Construction of the Kehlsteinhaus

With the construction of the Kehlsteinstraße and the elevator shaft well under way, work would start on the Kehlsteinhaus in early 1938 to the plans submitted to Reichsleiter Martin Bormann by chief architect Professor Roderich Fick. The man placed in charge of the building work would be Dr. Alfred Reinhardt, and a collection of contractors and third party companies would be commissioned to carry it out.

As with the road and both the elevator shaft and entrance tunnel, progress would be measured against the strict deadlines set out by Bormann: the work on the reception house would be a round the clock operation with engineers, bricklayers, carpenters, tilers and an array of general handymen and helpers working cheek by jowl at the top of the 1834-metre summit.

The planned mountain eyrie would require a solid and even set of multi-level foundations, and to achieve this a not inconsiderable amount of rock would first have to be blasted and then removed from the summit. The Munich-based construction company Hochtief would be tasked with this operation, a messy procedure that would result in large amounts of debris being deposited down the side of the mountain. The rock dumped by Hochtief would create further difficulties as the project progressed, with barriers having to be constructed to prevent the rubble from falling onto the road below; eventually, a further operation would be required to remove it altogether.

Chaos at the summit: the building gets underway

Chaos at the summit: the building gets underway

The wooden structure of the house under construction

The wooden structure of the house under construction

One of the first tasks facing the engineers would be the transport of raw materials up to the summit, and this would be achieved using temporary cable system which had been a construction project in its own right. Raw materials would also be transported up the winding Dalsenwinkelstraße, while the 24-hour a day workforce would be housed in a number of camps dotted on and around the busy mountainside. infoDid You Know?The majority of the workforce assigned to the construction at the summit would be based at the Kehlstein camp, located 1640 metres up on the side of the mountain.

Among the materials that would need to be transported up to the summit were the large granite blocks that would be used for the house’s stone facade, finely-crafted stones that had been individually made to order by the Munich office of the Frankfurt-based construction company Phillip Holzmann AG. Having been pre-ordered and built during the previous year to Fick’s exact specifications, these stones would make their way up to the top of the Kehlstein from their storage quarry near the Danubian town of Passau.

Fick’s design would be for a large chalet-style house with two floors, and a design that would blend into the surrounding environment. All sides of the house would offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys below, but the crowning glory would be the large octagonal-shaped main reception hall and the sun terrace, strategically positioned to provide the perfect view of the fjord-like Königssee, the crystal-clear lake nestled between three mountains including the striking Watzmann massif.

The positioning of the Kehlsteinhaus

The positioning of the Kehlsteinhaus

The essential construction of the house would be a wooden shell, which would be dressed both inside and out using the large granite blocks supplied by Phillip Holzmann so as to take on the appearance of a solid stone structure. The structure would be rotated some sixty degrees of the north-south axis, which would mean that both the long sun terrace and the exit to the summit and Mannlsteig path would be south-facing.

The ground floor of the reception house would have six main rooms, with the doors of the brass elevator leading into the main entrance hall. Directly in front of the elevator exit would be a corridor leading to the toilets, guard room, kitchen and a private study set aside for the use of Adolf Hitler, while to the right would be a door leading into what would be a large dining room.

Kehlsteinhaus Ground Floor Plan

Kehlsteinhaus Ground Floor Plan

The rectangular dining room would run parallel to a long sun terrace on the situated on the south-western side of the house, while a short set of stairs would lead down into a carefully-designed octagonal reception hall which would provide views covering some 270 degrees from the west all the way through to the south-east. While the formal dining room would be lined with dark wood panelling, the interior of the more relaxed and spacious reception hall would be dressed with granite.

Another short flight of stairs would lead to another room with two picture windows offering picture-postcard views of the Scharitzkehlalm to the south and the Hohen Göll to the east, as well as an exit to the southeast-facing sun terrace providing a spectacular overlook of the Königssee below.

Kehlsteinhaus Basement Floor Plan

Kehlsteinhaus Basement Floor Plan

The lower portion of the house or basement would serve a more functional purpose as a storage and service area, and none of the five numbered rooms would be given specific names in the official blueprints. Visitors would never see this area of the house, which would be accessed directly using the lower cabin of the elevator by staff and guard personnel.

The area under the main reception hall and dining room would serve as the foundation for the rooms above, and one of the smaller rooms (Room 4) would be used to house the warm water boiler connected to the toilets immediately above on the ground floor. As these basement rooms were likely to be frequently occupied and used by house staff or guards they would also equipped with toilet facilities located at the eastern side.

Completing the look of the finished structure would be the roof, constructed using locally-sourced larchwood shingle tiles or Lärchenschindeln. While not wholly practical for a building sitting at the top of a mountain, this final touch would give the house a traditional chalet-style appearance.

The final touches to the Kehlsteinhaus would be made in the summer and early autumn of 1938, and the Obersalzberg administration would take over the running of the house on 31st August. In charge of the everyday running of the house would be Wilhelm and Gretl Mitlstrasser, who were also house administrators at the Berghof.

 The completed Kehlsteinhaus in 1938, showing the southeast-facing main facade

The completed Kehlsteinhaus in 1938, showing the southeast-facing main facade

The southwest-facing side of the Kehlsteinhaus, with the Hohen Göll in the background

The southwest-facing side of the Kehlsteinhaus, with the Hohen Göll in the background

Compared to the Kehlsteinstraße, elevator shaft and entrance tunnel, once the foundations had been laid the construction of the house itself would probably be the least difficult part of the entire thirteen-month project – all things being relative of course. With the army of builders, carpenters and engineers working almost non-stop throughout the entire phase of construction, the structure would be completed in the space of just ten months – an astonishing achievement by any measure.

Had the Kehlsteinhaus project been planned and built today, the estimated cost for the building of just the house alone – excluding any fixtures and fittings – would have run into the tens of millions of Euros. It is also unlikely that the project would have been finished in the time that it was.

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