The closed „Curanstalt Inselbad bei Paderborn“ (1878-1912)

Trade & Transport & Services

Kurhaus, Ansichtskarte um 1900 (StA Paderborn, M 1 Ansichtskartensammlung, Klassifikationsgruppe 5, Inselbad)

On 1 February 1878, the Cologne-born Dr. Brügelmann[1] took over the Inselbad, first as a tenant, then from 30 March 1881 as the owner. Dr. Brügelmann had already managed a pulmonary sanatorium in Cologne and now intended to develop the Inselbad in Paderborn into a large spa facility with supraregional appeal. His concept differed significantly from the previous one. In order to end the conflictual coexistence of spa and public bathing, Brügelmann closed the swimming pool, the park and the inn to the general public. Furthermore, he acquired the neighbouring gymnastics field from the city of Paderborn and integrated it into the park. The sanatorium had a representative spa building that reflected the spa architecture of its time. It contained social rooms, dining rooms, a reading room and a billiard room, offices and the consulting room of the attending physician. A 140 m long, roofed and wind-protected colonnade led to the actual bathhouse with treatment rooms and unheated guest rooms. In the basement were the facilities for baths with various additives, for mud baths (Meinberger Moor) and electric light baths, as well as a gymnastics room. The medical-therapeutic offer included the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, asthma, nervous diseases, internal diseases, affections of the mucous membranes, gout and uric acid diathesis. The opening of the sanatorium was still scheduled for 10 May 1878, in accordance with the traditional bathing season. However, Brügelmann extended the spa operation, which had previously only covered the spring and summer months, throughout the year, thus improving the economic basis. According to his own statement, there were only two comparable institutions left in the German Reich, the Görbersdorfer Anstalten and the Falkenstein/Taunus sanatorium. The statement seems to be very high, but at least numerous mentions in relevant spa guides and specialist publications of the time testify to the sanatorium’s supraregional fame.[2] Brügelmann’s concept proved to be economically viable. According to the Westfälisches Volksblatt of 30 August 1881, the number of guests rose to 218 spa and bath guests; in recent times, 23 doctors, some of them very renowned, had referred their patients to Paderborn, including Russian aristocrats. The autumn season was considered a special highlight with concerts by the military band of the 181st Infantry Regiment.


Although the people of Paderborn certainly benefited financially from the spa business – just to mention the overnight stays of numerous spa guests in the city, the private transport service between the railway station and the sanatorium or the tax revenue of the institution – the mutual relationship turned out to be problematic. The people of Paderborn as well as the magistrate strongly criticised the closed concept, which also aimed at exclusivity in the literal sense. The people were no longer allowed to bathe. More problematic was to be the discharge of foul-smelling municipal sewage onto the nearby sewage fields, as it seriously endangered spa operations. On 23 June 1886, the city had contractually promised not to discharge faeces into the irrigation ditch and to discharge the slaughterhouse’s waste water onto nearby meadows. In a letter of reply dated 29 June 1886, Brügelmann explained to the mayor of Paderborn that he would only agree to the plant under these conditions. Since the city had not kept its promise, Dr. Brügelmann took the city of Paderborn to court from 1887 onwards.[3] In the course of the legal dispute, which lasted for many years, further points of contention came up. For example, Brügelmann complained about the considerable odour nuisance emanating from the municipal slaughterhouse built nearby on Tegelweg. In addition, municipal construction measures had caused the Marienquelle to dry up and thus endangered the economic existence of the institution. Various expert opinions were to provide clarity on these points. The trial went through several instances, and the final verdict was pronounced in 1907. The Royal Regional Court of Paderborn ruled in favour of Dr. Brügelmann in the first instance. In the final judgement, the Hamm Higher Regional Court on 9 November 1906 awarded Dr. Brügelmann a compensation payment by the city of Paderborn in the amount of 51,541 M.[4] Compared to similar disputes at the time, this was a very considerable sum.

As early as 1900, Brügelmann had drawn a line under the affair that was so burdensome for him. He sold the sanatorium to Hermann Fischer, a pharmacist from Dessau, who died after only a few months on 14 August 1900. His widow Gertrud Fischer continued to run the business until 31 July 1906. She had a tennis court built and enlarged the park with old trees, numerous arbours and a pond to 27 morgen (approx. 7 ha) (Fig. 10).[5]


Park, coloured picture postcard around 1900 (StA Paderborn, M 1 collection of picture postcards, classification group 5, Inselbad)
Park, coloured picture postcard around 1900 (StA Paderborn, M 1 collection of picture postcards, classification group 5, Inselbad)

The leisure activities offered a rich spectrum, which included boat trips, tennis, boggia, croquet, gymnastics, cycling, gardening, bowling, badminton, ball games, fishing and concerts. Further investments brought the sanatorium up to the modern state of the art of the time. The main building, equipped with electric lighting and central heating, had a billiard room, a library, a dining room and 50 guest rooms. The 140-metre-long, wind-protected, electrically lit walkway led to the bathhouse. Here, the „Ottilienquelle“ spring flowed into the drinking hall. On the second floor were unheated guest rooms, which were therefore only occupied in summer, and the private flat of the conducting doctor. The medical department was also located here, with a modern X-ray cabinet and apparatus for electric light therapy.

Of the original three springs, only the Ottilienquelle was still used for spa purposes. A brochure printed around 1900 praised the numerous advantages of the sanatorium. As the „first and most outstanding special institution for asthma in Germany“, it offered therapies for several lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchial catarrh and residual lung and pleurisy infections. The then „fashionable disease“ nervousness as a result of mental overwork and in the form of functional neuroses, neurasthenia or hysteria could also be alleviated. Furthermore, women’s disorders, heart and circulatory diseases, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity or anaemia, digestive problems, malfunctions of the bladder and kidneys were on the treatment plan.

The holistic approach to therapy also gave people in general need of recuperation the prospect of a successful stay at the spa. Since the end of the 19th century, the sanatorium no longer offered inhalation cures; they were replaced by therapies in the brine vapour room. From 1903, no cases of open TB were treated either. Despite all her efforts, Gertrud Fischer was not able to achieve lasting economic success. This is indicated, among other things, by the reference in the 1903 paper written by the „directing physician“ Dr. Heim on the occasion of the 25th anniversary to the urgent need to present the quality of the Inselbad to referring physicians and potential spa guests. As early as 31 July 1906, Gertrud Fischer was forced to sell the sanatorium to the entrepreneur Josef Postinet from Duisburg Ruhrort. Presumably due to financial constraints, the latter sold the site between the Pader and Rothe rivers to the district, which erected a building for a winter school there in 1908. However, the problems continued to grow. According to a decision by the district president on 18 July 1907, the „Curanstalt Inselbad“ was not granted a concession because of structural defects. Obviously, the financial hardships had not allowed further investments. But the owner, Josef Postinet, refused to accept the conditions imposed by the authorities. In addition, the Paderborn Kreissparkasse, as the holder of the first mortgage, applied for the sanatorium to be placed under receivership in view of a registered debt mountain of 300,000 M.[6] Against this background, the previous owner Gertrud Fischer bought back the sanatorium in February 1908, willing to fulfil the official requirements. Officially, she resumed running the business on 1 July 1908.

In order to establish a solid business basis, Gertrud Fischer founded the „Ottilienquelle GmbH zu Paderborn (in Gründung begriffen)“ – „Ottilienquelle GmbH zu Paderborn (under incorporation)“ – on 28 September 1909. Its purpose was to expand the medicinal and table water business and to distribute it in Germany and abroad. In the investor brochure, the initiators emphasised the long tradition of the Ottilia spring and the high quality of its water. The spring would not be subject to the influence of rain or prolonged drought. The content of silicic acid in the spring water would be extraordinarily low, which indicated only few organic substances and thus a long shelf life of the mineral water. As a founding partner, Gertrud Fischer contributed a 2-hectare site with the Ottilia spring and the swimming pool, the main building, the machine building with a 15 hp steam engine, a hall with the filling equipment for 10,000 bottles per day, the bottle warehouse as well as 200,000 Mark to the company. The other shareholders were to contribute 400,000 Mark, take over the mortgages on the sanatorium and contribute 340,000 Mark to an operating fund. Allegedly, the annual profit to date was equivalent to an interest rate of 100,000 M. The target was the bottling and distribution of 5 million bottles per year. The maximum output was to be 8 million bottles and an annual profit of 150,000 M.

No precise figures are currently available on the actual development. Nevertheless, delivery warehouses in Soest, Werl, Delbrück and the documented direct supply to the Sauerland region in Arnsberg, Winterberg, Bestwig, Olsberg and Brilon indicate a supraregional sales market. After the filling plant was completely destroyed on 27 March 1945, the filling house was rebuilt by 1948 and operations resumed. Bottling and distribution of the water from the Ottilia spring was discontinued in 1965.

However, all these measures were not able to lead the Curanstalt Inselbad into calm economic waters. On 7 March 1912, Gertrud Fischer finally sold the business to the „Landrat“ (district administrator) von Laer, who then ordered the closure of the Inselbad Sanatorium in September of the same year.

[1] Dr. Wilhelm Brügelmann; born 13 May 1845 in Cromfort near Düsseldorf; died unknown; 1878-1899 resident in Paderborn, Fürstenweg 278; 1899 moved to Berlin, Südende.

[2] As a representative of others, the following should be mentioned: Bäder Almanach. Mittheilungen der Bäder, Luftkurorte und Heilanstalten in Deutschland, Österreich, der Schweiz und den angrenzenden Gebieten für Ärzte und Heilbedürftige. 7th Ed., Berlin 1898, p. 502-503. Further references in the list of sources.

[3] Letter from Brügelmann to the Magistrate of the City of Paderborn, 5 June 1887 (StA Paderborn, A 1726).

[4] For more details, see case files „Brügelmann I und II (StA Paderborn, A 1726 und 1727).

[5] Approx. 67,5 ha.

[6] Paderborner Anzeiger, 25 December 1907 with reference to the Kölner Volkszeitung.

Learn more about the history of the "Ottilienquelle"

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This is an excerpt from an essay by the historian Jana Völkel and the historian Prof. Dr. Peter Fäßler. The original title of the essay is: „Die Ottilienquelle, das Inselbad und die 'Curanstalt Inselbad bei Paderborn'. Eine Dokumentation“. Should you have further interest in the economic history of the Pader, we recommend downloading the complete essay (PDF file).

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