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The Kurhaus (until 1914 also known as Maison de Conversation or Konversationshaus) is the center of Baden-Baden's spa district on the left bank of the Oos and center of social life. It is known for Friedrich Weinbrenner's architecture, numerous events and the famous Casino. The characteristic facade with eight Corinthian columns made it the symbol of the city.
When you enter the Kurhaus through the main entrance, you find yourself in the foyer with the characteristic green stairs. On the left hand side there is the southern wing of the Kurhaus with the Kurhaus restaurant. Two separated rooms of the restaurant can be booked for parties and events. In good weather, guests can take a seat outside on the terrace. The Weinbrenner hall is located on the right hand side of the main entrance, behind the facade of the central building part. The Baden-Baden Philharmonics often give concerts in this hall. Behind it in the northern wing of the Kurhaus the casino is situated. The magnificent historical gambling rooms were furnitured by Parisian interior designers in the 19th century. A second restaurant belongs to the casino. The slot game is spatially separated from the classic games and can be found in the basement of the southern wing. In the back of the foyer the entrance to the dance bar Equipage is located. On the first floor of the Kurhaus there are several other function rooms. The centerpiece is the large barrel-vaulted Bénazet hall. The different sized rooms also offer space for smaller events. Below the Kurhaus and the Kurhaus garden there is the basement garage, which offers direct access to the building.
The place outside the city walls of Baden-Baden on the other side of the Oos river, where today the Kurhaus is located, was chosen by August Georg von Baden in 1765 in order to build the so called Promenadehaus. After this small wooden building was completed in 1766, it contained a restaurant and served the interests of the guests of Baden-Baden. A chestnut avenue in the area of today's Kurhauskolonnaden connected the building with the southern city gate. The success of this establishment was low, the city wasn't willing to invest more money and so the building became state property in 1802.
At the beginning of the 19th century the number of guests in the spa town rose continuously. In 1810 next to the Promenadehaus another timber house was built, which served as a theater. Finally grand duke Ludwig decided to cancel the further expansion of the spa district at the marketplace and to concentrate fully on today's spa district, which is located far away from the hot springs. He instructed his architect Friedrich Weinbrenner to plan a new Konversationshaus, the construction of which was carried out from 1822 to 1824 by the architects Berckmüller and Holb. Weinbrenner's Konversationshaus was influenced by the one in Wiesbaden, but also deviated from it in significant parts. It consisted of three building parts. In the middle section, with the characteristic facade columns, there was the great ballroom, which is today known as the Weinbrenner hall. In addition there were three gambling rooms at the back. The northern and southern wings were separated from the middle section by galleries. The Promenadehaus was merged into the southern wing, which continued to serve as a restaurant. In the northern wing a theater was located. The Konversationshaus was designed for dancing, gambling and large events. Under the tenant Antoine Chabert it quickly became an international attraction. The gambling was monopolized in the Konversationshaus.
After gambling was forbidden in France in 1837, French visitors rushed the German casinos. The former tenant of the Parisian casinos Jacques Bénazet took over the casino in Baden-Baden in 1838. Short time afterwards he instructed Pierre-Lucas-Charles Ciceri to refurniture the east wing and middle wing in the neo-baroque style, which was fashion at that time in Paris. Ciceris work is not preserved. Bénazet used his entrepreneurial skills and extensive advertising campaigns to raise Baden-Baden's popularity. The city was soon called summer capital of Europe and the casino became the most important source of income.
When Jacques Bénazet died in 1848 his son Edouard took over and continued his work. He was responsible for converting the right wing theater rooms into pompous gambling halls. This plan was carried out by Charles Séchan in 1853 and 1854. The theater received new accommodation in its own building at the Goetheplatz. The administration accepted the changes of the interior but took care that the exterior remained unchanged. This was especially important to director Heinrich Hübsch.
After the Franco-German War, the international guests stayed away. In the newly founded German Empire gambling was prohibited in 1872. The Konversationshaus lost its main attraction and its importance. Around 1900 the house was in need of renovation. Especially the southern wing which incorporated parts of the former 18th century Promenadehaus was in a very bad condition. A severe dispute on how to proceed started and lasted for several years. Especially city and state, who owned the building, weren't able to find a common solution. It was also discussed to tear down the whole Konversationshaus and replace it by a completly new building. This was for done in Wiesbaden in 1904. Finally they agreed on the implementation of plans provided by August Stürzenacker which als satisfied historic preservation requirements. The south wing was completly torn down and rebuilt. In front of it a covered patio for the restaurant was constructed. For reasons of symmetry Stürzenacker added a similar structure to the north wing as well. Alread in the mid 19th century the entrance had moved from the center axis to the left. Stürzenacker now changed the foyer behind this entrance considerably. Upstairs he added a large barrel-vaulted concert hall, today's Bénazet hall.
Since then the Kurhaus hosted several international gatherings. In 1934 the world championship in chess between Alexander Aljechin and Efim Bogoljubow was opened in the great hall of the Kurhaus. On 3 April 2009 the first official event of the NATO summit took place in the Kurhaus.
In 2011 the administration invested € 8.2 into the renovation and redesign of the Bénazet hall.
- Ulrich Coenen Von Aquae bis Baden-Baden - die Baugeschichte der Stadt und ihr Beitrag zur Entwicklung der Kurarchitektur Aachen, Mainz 2008, ISBN 3-8107-0023-1 Chapter 3.2
- Manfred Söhner Baden-Baden. Kunst und Kultur entlang der Oos Aquensis Verlag Baden-Baden 2007, ISBN 978-3-937978-10-9
- Dagmar Kicherer Kleine Geschichte der Stadt Baden-Baden G.Braun Buchverlag Leinfelden-Echterdingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-7650-8376-1