The special history of our hotel Dolomites

A dive into the past

The "Hotel Baur am See" in Toblach, as the name says, has a long a successful history. It was built as a hotel by the highly respected hotel operator and imperial royal postmaster, Josef Baur. On 16 February 1901 he was made an honorary citizen of Ehrenbürger von Toblach “in appreciation of his many years of humanitarian work”.
Five months after receiving this honour, Baur, who was also the owner of the hotel complex "Hotel Baur & Dependancen Landro-Höhlenstein", opened the “Seehotel”, as this lakeside hotel was first called, on 7 July 1901. This even was worth a mention in the local newspaper, the Pustertaler Bote, on 12 July 1901. The paper reported that “As a hotel director, Mr Baur brought in Mr Heinrich Goserich from Bozen who has extensive experience in the hotel sector."

The opening of  "Hotels Baur am See"  and the contribution of its constructor to tourism in Hochpustertal
von Hans-Günter Richardi
Josef Baur

An extremely elegant building – 
with all the modern comforts

As for the construction itself, which was built directly near the Ampezzaner Reichsstraße, the newspaper’s Toblach correspondent wrote: “The hotel is an attractive, extremely elegantly furnished building with all the modern comforts, which is looking forward to your visit soon. The front of the building faces the lake, and on Sunday, multiple visitors from Toblach and Innichen asked Mr Bauer to put out tables in the spacious areas above the lakeshore, as it would be delightful to lounge there with the cool lake air in the morning and evening."
The “Seehotel” (Lake Hotel) became popular so quickly that also Josef Anton Rohracher from the hotel sector included it in his travel guide "Toblach und das Ampezzotal - Toblach and the Ampezzo Valley", which was already in its third reprint in 1912. The travel writer first mentioned the trout-filled Toblach Lake, which was the property of Count Künigl in Ehrenburg, and then mentioned the "Seehotel", which laid “at the beginning of the lake" and served both as a pension as well as a restaurant. It was a very popular location for a snack.

Flyer Hotel Baur - sport

Baur as the founder of the train station in Toblach

The hotel operator, who died much too early, offered another large contribution by building the Toblach train station. It was not planned initially for the trains of the Pusteria Valley railway to stop in Toblach, as the Toblach farmers were firmly opposed to a railway line in Pusteria Valley, which was being constructed since 1869. Josef Baur saw things differently. 
He was aware that the railway traffic would connect Pusteria Valley with the large cities of Europe, which was to the benefit of tourism for his homeland
He therefore contacted the Austrian Southern Railway Company (Südbahngesellschaft) and encouraged them to build a train station in Toblach that would direct the tourism to a large extent to Hochpustertal and Cortina. The railway company agreed with his suggestion. They however required Mr Bauer to have a hotel built at the point the railway line crossed the main road (Ampezzaner Reichsstraße).
The Postmaster decided to build the hotel himself. For this project, he involved his friend Romeo Manaigo, a hotel operator in Cortina, who was also interested in a train station in Neutoblach. The two established the company "Baur und Manaigo" and made the project a reality, after also Ghedina, a hotel operator from Cortina, also entered the company. The hotel, which was initially called "Gasthof Baur", and then "Gesellschaftshotel Toblach" and finally "Toblacher Hof" opened up as the first hotel in Neutoblach in 1872. With this hotel, which was renamed as "Hotel Ampezzo" in 1900, Bauer created the foundation for the development of Neutoblach. The "Südbahnhotel" (today known as "Grand Hotel Toblach") was built later.

Railway station Dobbiaco

The first electrical lighting in Landro

His son was not yet of legal age when he and his mother went into his father’s hotel business in 1879. Josef Baur Jr. quickly realized that he had to keep up with the times in order to promote his business. Like many of his contemporaries back then, he saw his future in technical progress. His guests expected the comfort and luxury of modern developments already before the start of the technical age. 
Josef Baur soon offered both of them.
He quickly recognised the greater prestige his hotel would gain with electrical lighting, and acted accordingly. In April 1892 he had electrical lights installed in all buildings of the "Baurschen Fremden-Etablissements" in Landro. He used more than 300 light bulbs in all of his buildings. Three arc lamps provided lighting outdoors. The power was provided during the day by steam power. During the night, hydraulic power was produced by a mill. The switch from petroleum lamps to electrical light was still considered sensational in 1892.
But the hotel operator did not leave it at that. With his far-sightedness for technical progress, he started with a project in 1900, as the “Seehotel” at Lake Dobbiaco was still being built, for the construction of his own power station in Toblach
He found kindred spirits who supported his endeavour, and already on 27 July 1900, the Pusterthaler Bote reported: "In Gratsch near Toblach, work is being diligently performed on the power station, that the company Siemens & Halske has taken over." Through the "hydraulic power of the Rienz, it would generate between 300 hp (in winter) and 500 hp (in summer) of electricity". This was enough to easily provide also the nearby towns of Innichen and Niederdorf with power. 
Josef Baur was the soul of the company to the extent that in December 1900, during the general meeting of the "Gesellschaft des Elektricitätswerkes" he was appointed as the Chairman of the institution– as the successor to the engineer Jakob Rienzner, who with his father and with the famous "Frau Emma" established the Hochpustertal chapter of the Alpine Club in Niederdorf.

Fear of the fast automobiles

Even the enthusiasm of the successful hotel operator for technical progress has its limits. They were discovered with the automobiles that raced past his hotel on the Ampezzaner Straße. The motorised tourists were a thorn in the side for him and his fellow campaigners in the Tyrol regional tourism association, for which Baur was a member of the central committee. And their opposition was also not unfounded due to the thoughtlessness of many automobile drivers. Carriage drivers and summer guests saw them as a threat for other reasons however.
The following complaint was reported in the Pusterthaler Bote in July 1901
It was printed directly below the article about the opening of the "Seehotel", as due to its location directly near the Ampezzaner, it was particularly threatened by these “new speeders”.

“The local carriage drivers and also the summer guests are not too happy about the automobile trips between Toblach and Ampezzo", as written in the newspaper, "the first, who have waited all year long to earn their money, earned less as a result (...), and the second, who wanted to drive with their carriages, have become afraid of accidents, as their horses are not able to get used to these speedy additions to the road, who leave behind truly unpleasant clouds of dust. Carriage traffic on this stretch is exceptionally intense, and almost no day goes by without problems caused for the horses."


Car - Dolce Vita on the Dobbiaco lake

When the post horn on the Ampezzaner Straße fell silent forever …

But there was no way to stop the automobile on the Ampezzaner Reichsstraße. 
Already on 31 March 1914, the very last post stagecoach travelled festively decorated from Toblach to Cortina. "Again", complained a pessimist in the local press ...

"a piece of this historical operation has disappeared, and instead of the joyful melody of the post horn, we will have to get used to the earsplitting honk of the postbus and its shrill whistles."

A half a year later, the Old Continent fell into the chaos of the first world war. With it also came the end of Josef Baur's hotel empire. His Landro complex fell victim in 1915 destruction order of the Austrian-Hungarian Army, and due to the fire of the artillery, nothing could stop the destruction of the hotel complex.
Josef Baur could have hardly believed that with the construction of the Seehotel he had provided his descendants with the basis of their livelihood. Spared by the war, his granddaughter Maria Antonia Franchi-Baur modernised the hotel and continued operating it successfully. 
Thanks to her tireless ambition and in spite of the unfavourable requirements and prohibitions (the ruins were first a military zone and then declared a nature park) she was able to wake up the Landro complex from a deep sleep. In 1980 she opened up the Hotel Drei Zinnen Blick in the location where the villa of the Belgian Royal Family once stood.