Castle Wilhelminenberg, an imperial palace dating from the early 20th century which is now a four-star hotel, restaurant and conference facility, is situated on the Eastern slopes of the Gallitzinberg, in the Wienerwald Western parts of the Austrian capital, Vienna.
In 1780 Prince Dmitri Mikhailovich Galitzin, the Russian ambassador in Vienna, acquired forested real estate from Field Marshal Count Franz Moritz von Lacy, situated uphill of what was then the village of Ottakring. He ordered a small Jagdschloss erected which soon became famous for its social events. By 1824, when the building was already in disrepair, ownership of the estate had passed on to Duke Julius de Montléart (of French nobility) and his wife Maria Christine. In 1838 the castle was expanded by adding two side wings.
When Julius' son, Duke Moritz de Montléart, acquired the property after considerable legal battles he gave it to his wife Wilhelmine (née von Arnold) and named the castle "Wilhelminenberg." Upon their deaths in 1887 and 1895, respectively both were interred in a small mausoleum which was built in the "neo-gothic" style close to the castle. Because of her generosity towards the poor, Wilhelmine Montléart became known as the "Angel of Ottakring." In 1895 their nephew Archduke Rainer Ferdinand of Austria, son of the half-sister of Moritz of Montleart, inherited the estate.
The current palace
In 1903 Archduke Leopold Salvator had the dilapidated building demolished and in the years to 1908 a palace in the Second Empire style was built according to plans of the architects Eduard Frauenfeld and Ignaz Sowinski. The construction costs, including the park and the ancillary buildings, amounted to 1.4 million Kronen.
In 1918, when World War I drew to its close, the castle became a military hospital and was subsequently used as a rehabilitation center for veterans. In 1927 the City of Vienna purchased the entire estate from the Zurich banker Wilhelm Ammann and established an orphanage there. From 1934 to 1938 the castle served as the home base for the world-famous Vienna Boys' Choir.
Following Austria's Anschluss to Nazi Germany in March 1938, castle Wilhelminenberg was confiscated and transferred to the Österreichische Legion, a paramilitary unit of exiled Austrian National Socialists. During World War II it was once again made an army hospital. When the war had ended the City of Vienna used parts of the building to accommodate former concentration camp inmates, and again as an orphanage. A special education facility for girls with behavioral problems was operated from the 1950s until 1977. After that, representation rooms were opened on special occasions such as the annual Vienna Festival but in general little use was made of the castle until 1988, when it was reopened as a hotel.
Since May 2003 castle Wilhelminenberg ranks as a four-star hotel. It boasts 87 elegant rooms, a restaurant and a library, a terrace offering a beautiful panoramic view of Vienna, and a 120,000 m² park. Conferences with up to 2,000 participants can be accommodated.
Castle Wilhelminenberg has become a popular location for large wedding parties and other celebrations, and on such occasions splendid fireworks are frequently visible across the Western parts of Vienna. In winter, a section of the park can be used for skating.
Child Abuse Scandal
In 2011, several former inmates of the reported massive and systematic cases of child abuse during the time the castle was used as an orphanage for girls. The allegations include widespread beatings, systematic rape, and even murder.
Klusacek C, Stimmer K: Ottakring. Vom Brunnenmarkt zum Liebhartstal. pp. 121–124. Kurt Mohl Verlag, Vienna 1983. ISBN 3-900272-37-9
- Jahn, Georg (October 18, 2011). "Charges of mass abuse at Vienna foster home expand". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
- "Report: Austrian women say they, others systematically raped at Vienna foster home in 1970s". Washington Post. October 16, 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
- "Heimskandal: Opfer spricht über "Schreckensnächte"". Kurier. 19 October 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
- Official website of Austria Trend Hotel Schloss Wilhelminenberg Archived
- Conference facilities in Hotel Schloss Wilhelminenberg
- City of Vienna web page on Schloß Wilhelminenberg (German)
- List of Conference facilities - Hotel Schloss Wilhelminenberg