Frankfurt Skyline Countdown # 19
This 142-meter building on Frankfurt’s Platz der Republik is now called the City-Haus or City-Hochhaus. I’ve always found it to be a pleasant place with a nice fountain at the front. You could even walk or cycle through a passageway at the bottom of the building, or just look at it on the way to or from the fairgrounds.
While it was being built, though, in the early 1970s, it was very controversial — so controversial that when the unfinished building caught fire on August 22, 1973 a bunch of people (allegedly students) stood around and cheered. The fire destroyed the 38th, 39th and 40th floors, and delayed completion of the building for about a year. After this the safety regulations for Frankfurt construction sites were tightened drastically.
Originally the City-Haus was known as the Selmi-Hochhaus after its first owner, a man named Ali Selmi. It was finally completed in 1974 and for the next two years was Frankfurt’s tallest building. The trouble was that nobody could be persuaded to rent offices there, so it stood empty for a while. In 1977 Selmi sold it to the DG Bank, now the DZ Bank, which still owns and uses it. The nearby building Westendstraße 1 belongs to the same bank.
Thanks to Rolf Oeser for letting me use his historic photo of the Selmi-Hochhaus, as it was then still called, from the year 1979. Note the 1970s cars in the foreground, and the typical advertising posters of that era.
In 2001, at the behest of the fire department, an additional emergency staircase was built between the two wings of the City-Haus.
In 2007-2008 the building was extensively renovated and was given a new façade. As of 2021, the City-Haus is Frankfurt’s 19th tallest building.
My photos in this post are from 2004, 2005 and 2021.
Rolf Oeser’s photo is from 1979.
I revised the text in 2021.
4 thoughts on “City-Haus”
I remember well the first years of this very first real high rise in Frankfurt before there was a skyline. That time Frankfurt was grey and many construction sites hindered the circulation of cars. There was the joke going round “What means Frankfurt in Chinese? Um Lei Tung! My school, the Goethe Gymnasium was on the other side of Bettinastraße and I got a phone call from my elder sister on August 23th, 1973 in the early morning that I don’t had to go to school that day because the school yard was covered by debris from the burning wooden beams that had come down by the fire the night before.
By the way the facade has changed importantly since your photos were taken and it looks no longer than a dark giant.
Hi, Rolf. Yes, I remember “Um Lei Tung” from my first visits to Frankfurt in the 1960s.
Next time I’m in that part of town I’ll try to take some photos of the City-Haus with its new (well, not so new any more) facade.
Was the extra staircase built after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center in NYC in September 2001?
I forget what reason they gave, but that was probably at least part of it.