DARMSTADT, a city of Germany, capital of the grand-duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt, on a plain gently sloping from the Odenwald to the Rhine, 21 m. by rail S.E. from Mainz and 17 m. S. from Frankfort-on-Main. Pop. (1905) 83,000. It is the residence of the grand-duke and the seat of government of the duchy. Darmstadt consists of an old and a new town, the streets of the former being narrow and gloomy and presenting no attractive features. The new town, however, which includes the greater part of the city, contains broad streets and several fine squares. Among the latter is the stately Luisenplatz, on which are the house of parliament, the old palace and the post office, and in the centre of which is a column surmounted by the statue of the grand-duke Louis I., the founder of the new town. The square is crossed by the Rhein-strasse, the most important thoroughfare in the city, leading directly from the railway station to the ducal palace. This last, a complex of buildings, dating from various centuries, but possessing few points of special interest, is surrounded by grounds occupying the site of the old moat. Opposite to it, on the north side, and adjoining the pretty palace gardens, are the court theatre and the armoury, and a little farther west the handsome buildings of the new museum, erected in 1905 and containing the valuable scientific and art collections of the state, which were formerly housed in the palace: a library of 600,000 volumes and 4000 MSS., a museum of Egyptian and German antiquities, a picture gallery with masterpieces of old German and Dutch schools, a natural history collection and the state archives. To the right of the entrance to the palace gardens is the tomb of the “great landgravine,” Caroline Henrietta, wife of the landgrave Louis IX., surmounted by a marble urn, the gift of Frederick the Great of Prussia, bearing the inscription femina sexu, ingenio vir. To the south of the castle lies the old town, with the market square, the town hall (lately restored and enlarged) and the town church. Of the eight churches (seven Evangelical) only the Roman Catholic is in any way imposing. There are two synagogues. The town possesses a technical high school, having (since 1900) power to confer the degree of doctor of engineering, and attended by about 2000 students, two gymnasia, a school of agriculture, an artisans’ school and a botanical garden. The chemist, Justus von Liebig, was born in Darmstadt in 1803. Among the chief manufactures are the production of machinery, carpets, playing cards, chemicals, tobacco, hats, wine and beer.
The surroundings of Darmstadt are attractive and contain many features of interest. To the east of the town lies the Mathildenhöhe, formerly a park and now converted into villa residences. Here are the Alice hospital and the pretty Russian church, built (1898–1899) by the emperor Nicholas II. of Russia in memory of the empress Maria, wife of Alexander II. In the vicinity is the Rosenhöhe, with the mausoleum of the ducal house, with the tomb of the grand-duchess Alice, daughter of Queen Victoria of England.
Darmstadt is mentioned in the 11th century, but in the 14th century it was still a village, held by the counts of Katzenelnbogen. It came by marriage into the possession of the house of Hesse in 1479, the male line of the house of Katzenelnbogen having in that year become extinct. The imperial army took it in the Schmalkaldic War, and destroyed the old castle. In 1567, after the death of Philip the Magnanimous, his youngest son George received Darmstadt and chose it as his residence. He was the founder of the line of Hesse-Darmstadt. Its most brilliant days were those of the reign of Louis X. (1790–1830), the first grand-duke, under whom the new town was built.
See Walther, Darmstadt wie es war und wie es geworden (Darms. 1865); and Zernin und Wörner, Darmstadt und seine Umgebung (Zürich, 1890).