The 19th and 20th Centuries

The Swedish period ended for both cities at the beginning of the 19th century, with Wismar initially returning to the duchy of Mecklenburg for 100 years as a security of the Swedish crown. The German Wars of Liberation, the Continental Blockade and especially the ambiguous position of Wismar with regard to constitutional law as a result of the deed of security initially negatively impacted the city’s development. It was not until 1820 that the town’s economic situation stabilised, a development that is architecturally manifested in the numerous classicist adaptations and modifications to facades. Of particular note is the construction of the town hall, which can be seen as a new form of self-expression by the citizens of Wismar.

After a brief period of occupation by France, Stralsund became part of Prussia according to the provisions of the Congress of Vienna in 1815. In economic terms this brought little improvement and in terms of architecture very few significant changes occurred during the first half of the 19th century. From around the mid-19th century, the history of both cities is characterized by the slow onset of industrial development and the associated population increase.

The cityscape of Wismar expanded geographically as a result of the construction of roads and railways, with a rail connection to Bad Kleinen and Schwerin established in 1848. The development of the port area and deepening of the shipping channel was initiated whilst the medieval harbour remained untouched. The Mecklenburg customs reform of 1863 opened up access to the hinterland. Renewed development of trade and handcrafts as well as the first industrial operations, especially the Podeus machine works – internationally known at the time –, collectively played a significant role in the further development of Wismar. The construction of the New Harbour in the late 19th and early 20th century further revitalised the now thriving waterway and spurred on further economic recovery.

The mid-19th century also saw economic development in Stralsund. In particular, the connection to the railway network in 1863, later extended by the ferry to the island of Rügen, allowed Stralsund to develop into an export harbour, primarily for grain. This development is reflected in the expansion and enlargement of the harbour. In 1872 a significant trans-regional operation was established with the opening of the United Stralsund Playing Card Factory (Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkarten-Fabrik). The military also retained great importance for the city and Stralsund became the first harbour of the Prussian navy. After the turn of the century the city extended beyond its historic borders; suburbs had begun to grow beyond the town borders even before the fortifications were abandoned and the further development of these suburbs lead to a stronger emphasis on the ‘landward’ side of the city.

At the end of the 19th century, both cities became the launch pads from where individual businesses would move into the German and European markets, such as in the case of the Karstadt department store in Wismar and the Tietz and Wertheim department stores in Stralsund. Up to the beginning of the 20th century, the number of inhabitants of Stralsund had increased to 32,000 (from about 15,000 in 1815) and the population of Wismar had grown to 19,000 (from about 10,000 in 1830).

In 1903 after the contractually stipulated 100 years, the Kingdom of Sweden renounced its claims on the city of Wismar, and the city was finally returned to the Duchy of Mecklenburg. In addition to the existing trade school, in 1908 an Engineering Academy was established in Wismar (today's University of Applied Sciences). The 1920's brought increased construction activity as a consequence of the city’s growing population (35,000 in 1939), however the structural changes that became necessary at this time were mostly restricted to the suburbs and the historic city centre was therefore spared.

At the end of the Second World War, Stralsund and Wismar suffered air raids, however the historic urban fabric of the cities remained largely intact. From 1945 onwards, both towns were part of the Soviet-controlled zone, from which the GDR emerged in 1949. During the GDR era the economic development of Stralsund and Wismar was influenced by the establishment of various small industrial companies, and most significantly by the construction of shipyards and the cities ́ further expansion as seaharbours.