The new halls
After the state concluded a ten-year lease agreement with Edouard Bénazet in 1853, it was possible to proceed with necessary conversion and extension work. The extension was justified above all by the wish for the "higher, better society to be able to meet separately from the large, very mixed public" (quotation from a letter sent by the District Authority to the Ministry of the Interior). Given the very low prices on the Parisian railway, those coming to Baden-Baden also included people "who are not part of good society . .. . . so that it will be necessary to have some localities where entry is restricted to only a more select society".
The "new" halls, which refer to those rooms used today by the casino, were furnished and decorated in the opulent style of Louis XIII to Louis XVI, in accordance with the contemporary French fashion of the 1850s. The aim was to impress visitors with the colourful splendour.
Bénazet's interior designers Séchan and Bèrain mastered the task entrusted to them. Most of the invited guests at the official inauguration ceremony for the new halls on 11 August 1855 were simply amazed.
These "new halls" were seen as the meeting point for spa society right through to 1933. People came here to read the newspaper, enjoy conversation and cultivate contacts. Events were held here particularly in the evenings. Tradition speaks of gala dinners, charity events and carnival balls.
Many famous artists put in guest appearances, including Hector Berlioz, the "Swedish Nightingale" Jenny Lind, Franz Liszt, Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms, to name but a few of the celebrated stars.
Founding the spa committee
Following lengthy discussions of a general gambling prohibition, Baden's casino closed at the end of the 1872 season and remained closed for more than 60 years. As a result, most of the international guests that came to Baden-Baden mainly for the gambling went elsewhere.
In the aftermath of this fateful decision by the prince, the state stood by Baden-Baden and made exemplary efforts to turn it into a typical German health spa. This was the context in which the first spa committee was founded to take care of the future social and cultural programme.
One of the new aspects to be introduced was that in 1872/1873, the Kurhaus remained open all year round. In 1870, a covered terrace was added to the restaurant wing. Although this destroyed the symmetry of the overall complex, it answered the needs of the caterers.
Since the mid 1870s, the spa committee held a masked ball in the Kurhaus every year. This carnival event became the most important function of the season in the region. The ball was always held in all the rooms, with the exception of wartime and periods of austerity. Up to 6,000 carnival enthusiasts enjoyed themselves to the music provided by several bands and orchestras.
During the 1890s, central heating was installed in most of the rooms and the lighting was electrified. Furthermore, the Conversation Hall (the Weinbrennersaal today) and the Flower Hall (Blumensaal) were refurbished.
Source: Robert Erhard "Aus der Chronik der Kaiserallee", part 2