Saturday, April 18, 2009

Laeiszhof Und Globushof

On one side of Trostbrucke is Gebaude Der Patriotischen Gesellschaft. On the other side are two famous counting houses (“Kontorhauser”) known as Laeiszhof Und Globushof.

Laeiszhof Und Globushof are the only two large-scale counting houses in Hamburg to emerge from World War II undamaged. The buildings long served as headquarters for the Laeisz Shipping Company, whose founder gained worldwide fame by providing funds to erect Hamburg’s main concert hall, Laeiszhalle.

Laeiszhof, dating from 1897 and 1898, is the older of the two buildings. It is a severe, modern reinterpretation of a Northern European Renaissance structure.

The Neo-Baroque Globushof, from 1907 and 1908, has a less formal façade and features numerous sandstone decorations. Copper models of ships sit atop its spires, and very impressive they are. The entrance facade is decorated with statues of Wilhelm I and Bismarck.

The ships of the Laeisz Shipping Company were long known as the world’s fastest. The successor owner of the Laeisz Shipping Company continues to occupy both buildings.

We examined the interior of the Laeiszhof, which was full of splendor. Grand stairwells, mezzanines, skylights, rotunda, courtyards: the building had every possible luxury of its time, all befitting a palace of commerce.

The building still uses old-style German elevators—the type that runs continuously and has no doors—and we rode the elevators as a lark.

We also made it into the Chairman’s Office, a lavishly-appointed suite crammed with model ships and historic ship memorabilia. I don’t think we were supposed to be there but, once inside, we were allowed to look around to our heart’s content by a gracious secretary. She even presented us with a copy of the company’s annual report as we departed.

Perhaps she thought we might buy shares.

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