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From Holler’s foundry to the „Kunstwerk Carlshütte”

The Carlshütte Foundry established in 1827 by the merchant Marcus Hartwig Holler (1796 – 1858) was the first industrial operation in Schleswig and Holstein, and the first foundry in the State of Denmark to which the two duchies belonged at the time. By 1835, the Carlshütte Foundry was producing items including stoves, steam engines and agricultural machinery. A reminder of this time is the white bridge with the cast iron railings which still crosses the pond on the Blutbuche within today’s sculpture park. The bridge was cast in the Carlshütte in 1834. The Ahlmann family became increasingly involved starting in 1883, initially under the management of Johannes Ahlmann (1851 – 1939), who built up the workforce to a total of 1100 employees in 1909. The Carlshütte was the largest foundry in northern Germany at the time.

After the death of Julius Ahlmann in 1931, his widow Käte (1890 – 1963) took over as managing director. Käte Ahlmann expanded the business so that there were up to 2500 employees at times (1957) who enjoyed huge success with the production of stoves and enamelled cast iron bath tubs in particular. She founded the “Association of German Business Women” in 1954 (Verband deutscher Unternehmerinnen, VdU) where she acted as president for many years, and was also an executive board member of the European association “Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises Mondiales”. In this function, she met political celebrities of the time including Ludwig Erhard and Theodor Heuss. To celebrate her 70th birthday, she set up a foundation to support the Decorative Cast Iron Museum in Büdelsdorf in 1960.

Josef-Severin Ahlmann (1924 – 2006) launched his company Ahlmann & Co. in 1946 for the production of concrete construction elements and windows: on the left, the listed university church in Kiel, for which ACO produced the honeycomb-shaped window elements. The first drainage channels were produced in the 1960s. ACO’s activities extended beyond the borders of Germany for the first time in the 1970s with the innovative ACO DRAIN polymer concrete line drainage system. ACO today is one of the world market leaders in drainage technology.

The ACO Academy which opened in 2007 represents the modern face of the ACO Group. With a showroom and a wide-ranging programme of events for employees, clients and users, the ACO Academy stands for the technical and personal exchange of ideas and further education. ACO today is present in over 40 countries, and has production sites on four continents. The company employs 3,900 people world-wide. The Carlshütte Business Park was developed by ACO on the site of the former Carlshütte foundry, and boasts a total area of 60 hectares for industry, logistics, trade and commerce. The former foundry halls of the Carlshütte have now become the “Kunstwerk Carlshütte” – an art and culture centre which attracts around 50,000 visitors every year.

Kunstwerk Carlshütte

History at a glance

Marcus Hartwig Holler, a young entrepreneur from Rendsburg builds an iron foundry in 1827 named the „Carlshütte” after his mentor, the royal governor of Schleswig-Holstein, Carl von Hessen.
Johannes Ahlmann, son of Thomas Jørgen Ahlmann, who started selling the Carlshütte products on Holler’s behalf in Scandinavia in 1840, takes over commercial management of the Carlshütte Foundry in 1883.
Julius Ahlmann succeeds his father Johannes Ahlmann as the commercial director of the Carlshütte Foundry on 1 January 1919. He had married Käte Braun five years earlier. Julius Ahlmann passes away in September 1931.
Käte Ahlmann runs the business after the death of her husband and converts it into a family-run company. She still counts as one of the most important business women of the 20th century.
Josef-Severin Ahlmann, younger son of Käte Ahlmann, founded a concrete works in 1946 on a site next to the Carlshütte Foundry. Initially established as Ahlmann & Co., the name of the company was later changed to ACO Severin Ahlmann.
Hans-Julius Ahlmann, nephew of Josef-Severin, takes on more and more management responsibility for the company starting in the 1980s. He purchases the closed Carlshütte in 1997 and initiates the NordArt exhibition together with his artist friend Wolfgang Gramm.
Hans-Julius und Iver Ahlmann represent the present and future of ACO. Iver Ahlmann was appointed Managing Partner of ACO Severin Ahlmann GmbH & Co. KG in 2012.