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The town was founded in 1214. Sights in Alfeld include the town hall (1586) with its octagonal tower, the church Saint Nicolai and the Fillerturm, a medieval watchtower and the Fagus Factory of 1911, a fine example of early modernist architecture by Walter Gropius. More famous are the Seven Hills (German: Sieben Berge) in the north and the Lippoldshöhle ("Lippold's cave"), where a legendary robber-knight is said to have lived.
The assertion that the popular fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was born in Alfeld is false. Even though the miners who mined ore In the Seven Mountains believed in the existence of dwarfs, it is more likely that the cradle of the fairy tale is to be searched in France. The version the brothers Grimm heard and wrote down, as they travelled through the Seven Mountains, on the so-called Märchenstrasse (Street Of Fairytales) is just one of many.
The biggest employer of the city is the SAPPI (South African Pulp and Paper Industry) factory with its big chimney, which has become one of Alfeld's landmarks. Even more famous than SAPPI is the Fagus Werk, rebuilt in 1910-1915 after the blueprints of architect Walter-Gropius, what is said to be trend-setting for modern architecture.