Station:  Carl Ludwig Wunderlich
"As a man in the prime of life, I have attained an establishment as a forwarding agent and merchant, and with God's continuing blessing, I have faith that my prosperity and that of my family is assured for the future [...]".
Carl Ludwig Wunderlich, describing himself and his situation in 1803, three years after he had completed his splendid mansion. He built his stylish upper middle-class dwelling right outside the gates of an up-and-coming town. And very much in the tradition of the old estates, it combined living and work spaces under a single roof – providing what we’d call a perfect work-life balance.
Carl Ludwig Wunderlich's father had been a teacher; his mother was from an old-established local family called Schnitzler. He himself was the first in the family to become a merchant. He called himself a "forwarding agent and grocer" and before long, he’d made a fortune.
The political circumstances were favourable. In the wake of the French Revolution, unrest had led to a shift in trade from the west bank of the Rhine (the French side) to the east bank. The region of Oberbaden and the town of Lahr in general, and Wunderlich in particular, benefitted from that shift.
Wunderlich became chairman of the merchants’ guild and a town mayor. One of his duties in that capacity involved representing the interests of the town and its 4,000 residents in dealings with the Margrave of Baden.
Wunderlich enjoyed a rapid rise: just a few years after moving into the mansion, he gave it up. In 1804, he leased Ettenheimmünster, a monastery complex that had recently been secularised.
He was planning to grow chicory there, produce lead shot, breed livestock, grow grapes and operate a pair of sawmills. His role model was a successful merchant called Christian Trampler, and he even petitioned the margrave for the right to label his products with the latter’s coat of arms.
But customs duties were high, and competition was fierce. Napoleon's Continental Blockade made overseas trade more difficult, and the unrest on the west bank of the Rhine subsided.
Wunderlich had miscalculated. In 1811, he filed for bankruptcy and moved back in with his mother. He was not even sixty years old when he died in penury in 1813.
All depictions: © Palais Wunderlich