Hotel Petersberg – Germany’s Camp David

The stately Hotel Petersberg is located on a mountaintop by the same name in Germany’s Siebengebirge across the river from the city of Bonn. It was the German equivalent of Camp David prior to Germany’s reunification. The hotel, with a long and colorful history, is open to the public. Since 1990 the 5-Star hotel is operated by the Steigenberger chain under the name “Steigenberger Grand Hotel Petersberg.” Although still owned by the government, nowadays it rarely serves as Germany’s Bundesgaestehaus (Federal Guesthouse).

Aerial view of the Steigenberger Grand Hotel Petersberg complex. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Aerial view of the Steigenberger Grand Hotel Petersberg complex. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Pre-World War II History of Hotel Petersberg

Joseph Ludwig Mertens, a Cologne merchant, purchased the picturesque mountaintop area in 1834 and constructed his summer residence on the Petersberg. In 1892, following Mertens’ death, the brothers Paul and Joseph Nelles aquired the property, upgraded it and turned it into an elegant hotel. Among the first dignitaries to stay at the now stylish hotel were Prussian empress Victoria and Swedish Queen Sophie. But despite the noble clientele, the hotel proved unprofitable. And in 1912, Ferdinand Muelhens, owner of the 4711 Eau de Cologne company, acquired it at a foreclosure sale. Following extensive improvements he reopened it as a spa hotel two years later. Although by then financially successful, the hotel was forced to close its doors when World War I broke out and remained closed for the next six years. Following additional remodelling in the 1920s the hotel reopened once more, only to close again at the beginning of World War II.

Post-World-War II History of Hotel Petersberg

In 1945, American Forces confiscated the hotel on the Petersberg and turned it into troop quarters. Shortly thereafter, they handed it to the British Royal Engineers who, in turn, relinquished it to Belgian occupying forces to serve as a recuperation center.

In 1949, following another remodel to accommodate 340 offices, the Allied High Commision (Allierte Hohe Kommission) moved in. It was here that the Petersberg Agreement (Petersberger Abkommen) was signed on 22 November 1949. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/petersberg-agreement/This was a treaty between the occupying forces of the United States, Great Britain, France and the Federal Republic of Germany, a the first major step toward West German sovereignty. In June 1952, the Allied High Commission moved to another location. The property reverted to its owners, the Muelhens family, who turned the buildings into a hotel once again to be operated by the Breidenbacher Hof, a luxory hotel in Duesseldorf. Since 1954, the hotel bears the name “Hotel Petersberg.”

Recent History of Hotel Petersberg

In 1954 the German Federal government rented the newly remodelled Hotel Petersberg to serve as a guesthouse for visiting dignitaries, which included Etheopian emperor Haile Selassi and British Queen Elizabeth II. Still unprofitable, the hotel closed again in 1969 and slowly deteriorated until 1973 when Soviet Union’s leader, Leonid Brezhnev, requested to stay at the Hotel Petersberg. Despite a partial restoration to host the Soviet head of state, the hotel soon closed again.

Current use of the Hotel Petersberg

The German Federal Government needed a place in which to host visiting dignitaries. The close proximity of Hotel Petersberg to Bonn, the post-war capital, and its idyllic and secure setting helped to make it the top choice. And in 1979, the German Federal government purchased the 270-acre piece of real estate for 18.5 million Deutsche Marks. After spending an additional 137 million Marks on extensive reconstruction, the Hotel Petersberg reopened in 1990. This time, the Steigenberger hotel chain became the operators. Over the next ten years, most heads of state with diplomatic relations to Germany have stayed at the Hotel Petersberg.

Inside the rotunda of the Steigenberger Grand Hotel Petersberg. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Inside the rotunda of the Steigenberger Grand Hotel Petersberg. www.walled-in-berlin.com

In 1999, following German reunification, government offices moved from Bonn to Berlin, and the Hotel Petersberg was now too far away to continue to serve as a Bundesgaestehaus. Although the German government occasionally still rents it for its guests, Schloss Meseberg, 40 miles north of Berlin, has become Germany’s official guesthouse.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

 

 

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