A rich and ancient past
Koenigshoffen is the oldest part of Strasbourg, and its history can be traced back to Roman times. Between the 1st and 4th centuries A.D., it housed the civilian population living outside the Roman settlement, which was built on what is now the city centre. The area, which ran along the Decumanus between the camp and the Hohberg tumulus, contained many taverns, along with the shops of the wheelwrights and blacksmiths employed by the legionnaires. A temple devoted to Mithras, a Persian god popular with the Roman military, was discovered during the construction of St Paul's church, while the main thoroughfare was also lined with a large number of tombs, steles and mausoleums, some of which can now be seen in the city's archaeological museum.
A mediaeval village
Koenigshoffen (which is German for the King's farms) owes its name to the royal villa built in the 6th century by the Merovingian king, Childebert II. In the Middle Ages, the village spread out on either side of the route des Romains, between the porte Blanche to the east, and the current railway line, to the west. It had a mainly peasant population, who farmed the rich lands of the alluvial terrace, along with millers operating the Mühlbach mills and Cathusian monks and others from the Saint-Gall monastery. Koenigshoffen became part of the City of Strasbourg in 1347, and the 14th century Schloessel (or Breuscheck) tower formed part of the city's forward defences.
In the late 15th century, the City rehoused the population of Koenigshoffen along the faubourg de Saverne and demolished their homes to clear the way for the artillery mounted on the ramparts. Life over the next couple of hundred years in the district would be dominated by the congregations and their farmers and by the local mill industry.
At the end of the 17th century, Vauban re-engineered the Bruche canal to bring in the stone and equipment needed for constructing the citadel of Strasbourg.
The development of Koenigshoffen
Industry, especially breweries, started moving into the district in the 19th century and the population slowly started to grow. Strasbourg's first railway station was built in 1841 in Koenigshoffen. The arrival of the railway and the tram system in 1880 speeded up development in the district, which saw a concomitant increase in local facilities, such as schools, churches and a post office. The next few decades saw creeping urbanisation, while industry began to move out.
The population grew with the construction of new housing developments throughout the 20th century, including the quartier des Romains, the Schnokeloch estate, the cité des Cheminots and the Hohberg, right up to the present-day Poteries quarter..
Koenigshoffen has been at the centre of a number of town-planning projects, including the access to the town centre via the route des Romains, work on which also was also carried out to accommodate the new tram line. The projected Bruche urban nature park will help enhance and sustain the natural resources and waterways of Koenigshoffen and the Montagne-Verte.
Montagne-Verte - Elsau
St. Arbogast and the monastery
The first human presence along the river Ill at the Montagne-Verte can be traced back to the 6th century. In the 7th century, St Arbogast lived there as a hermit, before becoming Bishop of Strasbourg. He built a chapel on the site of the Montagne-Verte, which became a place of pilgrimage after his death. In 1060, two canons of Strasbourg Cathedral turned the convent into an Augustine monastery (the St Arbogast monastery). A small township grew up around the monastery and shared its name, which it would keep up to the late 18th century. The monastery itself lasted until 1530.
The area was destroyed several times between the 12th and 15th centuries, and the population was offered shelter behind the walls of Strasbourg between 1374 and 1392. The Magistrate of Strasbourg levelled all the buildings in order to clear the glacis and bolster the city's fortifications.
Watchtowers were built as a part of the forward defensive system in around 1429, including the Green tower (Grüne Warth) next to the route de Schirmeck. Destroyed by lightning in 1537, the tower was rebuilt in 1538 and renovated in 1558, at which date an auberge opened next door. In 1974, the tower and auberge were demolished to make way for a filling station.
Gutenberg himself moved into the St Arbogast monastery between 1434 and 1444 and a commemorative stele was erected on the île Gutenberg, which is to be found in the Elsau.
In 1530, the monastery was demolished and its stones used for reinforcing the fortifications of the Porte blanche. The district would remain virtually uninhabited until the 18th century.
Canals, railways and industry
In around 1681, with the opening of the Bruche canal, the development of river traffic began to attract new inhabitants. It was not, however, until the industrial era arrived in Montagne-Verte that the district began to thrive. A new infrastructure sprang up, including the Rhône Rhine Canal (1834), which set the boundaries with Neudorf and the Meinau, the Strasbourg – Basel railway (1841), which separated Montagne-Verte and Koenigshoffen, and the tram line in 1900 (which operated until 1955, when it was replaced by the Kléber-Lingolsheim bus line). Elsa, which was previously part of Montagne-Verte, was largely made up of flood-prone ground until the canals were built and the waterways re-engineered. The only remnant of this past is the rue de l’Unterelsau.
19th century Montagne-Verte was a pleasant area of countryside near Strasbourg, where the city bourgeois used to come for a stroll on Sundays. There was enough business for the 15 or so restaurants and auberges which opened in the area, including "Au Nid de Cigogne", "Au Cygne", "À la Montagne Verte" and "À la Tour Verte".
Craftsmen and small industries began to move into the district and the population grew sharply until 1936, mostly along route de Schirmeck.
Strong development since the 1950s
The populations of Montagne-Verte and Elsau grew substantially after the Second World War, and hundreds of homes were built in the 1950s. The cité Henri Sellier contained some 200 housing units, with another 480 in the cité Molkenbronn and 750 in the cité du Murhof, which got its name from the river which once used to flow past the spot. With over 1400 social housing units, Montagne-Verte had a population of over 4000 in the post-war estates.
The 125 hectares that comprise Elsau are now the focus of one of the major town planning operations directly managed by the City of Strasbourg. The district, which nestles within a twist of the river Ill, contains collective housing north of rue Michel-Ange, individual houses to the south, down to the banks of the river, and many public facilities, such as kindergartens, primary schools and a cultural centre. Another major feature of the area is the Strasbourg maison d’arrêt, or remand home, which was built on the side of the motorway and completed in 1985. The complex as a whole was designed by architect Philipe Vuillaume, and begins at rue Martin Schongauer, which has been served by the tram since 2008 and includes a pedestrian area, and a large square. It is formed by avenue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, place Nicolas Poussin and rue Watteau. These roads constitute the core of Elsau and are a nod to the Freudenstadt plan, the ideal town designed by Heinrich Schickhardt in 1599.