It is hard to believe that the colourful, hundred-year-old history of the Eden was written by a total of just five owners. Built in 1911 by the architect Rudolf Erdös in the style of late Vienna Secessionism, in the beginning the house was home to an officer’s casino. During the times of the monarchy it was a common career step in the life of an officer from the crown lands to stop off in the imperial capital for some time. The barracks only offered few amenities and were not befitting to the pre-eminently aristocratic officers. Therefore officers often went to the casinos wearing their uniforms while their guests as well as the waiters were wearing evening attire. The area of the military casinos, among many other things, ended with the advent of the First World War. Only decades later soldiers should return to the building in the Liliengasse 2, but they did not come for pleasure.
In 1916, the City-Bar is first mentioned as a business and only few years later the opera singer Emmy Stein would buy it and name it Eden Bar. Emma Anna Steiniger was a permanent member of the Theater an der Wien and later at the Burgtheater as well. The Eden soon became the venue of the refined society, featuring live music, private balls and champagne, again and again. The splendor of the bar reached its first peak in the roaring twenties.
This image sustained the bar for the following years, first during the corporative state, then at the beginnings of World War Two. In 1941, the German Reich seized the Eden. Later the house is passed over to the estate of the Holy See. After the war, Emmy Stein fights to get back her bar. When she finally does get it back however, she has to face the fact that she became too old for the day-to-day business. Eventually the time had come to hand over the Eden. One of the interested was the Austrian cabaret artist and Eden patron Gerhard Bronner, but in the end Emmy Stein decided to pass her legacy on to Gabor Kenézy.
Kenézy came from a long line of Hungarians that were disowned in 1945. He somehow was able to obtain a small fortune quickly afterwards however and gained experience in a different bar before acquiring the Eden. Under his management, the Eden reached its second flowering. The singer Liane Augustin and her trio were the core attraction of the new Eden. Later, the then unknown pianist Joe Zawinul was added to the mix.
In Kenézy’s era, the Eden bar became international and Heinz Werner Schimanko was later able to virtuously play this keyboard of celebrities. Movie stars, writers, and musicians such as Billy Wilder, Ella Fitzgerald, Orson Wells, and Mischa Elman immortalised themselves in the guest book in the 1950s.
Romy Schneider was here, accompanied by Alain Delon. Later, Jack Lemmon, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Liz Taylor, Anita Ekberg, the Shah of Persia, José Carreras and star photographer Helmut Newton, just to name a few, all paid a visit.
Heinz Werner Schimanko stepped into the Eden for the first time when he was just 19. His rattly old Volkswagen was parked around the corner so he wouldn’t be recognized for what he was, a poor soldier of the Austrian Armed Forces. He scraped together all he had to order a bottle of wine for him and his friends. Back then he took an oath: “One day, this bar will be mine! A bar in which being a guest is a privilege!”
A little over a decade later he would deliver on his promise and officially took over the Eden in 1978. Back then, Heinz Werner Schimanko was already a well-known figure in Vienna’s nightlife. He had been successfully running the local Moulin Rouge for a couple of years, a dazzling mix of bar and cabaret in which dancers were seen with leopards on leashes.
His gigantic build … the impressive moustache … the white dinner jacket … the shaved head … once you had met Schimanko, you would never forget him again. He irreversibly made the Eden an international brand and turned it into Vienna’s trendiest bar, long before Vienna had trends.
Today, the Eden is owned and managed in second Schimanko-generation by Michaela Schimanko and Heinz Rüdiger Schimanko.