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Richterswil Youth Hostel

Horn
Hornstrasse 5
8805 Richterswil (ZH)

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History - Industry with a lakeside view

In many places in Switzerland, the dependence on water energy and the still comparatively low prices of building land have resulted in the paradox that some of the first factories were erected in prime locations that not many of those working inside could possibly have afforded for their own homes. The flat estuaries of rivers or streams into the lakes made it easier to build business premises and provided space for subsequent extensions.

Wine, silk and rubber

In 1841, wine merchant Johann Jakob Blattmann had a feudal mansion built in the classical style together with an adjoining winery on the Richterswil Horn.

His early death in 1848 forced his surviving descendants to sell the property just a few years later. The successful bidder, Johann Konrad Egli from Küs-nacht, installed looms for the production silk in the cellars. With a working day of twelve hours at that time, the poorly-illuminated cellar wing was unsuitable for long-term use however. In 1855, Johann Konrad Egli had a new building constructed in its place which due to its roof shape, similar proportions and classical exterior identical to the residential building gave the unmistakable impression of a set of buildings that belonged together.

In the second half of the 19th century, the Swiss silk industry increasingly gathered momentum. At that time, the Egli silk factory employed more than 80 factory workers and up to 500 employees working at home. Nevertheless, its success was short-lived. With Johann Konrad Egli’s death in 1862, his successors lacked the financial resources to continue the business.

The subsequent companies were unable to escape this destiny either. From 1868, the subsequent “Mechanische Seidenstofffärberei Zürich” silk dyeing works rented the premises, followed from 1900 by the Wädenswiler Seidenstoffweberei Gessner silk weaving factory. Silk production finally came to an end during the interwar depression. For two years the premises housed the neighbouring calico printing works. This was followed from1929 by the production of rubberised cloth. It was only in 1976, with the acquisition of the tongue of land by the Canton of Zurich for recreational purposes that peace at last seemed to come to the Horn area.

It was all worth it in the end...

On completion of the purchase, the Canton immediately had a usage concept drawn up for the area. In addition to residential accommodation, a boat shed, restaurant and multi-story car park, it also provided for a youth hostel. Sadly the all too numerous interests and the unresolved financing of the area prevented a quick realisation. When ten years later, with the demolition of the factory building that had been envisaged for the youth hostel, the idea of a youth hostel at the Horn seemed buried forever. Almost at the last moment, the youth hostel once again became a political issue. At the end of 1988, the canton unanimously approved the building finance and the youth hostel opened its doors on 04 July 1992.

Richterswil Youth Hostel today

Richterswil Youth Hostel today

Factory building before the conversion

Factory building before the conversion

Dining hall with the original support pillars

Dining hall with the original support pillars