altmarkt dresden 1881

MOAR historic photos! This one, another chromolithograph, is a very interesting view of the Altmarkt, the main central square in Dresden, Germany. I found several copies of this photo online (it’s in the public domain), and they give various dates for it; some say 1900, which was when a lot of these chromolithographs were made, but a faint etching on the bottom of the picture identifies it as having been taken in 1881. It looks more like 1890s to me. Still, whenever it was taken, it offers us a tantalizing view of public life in Germany near the end of the 19th century.

Altmarkt has been the center of Dresden for centuries. Surrounded by these wonderful old buildings, the central square offered both a refuge from the teeming city, which was booming in the 1890s, and a place for citizens to mingle, shop and recreate. In this picture you see about equal amounts commerce and leisure, with a lot of folks out for a stroll. Although the resolution is not that clear, I think I can make out some stands with flowers or potted plants for sale as well as women with grocery baskets. Strangely there’s no beer garden here, but I’d imagine there’s probably one just out of frame.

Dresden, of course, was famously destroyed by a savage aerial bombing by British and American planes in February 1945. Almost all of the central part of the city was wiped off the map. It’s been rebuilt now, but the old medieval and baroque charm of prewar Germany was lost in many places like this, unfortunately forever. You can still go to the Altmarkt today, but don’t expect to see a scene quite like this.