From the Stone Age to City Charter– the History of Langen
There were probably human settlers already living in the District of Langen as early as the Mesolithic Period. This is evidenced by finds of stone tools, blades and pikes. Excavations during the building of the new town hall and indoor swimming pool on Südliche Ringstraße in the 1970s point to a settlement on the banks of the Sterzbach during the Bronze Age.
Langen in the Middle Ages
The place name “Langungon” appears for the fist time in the year 834 in the deed of gift presented by King Louis the German to the monastery in Lorsch. In the Middle Ages Langen became the seat of the Maigericht (May Court) in the hunting ground of Dreieich. Honourable witnesses to these turbulent times are the remains of the fortifications from the 14th Century and the Vierröhrenbrunnen, which dates back to 1553.
Market Activity and Industrialisation
In 1813 Langen was designated a market town and allowed to hold markets. In 1821 the District Governor settled here. This meant that Langen was to all intents and purposes a county town, but later had to surrender this function to Groß-Gerau and Offenbach. Its boom as a transhipment point on the old trade route between Frankfurt and Darmstadt stagnated temporarily when, in the middle of the 19th century, the Main-Neckar railway was constructed. At this time, Langen was some way off the beaten track. For this reason craftsmen, carters and publicans moved away. Things only turned around again when Grand Duke Ludwig IV. granted the city charter in 1883. Langen increased in importance as a residential and commercial location. The industrialisation boost during the Wilhelminian Period and good transport links to the neighbouring centres of Frankfurt, Hanau, Mainz and Worms ensured a building boom in the direction of the railway line and flourishing trade.
Economic Boom, War, Occupation
In 1883 Langen boasted 4,400 inhabitants, a district court, a post office, railway station, factories, brickworks, sandstone quarries and a forestry office. Fewer and fewer Langen residents worked in agriculture; in 1907 it was still a good ten per cent. The District Hospital built in 1896 bears witness to the city’s increasing importance. In order to promote general education, the Wallschule was built in 1904.
227 men from Langen lost their lives in the First World War. The city was under French occupation for twelve years. The black market flourished. The occupation ended in 1930 with liberation celebrations lasting two days and coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Voluntary Fire Brigade. During the Weimar Republic, everyday life in Langen was characterised by the world economic crisis and a high level of unemployment.
Langen under the National Socialists
When the National Socialists seized power, political life in Germany changed radically. As elsewhere in the Empire, the representatives of the new regime persecuted their political opponents without mercy: Social Democrats, Communists and trade unionists were arrested, beaten up wantonly, sometimes even to death, Jewish businesses boycotted. The Jewish Synagogue on Dieburger Straße (today a memorial) was destroyed on November 10th 1938 – in the so-called “Reichskristallnacht”. Most Jewish families left the city that same year. Many of them were later deported to extermination camps. In Langen itself, many forced labourers lost their lives.
Langen after the Second World War
The end of the Second World War meant liberation from terror and dictatorship. At the end of March 1945 US troops marched into Langen. Refugees from the destroyed major cities in the vicinity and people who had been expelled from their homes in the east led to a rapid increase in the population. This brought with it a scarcity of dwellings and emergency shelters. At the end of the 1950s the second largest refugee camp in Hesse sprang up in Langen. Many refugees and ethnic German immigrants remained in the city which, as a consequence, experienced a boom in social housing construction programmes. The Nordend District was fundamentally created by this development. During this time Langen also expanded to the west in the form of the suburbs of Oberlinden and Neurott including the estate erected for members of the American Armed Forces (today rented as private flats). Important employers were mechanical engineering companies such as Pittler and Nassovia.
The building of a new hospital (today the Asclepius Clinic) made a significant contribution to Langen’s importance during the sixties, as did the opening of the Leisure Centre “Langener Waldsee”. On Südliche Ringstraße the city created a centre consisting of the town hall, civil hall and indoor swimming pool which were later joined by the District Court and the Tax Office.
In 1983 Langen celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the granting of its city charter. In honour of the occasion a Museum of City History was opened in the town hall. Its favourable location in the heart of Europe and outstanding transport connections led to the settlement of renowned companies from high tech industry in the economic centre Neurott. At the same time, Federal authorities such as the Paul Ehrlich Institute and Deutsche Flugsicherung (German Air Traffic Controlling) came to Langen. With its staff of approx. 3,000, the DFS controls the air space above most parts of Germany and neighbouring countries.
A number of institutions contribute to the quality of life in Langen today. Among the most important of these are the New Civic Hall, the Arts and Leisure Centre “Altes Amtsgericht” (Old District Court) with its school of music and adult educational centre or the Youth Centre. For the youngest citizens there are numerous day care facilities, for the older generation the senior citizens’ centre “Haltestelle” (Station). Sports facilities, the Waldsee, indoor swimming pool and the leisure and family pool guarantee recreational fun. The old aquatic stadium, which opened as long ago as 1934, was renovated in the mid 1990s and since then has been inviting people to splash around, swim and relax with its slides, diving tower, water jets and mushroom fountains.
A visit to the metropolis leaving the car behind – no problem at all starting from Langen. Since 1997 the S-Bahn (suburban railway) has been departing for Frankfurt every 15 minutes and for Darmstadt every 30 minutes. Langen has a second station in the shape of the stop called “Flugsicherung”. The northern bypass is important for supra-regional traffic and the relief of the residents. Since 1999 this section of road has linked the motorways A 5 and A 661 with one another.
With the aid of Federal Government funds Langen has been able to give a facelift to its northern district. The focus of attention in this regard was the demolition of the former Hesse temporary hostel and the redesigning of the area in the shape of, for example, a meeting centre and the “Platz der Deutschen Einheit” (German Unity Square).
Although Langen is located in the midst of the densely populated Rhine-Main region, there is no lack of unspoilt nature. The city’s surroundings are characterised by wood and meadowland and not least by the characteristic orchards with their gnarled trees. Delicious apple wine is produced using the apples harvested. Marketing under the brand name "Siebenschläfer" contributes to the maintenance and thus the preservation of those orchards. In the natural world the dormouse is a cute little rodent which lives in orchards.
Langen’s cultural centre – the New Civic Hall on Südliche Ringstraße – was reopened in 2009 following extensive renovation and expansion. The complex of buildings presents itself as a state-of-the-art venue for theatre, concerts, dancing and cabaret events as well as for conferences, congresses and family celebrations of all kinds. Glass artwork, the city library, a restaurant and the neighbouring indoor swimming pool also contribute to the attractiveness.
As the first official multi-generation house in Hesse, the Centre for Young and Old in Langen opened its doors in 2006. In this building in the centre of the city a maternity centre and senior citizens’ centre with their diverse programmes are united under one roof.
A further flagship of the city is the Pittler ProRegion Berufsausbildung GmbH, a subsidiary company of the city that trains young people predominantly in technical professions. The company has in Langen one of the most modern training centres in the Rhine-Main Region.