What do you do when you get thrown off your horse? You get right back on! And that’s what Sebastian and I did after we ran into some trouble at the *Cambrai-Fritsch-Kaserne*. Since Sebastian came up with the (almost) deserted US Army base it was my turn to select a place to explore – and I chose the Clubhotel Messel a.k.a. Clubhotel Sehr / Clubhotel Seher.
At the time of my visit the place was virtually unknown to the internet. It was obvious that plenty of vandals, arsonists and paintball players were there before me, but it was almost impossible to find any hard information about the place on the net – luckily that change earlier this year when the German urbex community, usually more interested in photos than the historical background of abandoned places, took care of that situation.
It seems like the Clubhotel Messel (named after the municipality of Messel near Darmstadt, usually known for the UNESCO World Heritage site Messel Pit where all kinds of fossils were found) was not only a single hotel, but a conglomerate of businesses, all part of the frivolous nightlife industry. The nightclub “Broadway-Bar” and the hotel “Je t’aime” were right next to the “Swimming Pool / Sauna Club d’Amour” and the “Nightclub d’Amour” – basically one big brothel complex, one of the biggest in the Rhine-Main area. Since all establishments were owned by a guy named Wolfgang Sehr the place was also called Clubhotel Sehr or, misspelled, Clubhotel Seher. The special attraction of the Clubhotel was a mini zoo including a pair of cheetahs – the cages are still in the forest! I’m not exactly sure when the place opened, but I guess it grew kind of organically and was in full bloom in the late 70s and throughout the 80s. In January of 1988 it was mentioned by leading news magazine Der Spiegel in an article about a scandal regarding nuclear waste. A company called Transnuklear Hanau (a subsidiary of Nukem – I’m not joking!) illegally imported 1942 barrels of nuclear waste from Belgium and of course there were bribery and other manipulations / irregularities involved – one of them was a bill to the amount of 14010 Mark (roughly 7000 Euros) after some managers of the nuclear industry had a fun night at the Clubhotel. (The article mentioned a nightclub called “Mon Bijou” and a fine dining restaurant named “La Chandelle“ – probably both part of the Clubhotel complex.
The Spiegel report was the beginning of the end of the Clubhotel, although the details are vague since everything happened before the age of the internet. It seems like the German State wasn’t very fond of the local sex businesses and started to shut them down one after another – either in the late 80s or early 90s. Some of the brothel owners went to jail for procurement and promotion of prostitution; and according to an article by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) in late 1994 Sehr was convicted of those crimes…
When the brothel complex was abandoned but still in good condition the Zeitung für Darmstadt (Newspaper for Darmstadt) reported in 1993 that the State of Hesse had plans to reconvert the place into a *deportation prison* for 250 illegal aliens. These considerations were terminated abruptly when parts of the club hotel complex burned down to the ground on January 25th of 1994 as the Zeitung für Darmstadt reported in early 1994. It seems like the then owner, most likely still Sehr, tried to commit insurance fraud to make up for the millions he lost when the place was shut down. (The guy definitely went to jail – I’m just not sure if it was for one or both of the alleged crimes.)
Later in the 90s the Clubhotel made the news when paintball players occupied the premises and actually started to do minor construction work. The rural district Darmstadt-Dieburg intervened and a court of law decided that the “Magic Boys Rhein Main” needed to find another location for their colorful war games… (The small building next to the big outdoor pool was their safe house and Gotcha related graffiti are still all over the place.)
For more than a decade all kinds of people came to the Clubhotel for all kinds of reasons. Some people played paintball, others airsoft. Some homeless people looked for shelter in one of the smaller buildings that weren’t affected by arson and of course photographers came to… well, do what photographers do. It seems like for a while artists lived on the premises and in summer of 2011 Sebastian and I had a quick look. Only to find a rather uninteresting burned out hotel and some vandalized smaller buildings. In the early 80s the Clubhotel must have been quite a sight – nowadays it’s just another unspectacular rotting place in the woods. Luckily it has a story worth telling. But maybe this patch of land in the middle of nowhere will find new beauty and glory soon. On March 26th of 2012 a public auction of the property by court order took place and on May 13th Echo-Online reported that the (new?) owner of the site is looking at plans to build a new hotel – probably for the whole family this time, not only for dads…