The roots of the city of Friedrichshafen go back to the foundation of the Alemannendorf Alt-Buchhorn in the 5th century. Before 1241 Buchhorn received the town charter, around 1275 the status of a free imperial city was confirmed.

Prehistory: Neolithic, Celts and Romans

Lake Dwelling Settlement / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

The beginnings of settlement on the northern shore of Lake Constance date back to prehistoric times, when the Friedrichshafen basin was settled around 4000 BC by Neolithic hunters and fishermen, later by settled arable farmers ('Schussenrieder Group'). According to this, various Celtic tribes, Roman grubbing-up and settlements can be traced from the 1st century A.D. onwards. Celtic-Roman settlement names such as the small river *Ach (Rotach) are not handed down to us in the area of the later Buchhorn. With the exception of two coins discovered during the construction of the Uferstraße, no other prehistoric finds are known in Friedrichshafen's old town. The names of the fields, which indirectly reflect Roman settlement or use, are only a few kilometres further to the west or north, such as the Wall and Roman Trails in Friedrichshafen-Jettenhausen and the Hochstrasse in the district of Hofen.


Fishing village on Lake Constance / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

In the second half of the 4th century, the Alemannic Lentiens between the Danube, Lake Constance and Iller are mentioned as an aggressive tribe, which, however, was already wiped out towards the end of the 4th century as a result of defeats against the Roman troops. Only the name of Linzgau, derived from Celtic *lentia, remained of them, which as part of the'Raetia Secunda' or'Vindelica' was only gradually settled by the various Germanic or Alemannic tribes from the beginning of the 5th century. As a result of this constant and mostly peaceful conquest, a settlement near the headland (alemannic'Horn' or'Hörnle') has formed on the high road over the course of four centuries. The Germanic-Alemannic associations mixed with the established Celto-Roman families, and the Alemannic dialects slowly suppressed the Gallo-Latin language. 

1889 Otto
Count Otto I, founding member of the Buchhorn line of the Ulriche / © Bodenseegeschichtsverein

The older Buchhorn probably became the headquarters of the Alemannic Counts of Ulriche (also: Geroldinger or Udalrichinger) from Bregenz or the branch of the Counts of Buchhorn leaving from him already in the 9th century. The male tribe of this count dynasty is said to reach up to the Frankish aristocrat Gerold (+ after 784), count in Kraichgau and Anglachgau, who is said to have been the father of Hildegard (758-783), Charlemagne's third wife, and presumably also the father of count Udalrich I (* about 778 + before 824). This proximity to the king was certainly the claim and foundation of the count dynasty, which is said to have reigned first in Bregenz, then in Lindau and from the 9th century in Buchhorn. This older Buchhorn, first mentioned in 839 AD, played a relatively important role in the region in its function as administrative and judicial centre. The Benedictine nunnery in the later Hofen was founded around 1085 as the burial site of the Ulriche.

Rechberg ohne Rahmen
Foiled attack of the robbery knight Hans von Rechberg on Buchhorn 1454 / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

After the name of the settlement was changed a few hundred metres to the east (today's old town), the older Buchhorn lost its name or, from 1245, the Benedictine nunnery called itself Hofen Monastery. The Buchhorn, newly founded around 1200, soon surrounded itself with a city wall; the first written mention of Buchhorn as a city ("minister civitatis in Bůchorn“"), however, is only handed down for the year 1274, when the right of ownership of a garden between the citizen of Buchhorn Nikolaus and the Salem abbot was regulated. Like the no longer existing proof of the market and city foundation, the elevation of Buchhorn to the imperial city can no longer be directly documented with sources. Although the newly founded Buchhorn certainly offered more favourable development opportunities than the location of the older Buchhorn (Hofen), the imperial city of Buchhorn could hardly develop economically.

Buchhorn 1643
View of the imperial city of Buchhorn from 1643 / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

The younger Buchhorn was a trapezoidal structure from the Staufer period. Its floor plan had an area of only 0.0367 km². The horizontal traffic axes were Vordere Gasse (today Karlstraße), Hintere Gasse and Goldschmidgasse (today Goldschmiedstraße). The Hintere Gasse/Goldschmiedstraße was closed off in the west by a square market square and the parish church of St. Nikolaus (from 1325). A vertical axis is Obertorgasse (today: Wilhelmstraße) or, as an extension, Dammgasse. The distance between the Upper Gate (at the northern beginning of Wilhelmstraße) and the Lower Gate (at the western end of Karlstraße) was slightly more than 300 meters. A third tower, the thief or powder tower, lay in the northwest of the city. The Türlis or sea gate formed the entrance to Eriskirch and Lindau in the east. All gates were continuously connected to the city wall and, like these, were demolished in the middle of the 19th century.

Banner bearer with Buchhorn coat of arms / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

The open sewer system leading into Lake Constance and the wash and bath houses at the lower and upper gates and in the courtyard of the Salzstadel served as important places of hygiene. Until the beginning of the 19th century, sick people were accommodated in the infirmary on the other side of the Rotach and mentioned in 1476. For well-to-do citizens, the "Spital zum Heiligen Geist" near the western city gate, first mentioned in 1427, was intended to provide care for the elderly. The place of execution, as well as the infirmary and shooting range (corner Paulinen- / Kleinebergstraße) were located in the Galgenöschle outside the city wall (confluence of Katharinenstraße and Margaretenstraße). Until 1629, the Buchhorn burial ground was near Hofen Monastery and temporarily near the Chapel of St Nicholas, before it was moved to the western outskirts of the city as a sea cemetery. The only monastic community in the imperial city was the beguinage'Weiße Sammlung' (church square), built in the 13th century, which was incorporated into the Dominican nuns' monastery in Löwental in 1640. The Baumgarten estate and the village of Eriskirch, which belonged to Buchhorn until the loss of imperial freedom in 1802, were acquired by the cathedral convent in Constance in 1472.

Buchhorn um 1730
Buchhorn around 1730 / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

Until 1828, the town hall in Buchhorn was located on Vorderen Gasse (Karlstraße) between Gredhaus and Salzstadel. According to the constitution of the imperial city, the Buchhorn magistrate consisted of the mayor, mayor (responsible for taxes, security and law), the Eriskirch bailiff and representatives of the four guilds: Bakers, fishermen, vine growers and blacksmiths. In addition, twelve guild representatives were appointed to the Outer or Grand Council, so that the plenum comprised a total of 26 persons. When Upper Swabia's granaries were more in demand for exports to Switzerland after the end of the Thirty Years' War, Buchhorn had good transport connections. There were regular trips to Lindau, Fussach and Stein am Rhein, whereby the cargo sailing ships again took goods from Switzerland for the return trip. The Wittelsbachers withdrew the important salt trade in 1755 in favour of the shabby Buchhorn town treasury of Lindau. Thus the Buchhorn magistrate was able to strengthen his position until the end of the Old Empire with members of a fifth guild, the sailors.

Buchhorn becomes Friedrichshafen

The inhabitants of Hofen and Buchhorn pay homage to King Friedrich / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

Buchhorn, one of the smallest imperial cities with 450 inhabitants, existed until 1811 and, after it was renamed Friedrichshafen, took a completely different path of urban development than before. At the end of this phase of territorial re-occupation and transformation (Bavaria and Württemberg as new Messrs. Buchhorn; Nassau-Oranien, Austria and Württemberg with regard to monastery and village Hofen), which lasted almost nine years,'Schloss und Stadt Friedrichshafen' was founded on 17 July 1811. He was responsible for the political and economic affairs of the two free ports in Buchhorn and Hofen for life.

Schloss um 1860
Friedrichshafen Castle, arround 1860 / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

King Friedrich von Württemberg, using his name, initiated a classicistic new city foundation. This new foundation is still visible today along the planning axis, the Friedrichstraße. Between 1824 and 1828, Frederick's son Wilhelm I extended the former Priory Hofen as a royal summer residence to the castle. Since the palace passed to the House of Württemberg in 1838, but above all during the reign of King Karl, numerous distinguished guests of the royal family from Germany and abroad came to Friedrichshafen, including the Russian Imperial House, the Baden Grand Dukes, the Counts Zeppelin and the writer Felix Dahn. With the relocation of the summer residence to Friedrichshafen, authorities and administrative facilities (e.g. court domains and forestry office, post offices and customs offices, railway stations, port authorities, etc.) were established or expanded.

The first trajectory ferry "Coal Eater" / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

With the introduction of steamship shipping on Lake Constance by the steamship'Wilhelm' (mockingly called'Seeschneck') constructed by Edward Church (USA) in 1824, Friedrichshafen became an important trading and traffic port under the regency of Wilhelm I. Ten years later, the city grew to 1111 inhabitants. The expansion of the southern railway, the establishment of a railway repair works (1848) and the construction of the city railway station (1847) and the port railway station (1850) also helped the city to a significant economic upswing. The trajectory ferry designed by John Scott-Russell (Great Britain), popularly called'Coal Eater' or'Leviathan', had its home port in Friedrichshafen since 1869. It was the largest ship that ever sailed Lake Constance and could transport railway wagons from Friedrichshafen to Romanshorn (Switzerland) as a steam ferry equipped with rails.

Bad Friedrichshafen
Until the First World War, the city advertised itself as a spa on Lake Constance / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

Besides the industry that developed around the middle of the century, tourism developed into an important economic factor of the city. The coexistence of the two different economic segments remains a regional peculiarity to this day. In 1871 Friedrichshafen already had 2,827 inhabitants and was thus the city with the highest growth rate in Upper Swabia. The increasing number of tourists who flocked to Lake Constance called Friedrichshafen the'Swabian Nice', whose flair emanated above all from the royal summer residence and the charming landscape. But there were also breaks: while nobility and bourgeoisie strolled along the lake shore, saunten in the Kurhaus or with yachts drove the lake, from 1891 more impoverished children from the Alpine region came to Friedrichshafen, in order to offer the surrounding farmers their labour as herding bube or maids.

Werft in Manzell
Beginning of Zeppelin's airship flight at the gates of Friedrichshafen in Manzell / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838 - 1917) created the Zeppelin group after the first ascent of his airship (1900) in Schnetzenhausen-Manzell from the financial means of the Echterdinger Volkspende (1908). These beginnings have resulted in the diversity of Friedrichshafen's large-scale industry to this day. Count Zeppelin wanted to use the airships mainly for military purposes and offered them to the army and navy for reconnaissance and war purposes. Friedrichshafen was also regarded as an important armaments location with its aircraft production (Theodor Kober, Claude Dornier). The city was attacked from the air by enemy aircraft in November 1914, and the first air war victim was on German soil. One year later, the Lake Constance states of Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Austria-Hungary founded a'Lake Constance flotilla' not only of watercrafts, but also of air defence cannons, observation towers and airfields to thwart hostile espionage activities with regard to the zeppelin industry.

Friedensdemo 1918
Friedrichshafen City Hall on 22 October 1918 / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

During the war, the workforce of Friedrichshafen rose to over 8,000 workers within a few years and began to organize itself more and more politically towards the end of the war. On 22 October 1918, a large peace demonstration was held by the workers and the population. After the end of the war, Zeppelin companies mostly manufactured civilian products. However, airship construction remained the hallmark of the city, even though airship production came to a standstill in the early years of the Weimar Republic due to the prohibitions of the Versailles Treaty. During the period of office (1920 to 1933) of the city leader Johannes Schnitzler the construction of the St. Canisius Church, the primary school and the morgue at the main cemetery, as well as the extension of municipal facilities such as Karl-Olga hospital, gas works, port railway station, lido and municipal garden fell. Friedrichshafen came through the global economic crises of the early and late 1920s relatively well with loans from the Zeppelin Foundation, the Zeppelin industry with public subsidies and major orders.

Porträt Fridolin Endraß um 1935
Nazi opponent Fridolin Endraß, c. 1935 / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

After Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor on January 30, 1933, the NSDAP remained the second strongest party in the Reichstag elections in Friedrichshafen on March 5, 1933 with almost 32 percent of the votes (behind the Centre Party with 38 percent); however, political conditions in Friedrichshafen quickly adapted to National Socialist requirements. Friedrichshafen was increasingly developed into an armament and fortress city (Flakkaserne 1937). Border controls to Switzerland and Austria were now tightened considerably and increased by additional border personnel, making it almost impossible for persecuted persons and opponents of the regime (e.g. KPD group around Stefan Lovász, Fridolin Endraß, Georg Elser) to leave the country. The massive armament and the continuing construction of settlements for the growing industrial workforce were already forerunners of the Second World War, which was fanned by the'Third Reich'. By February 1945, approximately 60 percent of eleven air raids had destroyed Friedrichshafen. More than 14,000 forced laborers and four concentration camp subcamps (Friedrichshafen shipyard site, Oberraderach, Überlingen-Aufkirch and Saulgau) are only part of the brutal National Socialist policy in Friedrichshafen.

Reconstruction and living environment

Bodenseefestspiele 1949
Mayor Max Grünbeck speaks at the Bodensee Festival, 1949 / © Friedrichshafen City Archive

The reconstruction of Friedrichshafen after the Second World War initially made only slow progress. In the foreground was the clearing of the old town. The actual reconstruction, i.e. the renunciation of reconstruction of historical buildings in favour of demolition and contemporary new buildings, got underway with the currency reform in 1948: From 1949 to 1958, 2,812 buildings or 5,159 residential units were created for around 20,000 people. In 1961 Friedrichshafen, with 36,000 inhabitants, already owned half of all inhabitants of the district of Tettnang. The first major event after the war was the "Culture Week", which attracted around 90,000 visitors in 1948, 22,000 of them from Switzerland. The first mass took place in 1949 on the grounds of the Pestalozzi School. Culture and education - trade fairs, events from "Kulturwoche" to "Kulturufer" (since 1985), the "Kultur- und Congress-Zentrum" Graf-Zeppelin-Haus (since 1985) or the Zeppelin University (2003) - now form the third pillar of Friedrichshafen's lifestyle, alongside industry and tourism.