Theresienstein – the oldest public park in Germany
In 1819 the rather barren area around a hill called Fröhlichenstein was planted and turned into a park. At the highest and most dramatic point, the picturesque Zwillingsfelsen rocks, a sun temple was built, from which a spectacular view of the surroundings could be enjoyed.
This first phase in the development of the park still followed the classical principles of landscape gardening. There are no barriers between the park and the open countryside around it, benches offering views of the river Saale and the town of Hof are skilfully integrated, and a network of paths following the natural contours of the area criss-crosses the park. From the very beginning, this formal aspect was supplemented by the concept of simply creating a park for all the citizens of Hof.
As early as 1829 the park was extended to the west as far as Alte Plauener Straße. Between the many paths different sections were laid out, e.g. an orchard, solitary trees surrounded by summer flowers, rose-beds and patches planted with various deciduous or coniferous trees and shrubs.
View of Hof from the Theresienstein
Around 1828 the idea was born to erect a café and restaurant building as the main attraction of Fröhlichenstein Park, which would be a good destination for a short outing and a convivial centre. This building was finally built in 1832.
The royal visit
On 22nd August 1836 Queen Therese of Bavaria accompanied by her son Otto of Greece and the Grand Duke of Oldenburg visited Fröhlichenstein Park. This joyful event was the reason for re-naming the park “Theresienstein” in honour of the dignified visitor.
Extensions to the park
With the connection to the railway network in 1848 the industrial age also reached Hof, which led to a rapid change to the structural face of the town and an enormous increase in population. At the same time, more and more local people came to appreciate Theresienstein Park. This was the reason for starting the so-called “Verschönerungsverein” (a club to improve the appearance of the town), whose aim was to extend and alter the town’s park. This club purchased property adjoining the park and took charge of the extension works. The club’s chairman was Gottlob Thomas, who was head of the municipal planning department and very much interested in landscape gardening. Under his guidance many innovations were introduced. He planned a floral bed with central fountain, introducing a geometric element into the layout of the park. With exotic plants being very popular in the last century, the area below this bed was planted correspondingly with decorative plants and palms. Besides a pavilion was erected. In a further extension the “pleasure ground” was created with a great botanical variety of well-known and also rare plants.
A further belvedere pavilion was built in 1885 in a historical style with rich ornamentation on a hill with romantic rocks, exotic plants and a fine view. In honour of the constructor this building was called “Thomashöhe”.
Towards the end of the 19th century, a stylistically very interesting epoch, a little grove, “Luitpoldhain”, was added. The park with its various extensions now provided an extensive recreational area in which the citizens of Hof and its surroundings could take exercise or simply relax. Many details like idyllic ponds, fountains and further pavilions were little highlights on a walk through the park.