HISTORY OF THE HOTEL OFENHORN

The second half of the 19th century is said to be the “golden” age of the Swiss hotel business. Travelling and holidays in Switzerland became very popular among the wealthier upper classes of Europe. Enormous hotel palaces sprang up, first on the banks of the Lakes of Geneva and Lucerne, and later on the more important travel routes, and lastly in moreremote mountain spots.

In 1880, the hotel-keeper Josef Speckly from Fiesch in the Valais was granted permission by the community of Binn to open a guest house in Schmidigehischere, the main village in the valley. Elias Walpen from Binn and Josef Schmid from Ernen joined him in planning the hotel building, but both Speckly and Walpen withdrew from the partnership before construction began in 1981, leaving Josef Schmid alone. His wife, Maria Schmid, (maiden name Kräig) from Ernen, was of a wealthy family and appears to have been the driving force behind the hotel construction. She then actually ran the hotel from 1883, even though only the name of her husband is found on official documents of the period.

In the first years, business flourished so well that in 1897 it was possible to extend the hotel on the north side. But following the outbreak of the First World War, English guests came no longer. Business was bad, and hardly recovered in the following decades.

For three generations, the Schmid family ran the Hotel in Binn. In 1969 they gave up: the turnover was insufficient to cover the costs of the extensive renovations needed.

In 1972, an economic society active in the Goms Valley, PUMAG, appeared on the scene, bought the hotel and invested in it half-a-million Swiss francs. Central heating wasinstalled and running water in all the hotel rooms. But the PUMAG too was not able to turn it into a profitable concern. As the façade began to crumble and the roof to leak, the company withdrew from the Binn valley.

The local community of Binn sought a way to save the Hotel Ofenhorn. In 1987, the cooperative “Pro Binntal” was founded. Within a few months, several hundred people from all over Switzerland became members of the cooperative, providing the means necessary to buy the hotel for over 1 Million Swiss francs, and to renovate the building itself. In 1990 the hotel was saved from decay, but despite this, there were insufficient financial means available to restore the interior of the hotel.

It was not until 2006 that the Cooperative made a new attempt to realise this dream. And in fact the new Board was able to inspire members and several Foundations with the idea of restoring the interior rooms and installing climate-friendly wood-fired heating. Up to 2011, more than 3 million Swiss francs were invested in this way, and thus three-quarters of the interior were renovated, and the Hotel once again displays the splendour of the Belle Epoque.

READING TIP

Brochure “125 Jahre Hotel Ofenhorn, Binn”, (in German) 32 pp, many photographs, Pro Binntal 2008 (obtainable from the Hotel reception or from the Cooperative Pro Binntal ).

 

Contact

Hotel Ofenhorn
Ufem Acher 1, CH-3996 Binn
Telephone +41 27 971 45 45
E-Mail


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