History of the Fraumuensterstreet and Fraumuenster Quarter

The Romans already appreciated the favoured position of the Fraumünster district situated not far from the river Limmat and Lake Zurich. It is here that the church established itself in 853 on the orders of Ludwig the German: a convent, i.e. a women's cloister ("Fraumünster") *. The founding abbess of the Benedikt Order was Hildegard. She was after all the daughter of the financer Ludwig. To this day one of Hildegard's old shoes is on display.
In the Middle Ages the Fraumünster quarter, then called "Chratzquartier", was built in quite a different architectural style to today.
The name "Chratzquartier" meaning "scratch district" goes back to a natural phenomenon. In those days the Chratzquartier, which occupied a piece of land (tongue) protruding into the lake and followed the frog ditch (today Bahnhofstrasse), covered in puddles and small marshes containing lukewarm water: an ideal hot bed for mosquitoes. And mosquito bites itch a lot, as everybody knows. This means that in "Chratz district" the inhabitants and visitors did "scratch" a lot during the summer months due to the many mosquito bites, hence the name "Chratzquartier".
The west boundary of the Chratzquarter was the frog ditch. Here the less prosperous Chrätzlerinnen (female inhabitants of the Chratzquarter) washed the dirty laundry for the Ladies of Zurich. The soft water in the frog ditch was ideally suited for this task. At the lake-side portion of the frog ditch was the "construction garden" (garden of the town builder-owner), and near the Limmat was the "Chratzturm" a tower, which housed the tower guard looking out for fire.
In the middle of 19-th century the Chratzquarter with its dead ends and medieval constructions and inhabitants no longer fit the concept of a blossoming commercial metropolis of Zurich. After a violent quarrel between the town authorities and the conservatives, who had their meeting place there, the Chratzquarter was destroyed in 1877 and re-built in the following years. In 1880 the new Stock Market (stock exchange building) was completed and many business people settled nearby.
Our office is situated in the Fraumünsterstrasse 17, about 100 meters to the south of the Fraumünster church, in the middle of old Chratzquarter. The house was built in 1880, according to the information of the urban construction archive. The neighbouring building No. 15 in which the oldest bar of Zurich can be found ("Old Fashion") dates back to 1886. Our building, Fraumünsterstrasse 17, forms part of surround of the Kappelerhof, which is an inner courtyard with a green area, flowerbeds, trees and benches with public access.
In 1900 our house belonged to draper Friedrich Heinrich Fäsi ***. Together with his partner Thomas William-Bornscheuer he ran a textile business. Whether they traded with silk like Mr. Gurtner on the ground floor and 15 other businesspeople in Fraumünsterstrasse and around the Münster court, is not known. The house Fraumünsterstrasse 17 does however appear to have served to a great extent the fashion industry from about 1910, as these were the were the inhabitants then:
Ground Floor: Gurtner, Silk Trade
1. Floor: Dr. Ernst Meyer, lawyer, formerly (1900), Entresol of the stock exchange
2. Floor: Müller, Cashier and Authorized Manager
2. Floor: Müller, Seamstress
3. Floor: Schneeli, Millinery (= hat maker)
4. Floor Thomas William-Bornscheuer, Businessman, formerly (1900) Münster Crt 4
5. Floor: William & Co, Cloth Trade, formerly (1900) Münster Crt 8
Before we established our offices on the 3-rd floor of Fraumünsterstrasse 17, a famous watchmaker maintained there a part of the watch manufacture. We have sensitively adapted the rooms from a clock maker's showroom into a solicitor's office.
* This year is questioned by the representatives of the phantom time theory. The phantom time theory says that in the early Middle Ages 300 fictive years were inserted into our current calendar. According to this theory we would today be living in the year 1706.
** Other, less plausible theories state, that the name came from the fact that the quarter was on a land tongue in the Lake Zurich, on which one was like caught in a Kratten (only access from the north). Or: the fact that there were Chrätzen (= Kratten) sold - because even then the weekly market took place there (today: Bürkliplatz).
**** His son Robert was a professor of literature and wrote the story "Füsilier Wipf" (which in 1938 was filmed as a work of the spiritual national defence)