A rural past
Cronenbourg with its fertile loess soil, was one of the five "faubourgs" of the Roman settlement of Argentoratum through which flowed a 20 km long canal, originating in the Kochersberg. Excavations have shown that Cronenbourg was inhabited first in the Neolithic era, and then through the Bronze Age and right up to the Merovingian era. Up to the 19th century, however, the area was known only as the site of the city gallows, and contained but a few peasant hovels.
The beer industry and railway works bring prosperity
Cronenbourg began to emerge from its obscurity in the mid-19th century, with the arrival of the Strasbourg – Basel railway line, and the construction of the "Rotonde", which was used as a depot for locomotives and as a railway maintenance and repair shop. The population began to grow, with the influx of manual and office workers who moved into the area between the railway and the route d’Oberhausbergen and the route de Mittelhausbergen.
At around the same period, the great breweries of Strasbourg, which were until then located in and around the city centre, decided to expand and modernize, the first step being to move out to the heights of the Rhine terraces of Schiltigheim and the districts of Koenigshoffen and Cronenbourg. The ground was ideal for the large cellars the brewers needed and was above the water table and free from risk of flooding. The brewing industry grew alongside the malting plants which set up in the same neighbourhood. The Hatt brewery (now Kronenbourg) moved into Cronenbourg in 1850 and brought with it a large number of jobs.
The extension of the railway system in 1841 (the first station was opened in Koenigshoffen) right up to the breweries themselves, prepared the way for the expanding market of the second half of the 19th century.
The effect of the fortifications and glacis belt on construction in Cronenbourg
After the war of 1870 and the annexation of Alsace-Moselle, the German Empire decided to build a new wall around the city in 1877, following the construction of a line of advanced forts. The defensive strategy also imposed a belt of some 500 m beyond the wall (Festungsrayon I), where no building was allowed. The belt stretched from the Sainte-Hélène Cemetery, through what is today the Jewish cemetery, right up to rue du Gazon. A second belt of around 300 m (Festungsrayon II) began at the rue de l’Abattoir and extended to rue de Saint-Florent, rue des Pinçons, rue Marcel Proust and rue des Ducs and along the old Rotonde-Koenigshoffen railway line. The construction of light, half timbered housing and adobe walls was allowed within the second belt, and despite these constraints, the number of houses grew rapidly as from 1880.
A number of schools were built between 1870 and 1914 to accompany the rising population. The first school in Cronenbourg was opened in 1882 and extended in 1889. What is now the Camille Hirtz school, route de Mittelhausbergen, was built in 1894, while the school in the rue des Renards was completed in 1905.
The Strasbourg-Cronenbourg tramline came into service in 1900 and ran along the route d’Oberhausbergen, terminating in rue Jacob. The line was subsequently extended to Westhoffen. In 1960, the tram system was replaced by buses.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Cronenbourg had expanded its boundaries to the north of the route de Mittelhausbergen, with the construction of the Saint-Florent church between 1910 and 1912, outside the restricted area of the Strasbourg fortifications. Before the First World War, the residential area contained but a few buildings and it was not until the 1920s and the lifting of building restrictions within the defensive-wall sector that it became a genuine residential district.
Wholesale business in Cronenbourg in the early 20th century
The railway repair shops were transferred from the Rotonde to Bischheim in 1875, and a freight terminal was built nearby at the beginning of the 20th century under the supervision of city architect Fritz Beblo. The terminal was located to the east of the rue de Hochfelden, like the tram terminal of the Compagnie des transports strasbourgeois (CTS), which was built in 1931 and designed by architect Gustave Oberthur. The two buildings were the forerunners of what was later to become a services sector, with the new abattoirs and the fruit and vegetable market as from 1965. The area is today in a new development phase
Development of the district to the west of the railway line since the 1950s
In 1945, after the Second World War, the vast army training fields to the north of Cronenbourg were taken over for emergency housing and the area soon became built up, with the arrival of the CNRS scientific research centre and the National nuclear research centre as from 1959, and the construction of the cité Nucléaire housing development between 1963 and 1972, which provided an additional 2,000 dwellings.
The Saint-Antoine sector, south of the cite Nucléaire, saw strong growth in individual houses between 1960 and 1970, interspersed with a few apartment blocks.
At the same time, a new sector, Hautepierre, began to see the light of day. This development sought to be a "model of urban planning", which would offer new solutions to counter the mistakes made building the first tower blocks. The blocks were built to a hexagonal pattern, with a traffic-light-free, one-way street organisation which set out to solve any traffic and access problems and which also featured a pedestrianised central area with extensive green spaces. This separation of motor vehicles and pedestrians and the notion of neighbourhood units formed the basis of the Hautepierre urban development plan, drawn up by Pierre Vivien, the architect in charge of the urban planning master plan, which produced nine units for a total of 1000 dwellings, along with neighbourhood facilities and services. The operation was carried through by SERS, the city-owned building and management company and completed in 1967. The A351 motorway was opened in 1972, which greatly facilitated access to Hautepierre.
During the same period, the large-scale Hohberg housing development (1962-1972), with its 1,000 units, created an additional link between Hautepierre and Koenigshoffen.
The latest urban expansion scheme
The new Poteries quarter, next to Eckbolsheim and on the other side of the motorway from Hautepierre , occupies some 70 hectares of land within a ZAC concerted development area. The core of the development is the parc des Poteries, designed by landscape architect Edaw Jarvis.
The return of trams in 1994
The new tram system, started in 1994, was a key factor in the reorganisation of the life of the city and its districts. Line A linked Hautepierre with the city centre and provided the impetus for the urban renewal projects of Hautepierre, the Cité nucléaire and Hohberg.