Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the America House in Vienna

Lifestyle & TravelCulture ♦ Published: November 26, 2021; 12:44 ♦ (Vindobona)

The America House in Vienna is a beautiful mix of architecture and history. Learn more about the exquisite building at Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 2 and the historical America House inside.

The America House Vienna at Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 2. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Bookseller, CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

When strolling through Vienna’s famous first district to see all the famous buildings, it would be easy to pass by Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 2 and not distinguish it from the rest of the beautiful Viennese landscape.

However, between the must-see parliament building and the stunning Rathaus (city hall), is the historical Amerika-Haus (America House), which sits on Rathausstrasse and Landesgerichtsstrasse.

The extraordinary arcaded house, free-standing on three sides, was built in 1882 by the architects Dionys Milch and Heinrich Hellin.

The building’s location, Friedrich-Schmidt Platz, was named after another architect Friedrich von Schmidt, who designed the famous city hall building just around the corner.

The beautiful arcades of the building can be attributed to the city ​​expansion fund, which stipulated that the house had to be built with arcades like the entire City Hall Arcades Ensemble.

Designed in old German forms, the historicist building has two corner projections with high drum domes. Additionally, the specially designed central axis shows a high attic gable and three-story bay window.

The arcade is cross-rib vaulted, and the side entrance on Rathausstraße is elaborately designed with a Corinthian columned portal, wrought-iron grille, and profiled busts.

The foyer behind is clad in stucco marble, with gray-green fields and pilasters following on a black base and is extended towards the stairwell. On the stucco coffered ceiling, one can see gorgeous ceiling paintings and putti.

America House

The America House that lies within the building has a rich history to complement the marvelous architecture.

Founded on April 15, 1946, the America House was initially located as the U.S. Information Center at Kärntner Straße 38. In 1957, it moved to the Opernring-Hof.

Since 1971, it has resided at its current location at Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 2.

The America House was originally operated by the United States Information Agency (USIA) and housed an American library.

Like the numerous America Houses built throughout Germany and Austria after World War II, it was supposed to bring the history of the Americans, their traditions, and customs closer to the Germans and Austrians.

This was to be combined with a firm understanding of democracy as an orientation for the new start after the Second World War.

Over time, the America Houses expanded their offerings so that exhibitions, lecture discussions, and other events were added to the original library offerings.

In addition, the America Houses offered advice on school exchanges.

America Houses were an integral part of American public diplomacy activities.

In the 1960s, the America Houses were often the scene of anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and were subsequently protected by the police. That worsened again during the Iraq war.

When the USIA was dissolved in 1999, the America House in Vienna was also closed.

However, It reopened in April 2012 under the auspices of the United States Embassy. Since then, in addition to its original library, the America House in Vienna has been used primarily as a venue for events, such as lectures and, in particular, the cultivation of jazz.

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