Neudorf is a recent district whose development began back in the mid-19th century, once the risk of flooding had been eliminated. Growth was rapid, interrupted only by the two World Wars. The beginning of the 20th century saw key developments, with the construction of the port basins and the railway lines between Strasbourg and Kehl.
A sparsely populated area, liable to flooding
Flooding was a regular feature in the district until the taming and dyking of the Rhine in the 1840s and the digging of the Ill river discharge channel upstream of Strasbourg. Back in 1524, the building of the Riepberg ditch allowed a few buildings to be constructed in the Saint-Urbain area, but development remained limited. A few farms and auberges also sprang up in the Middle Ages along the routes (to Lyon and Vienne, for example) that passed through the district and also, in the 18th century, along the road linking Strasbourg to the Army training fields in the Polygone.
Land at the time was cheap, and a modest hamlet, the Ratzendörfel, gradually developed, near which makers of tiles, glue and oilcloth also set up shop.
In 1861, the first railway line to Kehl was built, over what used to be the Riepberg ditch.
Neudorf and military land during the Reichsland period
With the endpoint of Rhine shipping moving upstream from Mannheim to Strasbourg, work needed to be carried out to improve the railway and port facilities. In 1892, a new station was opened in Neudorf, along with the ports of Heyritz and Austerlitz. In 1875, Vauban's suffocating fortifications were demolished to make way for new defences, completed in 1900 and including a railway line running to Kehl that cut between Neudorf and the neighbouring district of the Meinau and Neuhof.
Urban planning was held back by military requirements, and was based on a general plan (the 1896 Bebauungsplan für Neudorf) and by a zoning plan which set out five types of urban landscapes: "contiguous constructions ", "open constructions " (bordered by gardens), "industrial perimeters" (Plaine des Bouchers), "protected perimeters" (water abstraction zone) and "workers' gardens".
In 1866, Neudorf had a population of 5000, which rose to 26,000 by 1910, due mainly to the rehabilitation work carried out in the district and also Protestant immigrants coming mostly from Germany or from rural Alsace.
The new inhabitants were mostly from poor backgrounds and their housing was of little architectural value. Most of them lived in small, low-cost buildings and occasionally in modest blocks of individual or two-family houses, a marked contrast to the often lavishly dimensioned local churches and schools, not to mention the Meinau orphanage.
Growth between the two wars
Following the end of the First World War, Strasbourg was cut off from the Ruhr and the Rhineland, and its economic dynamism took a severe blow. Alsace had become a "border market", which made it difficult to attract investment. Neudorf, however, continued to grow, driven by its port facilities (the Autonomous Port was created in 1924), the construction of large social housing projects ((cité Siegfried, cité Risler), investment properties along avenue Jean-Jaurès built on the site of the old Bahndamm, and the laying of roadways along the same avenue, linking the Saint-Urbain quarter to the centre of Neudorf.
The Second World War put an end to this growth and the inhabitants were evacuated at the outbreak of the hostilities, although some of them returned in 1940. A bombing raid on 6 September 1943 caused the death of some 200 people in Neudorf and destroyed over 300 buildings. Reconstruction work was only completed at the end of the 1950s and is particularly noticeable along the route du Polygone, between Place du Marché and the railway line. It was not until 1954 that Neudorf's population recovered to its 1936 level of around 26,000 inhabitants.
The district grows in importance from 1960 onwards
The post-1960 period saw an increase in housing and an improvement in relations with the city centre. Neudorf's status changed from that of a suburb to a quasi-central district. The area also saw significant improvement in local facilities, with the building of the lycée Jean Monnet in 1965, the Churchill Bridge in 1967, the administrative centre of the Urban Community in 1976, the southern bypass in 1992, the media library in 1993 and line A of the new tram system in 1994.
Residential expansion came in 2 forms. The first (from 1960 to 1984) saw the extension of the urban zone to the remaining farmlands of the Ziegelfeld below the rue de Ribeauvillé and the railway line to the port. The extension resulted in two new quarters, "Nouveau Neudorf" and "Nouvelle Musau", which managed, however, to keep to a human scale. There was a very real desire to create a functional and residential social mix, which resulted in the juxtaposition of co-owned properties and low-cost housing (rue de Soultz, for example), along with height-restricted individual houses (rue de Fréland) and a small-business area (rue d’Altkirch). The second type of development involved inserting contemporary buildings into the existing urban fabric, often in complete contrast with the old order (rue de Scherwiller). Neudorf had a population of 35,000 in 1975, which has since increased to 37,000.
Neudorf becomes a focal point of the city
1990 saw the repeal of the 1922 law which restricted construction along the port basins to buildings involved in port business. This freed up a considerable amount of land, which was earmarked for a number of projects, which included the multiplex cinema, the music and dance centre, the André Malraux media library and a shopping centre, in addition to the Etoile park and the conversion of the Heyritz area into a leisure centre and the RN4 trunk road into a boulevard. The old part of the district has also seen significant upgrading, with a redesign of the route du Polygone, the creation of a train station at the Suchard Bridge and the extension of tram line C to Neuhof.
In just 150 years, the tiny hamlet of Ratzendörfel has become the thriving, attractive suburb central district of Neudorf.