Zacherlfabrik Insecticide Manufactory, Vienna:
Historicist Factory in Mosque-Style in Döbling

The Zacherlfabrik is a former factory for insecticides and one of the most bizarre of Vienna′s many bizarre Historicist buildings. It was built in the style of an Arabic mosque and can be found in the Nusswaldgasse 14 in the 19th district of Vienna (Döbling). The story of the pseudo-mosque in the middle of an old garden in one of Vienna′s most exclusive districts sounds like fiction: Once upon a time in the 19th century (in 1842, to be precise), a young Viennese called Johann Zacherl travelled to the Caucasus mountains. There he observed locals who picked the leaves of a certain plant known as Pyrethrum and used them as a repellent for insects.

Johann Zacherl travelled from village to village and spoke to the eldest wherever he could; he set up trade contracts and started to deal with Pyrethrum. The blossoms of the plant were collected, dried and taken to Tiflis for him. There they were grinded into a fine powder, put into packages and these packages were sewn into sheep leather to be transported to Vienna. There Johann Zacherl sold the powder as "Zacherl′s Insecten tödtende Tinktur" or simply "Zacherlin". In 1870, the company had grown to a considerable size and Zacherl returned to Vienna to work on the development of his production facilities. With only four employees, he produced 600 tons of Zacherlin in his first factory in 1873.

Zacherlfabrik: Flourishing with Insecticides

For selling the insecticide, Zacherl founded shops in Paris, Istanbul, Amsterdam, London, New York and Philadelphia. In 1880, he retired and transferred the company to his son Evangelist Zacherl. Much like his father, Evangelist Zacherl was a real entrepreneur. He grasped that the exotic flair of the "wondrous Oriental powder" added a lot to its popularity. He hired the architect Karl Mayreder to design a Oriental-style factory for bigger and more modern production facilities.

Mayreder came up with the pseudo-mosque, which was built between 1888 and 1892. The coloured tiles were custom made by the Wienerberger brick factory. In addition to the production of insecticides, Evangelist Zacherl started to offer services in the repair, storage and cleaning of carpets and fur. He proved his sense for progress a few years later, when he hired a young architect from the school of Otto Wagner to design the administrative headquarter for the Zacherl factory in the first district: The Zacherlhaus was designed by Josef Plecnik, a Slovenian architect - the first modern building in the city centre of Vienna was built between 1903 and 1905.

After WWI, the golden days of the Zacherl Insecticide slowly ended. High export taxes and the rise of the chemical industries made it hard for the traditional Viennese brand to stay in business. In 1936, Evangelist Zacherl died and his son Georg was the third Zacherl to fight the insect empire.

Fall & New Life in the Zacherlfabrik

Since 1933, the Zacherl factory tried to establish itself with yet another new industry - the manufacturing of bindings for skis. Things did not go very well for the Zacherlfabrik and in 1949, Georg Zacherl resigned as an entrepreneur. He died in 1954, four years later the company was erased from the registry of active enterprises. The pseudo-mosque of the Zacherlfabrik remained mostly unused; parts of it fell into disrepair, others were let to companies, others yet served as storage space.

A new era for the Zacherlfabrik started only a few years ago. In 2006, Veronika and Peter Zacherl (the current representatives of the Zacherl dynasty) started a collaboration with the Art Grant of the Jesuite monastery in Vienna. They refurbished the Zacherlfabrik, removed floors and merged them into a hall that is now used for art exhibitions and - each year during summer - for music performances. The acoustics of the Zacherlfabrik are said to be excellent (which I can neither confirm nor defer, since I have never been in the building as of 2008). According to the website of the Zacherlfabrik, the idea behind the project is to use this forgotten and "useless" building in the outskirts of Vienna as a space for encounters and relaxed experiments.

Nearby attractions are rather sparse; the Hohe Warte area is nice for a walk and hiking up to Grinzing and beyond into the vineyards is rewarding in terms of the view on Vienna. Otherwise, the neighbourhood is an exclusive residential area, partly with noteworthy architecture, but not very interesting to most tourists.

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Further Reading

Official Website of the Zacherlfabrik in Vienna