Palais Grassalkovics, Vienna:
Neo-Classicist Palais that essentially nobody knows
If you have read a few articles on the Vienna section of TourMyCountry.com, you have probably noticed that there are dozens of palaces in this city that nobody (meaning: no international visitors with an interest in sightseeing) would ever care about. A particularly funny case of this category is Palais Grassalkovics, an extensive palace in the second district of Vienna. It is the headquarter of Vienna tourist information board and if you have made any inquiries regarding accommodation, attractions or any major bookings - it is likely that it went through this palace. Nevertheless, Palais Grassalkovics itself fails to attract tourists, partly due to its rather unappealing neighbourhood.
A few words on the history: In the 17th century, much of today′s 2nd district (Leopoldstadt) was a moderately appealing swamp and belonged to the Bürgerspital, the burgher′s hospital. In the mid-17th century, the hospital sold much of the land in small shares, ideal for the construction of palaces with extensive gardens. In 1660, Count Ludwig of Sinzendorf bought the property of today′s Palais Grassalkovics and built himself a fancy little palace.
Four years earlier, the count had become treasurer of the Habsburgs, an important office that demanded some presentable facilities. Count of Sinzendorf was one of the richest men in the Habsburg Empire and probably of Europe - but in 1680, it was uncovered that he had embezzled enormous amounts of money.
After Turkish Siege: Construction of Palais Grassalkovics
In the course of the Second Siege of Vienna of 1683, all palais and gardens of today′s 2nd district were either flattened or severely damaged through the Ottoman armies (see for example my article on Palais Augarten or the Carmelite Church, both nearby, for details). This also applied to Palais Grassalkovics - or at least its early Baroque predecessor. As Count of Sinzendorf was dispossessed by the Emperor for his embezzlements, the land was given to Count Wolfgang von Oettingen-Wallerstein in 1686. In 1769, the park was sold to Sir Joseph von Egger, who divided the property into building land and sold it share by share. One of these shares was acquired by the inn keeper Johann Georg Mayer, who built a villa on the property in 1777.
The origin of the current palace′s name appeared in 1789 in the shape of Prince Anton Grassalkovics II. The prince bought the property and built the current neo-Classical palace designed by Franz Duschinger. If you speak German, you might have noticed that Grassalkovics is not a typical name for a German nobleman. In fact, Grassalkovics′ father had been born to what one would call a middle-class family in today′s terminology, became a lawyer, started a successful career as a civil servant, was knighted in 1731 and lobbied for the Habsburgs in Hungary. For that, he was made a Count by Empress Maria Theresia in 1743, with all sorts of fancy privileges. In 1793, the still fairly new palace was extended.
Owners after the Grassalkovics & the Palais Today
Prince Anton Grassalkovics II died and passed his properties on to Anton III. Sadly, his son did not continue the family′s steep incline on the career ladder and went bankrupt. As soon as 1793, he was forced to sell Palais Grassalkovics to the Jewish-noble family of Arnstein, legendary bank owners of Vienna. A few months later, it was sold again, to Sir Karl Wetzlar of Plankenstern. This gent′s son wasn′t any better than Grassalkovics III and went bankrupt himself and sold Palais Grassalkovics in 1810: This was the onset of rather turbulent years with eight owners until 1828.
In this year, Palais Grassalkovics was extended, modernised and adapted to let parts of it as apartments. From then on, the palace finally became subject to real estate speculations and kept changing its owner - it even became home to a factory in the early 20th century. In 1958, the fašade was renovated; in 1975, the city of Vienna bought Palais Grassalkovics and is still the owner of the palace. It was refurbished between 1987 and 1991, the year when the Vienna board of tourism moved in.
The renovation had helped to get rid of several 19th century extensions and today, Palais Grassalkovics is back to its neo-Classical state of the late 18th century. There are not many neo-Classical palaces in Vienna - the other significant one is Palais Rasumofsky. Whilst the fašade of Palais Grassalkovics is in a very authentic state, the interiors are modern and nothing of the 18th century has survived. Doesn′t matter: It is private property and you wouldn′t get in under normal circumstances anyway. Attractions nearby include the Palais Augarten with the porcelain manufactory, the headquarter of the Vienna Boys′ Choir and the Augarten park itself.
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