Steyr Town History
Around the year 980, the Otakars, the margraves and later dukes of Styria, built the “Stirapurhc”, today’s Lamberg Castle, at the confluence of the Enns and Steyr Rivers.
Over the following years a settlement developed below the “Stirapurhc” and the parish church. Most of the houses in the old town centre were built during the Gothic period and “modernised” in the Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo periods.
The town acquired its wealth from the iron trade, an early town charter was confirmed in 1287. The terrible fire of 1727 destroyed large parts of the old town and the outer boroughs of Ennsdorf and Steyrdorf.
Stricken by wars, epidemics and a poor economic situation caused by the decline of the craft trade, Steyr’s fate finally changed – with the birth of Josef Werndl in 1831. Werndl, who is remembered in the annals of the town as the “Saviour of Steyr” took over his father’s business and transformed it into a modern factory. He also constructed and serially produced the first breech-loading rifle, turning Steyr into Europe‘s “weapon factory”. Josef Werndl, a true pioneer, also deserves credit for the fact that in 1884 Steyr boasted the first hydroelectric street light system in Europe. Josef Werndl died in 1889. Today’s “Steyr-Daimler-Puch-Werke” Company owes its existence to his progressive ideas. During the two World Wars, the factory only produced weapons, in the years in between also cars. The air raids of 1944 destroyed large parts of the production facilities which were fully rebuilt, modernised and enlarged after the end of the war. The factory’s 10,000 employees produced tractors, lorries and ball bearings and in continuance of Steyr’s long-standing tradition also hunting and sports rifles.
Following the war and until 1955 Steyr straddled the border between the American and Russian zone. Since 1955 the town has grown considerably, particularly the Tabor, Ennsleite and Resthof districts, and currently has 38,000 inhabitants.
Today, Steyr is a model example of the harmonious coexistence of a historic old town and modern business location, making Steyr one of Austria’s most fascinating towns.