and have signs that identify their former purpose.
In the landings of the stairways are displays of older Sauer hunting guns.
As you leave the Sauer grounds the way you had come in, you will turn to the right and walk below and parallel to the railroad track. You then use an underpass that takes you under the tracks to the Bahnhofstrasse and the Sauer Villa that is shown in the photo on the right.
When walking along this street in the direction of the church you see ahead, you will come to a stone building on the left that was the original forge of the Haenel Company, followed by their original administration building.
The factory was behind these buildings and was torn down. It went all the way to the street opposite the Congress Center. Next to it used to be the city gas works where gas was generated from coal. Gas for lighting and heating came first to Suhl and electricity followed later.
After you pass the church you will be on the Steinweg, Suhl’s main street that was formerly also the main road through Suhl. It is now a pedestrian zone and shopping district. Most likely it got its name because it was the first road that was paved with cobblestones.
Several gun makers were located here, among them Thieme & Schlegelmilch whose house is shown in the first photo. The information about this company will soon be added to Section 5.
The photo below shows the Spangenberg House that was built by Johann Wilhelm Spangenberg after most of Suhl was destroyed by a major fire. The history of the Spangenberg Gun Makers Dynasty inSuhl goes back to 1539, and members of this family played a major role as gun makers and in the development of Suhl’s history. The house was built as a very attractive residence and was surrounded by a park. It became the center of the social life in Suhl. The house was sold by members of the Spangenberg family in 1920 after one of its most elegant rooms was dismantled and reassembled in a museum in Erfurt.
The photo on the right shows the Meffert residence which had shops in the back of the house and a gun factory at another location in Suhl. The history of the Meffert Company will soon be added in Section 5.
As we arrive at the Suhl Market Square we see City Hall on the corner and a fountain with a monument in the middle. Here you see the Waffenschmied who has watched over Suhl for 110 years and became its trademark.
The photo below shows how everybody in Suhl came out for the unveiling on August 26, 1903. This “Waffenschmied” still watches over Suhl, and today’s much fewer gunmakers who carry on and uphold the tradition of quality gun making for years to come.
Larry Schuknecht, who supplied the photos with the help of Axel Pantermühl and Peter-Josef Schmitt, is seen resting on the fountain.
To return to the museum where this tour started, go to the street behind the pharmacy (Apotheke) and turn left. On this street you will also find a bookstore with books about Suhl and its history.