The Semmering area became fashionable to the Viennese upper class in the second half of the nineteenth century. The construction of the railway leading from Vienna to Triest suddenly made it possible to reach the mountains in less then two hours. Romanticism with its awakening love for nature convinced artists and writers, as well as many wealthy and aristocratic Viennese to spend their summers in the cool mountain area. Love for nature was the fashion of the time, but nobody wanted to renounce to the luxury and conveniences of city life and so in a short while grand hotels like the “Panhans” or the “Südbahnhotel” were constructed, as well as a number of private Villas. The Semmering area at the Fin de Siècle became a glamorous meeting place for the society of the Austrian -Hungarian monarchy and inspiration for numerous artists. Just to name a few: Arthur Schnitzler spend much time in the area, as did Alma Mahler and Gustav Mahler and later Franz Werfel. Stefan Zweig wrote his novel “Burning Secret” up at the Semmering; Sigmund Freud spent many summers in nearby Reichenau and solved his first famous case “Katharina” in the area; others were Max Reinhardt, Alfred Polgar, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Peter Altenberg, Anton Wildgans, Heimito von Doderer, Robert Musil, Karl Kraus and Ludwig Wittgenstein, but the list is still long.
The glorious times of the Semmering came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of WW2 and the resulting extermination of the Austrian jewish intellectuals by the Nazis.
In the 1950th and later a reviving of the Semmering area was tried, but the old social structures had vanished, people liked to travel further and since then the Semmering area has fallen into a melancholic sleep. All the hotels but one are closed since the 1970th and are slowly decaying.
The Kurhaus Semmering was built relatively late in 1909 by Franz von Krauß und Josef Tölk, then one of the most successful architects in the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy and responsible for many other important buildings in Vienna.
Even if the Kurhaus facade displays a mixture of historicist and alpine style, the so-called “Semmeringstil”, the interior has been strictly designed in the art deco style of the early twentieth century following the tradition of Otto Wagner and Josef Hoffmann.
The Kurhaus was a peculiar mixture of luxury hotel and sanatorium and much in favour with actors, artists, musicians and writers who wanted or had to come here to recreate from their work. The actor Josef Kainz was one of its most famous guests. The hotel/sanatorium was generously laid out, with several elegant halls, dining rooms, billiard and reading room, a music and a gambling room and had 120 guest rooms. Most of the official rooms are still in their original settings today.
Guests could seek medical advice by the well known Dr. Hansy leading the Kurhaus. The Sanatorium offered a variety of indoor and outdoor sports every day.
In WW2 Kurhaus became a recreation home for army officers. After the war the building was still used occasionally, but closed down for good in the 1980th and is since then slowly falling into oblivion.