From hostile pirates’ hideout to friendly health spa

The development of Hörnum was a long time coming. To begin with, the southern tip of the island of Sylt was just a haunt for wreckers and pirates, until it became a springboard for herring fishing in the 15th century.

 
View from the lighthouse 1936
View from the lighthouse 1936
Hörnum from the air  
Hörnum from the air
Newly built houses by the lighthouse. 1938/1939 
Newly built houses by the lighthouse. 1938/1939
East Beach 1952  
East Beach 1952
 

REFUGE FOR FISHERMEN AND SHIPWRECKS 

A few more centuries elapsed before the first fishermen settled here, building modest huts with roofs of driftwood and dune grass. In the mid-18th century the Governor of Sylt had a refuge built in the Hörnum dunes for fishermen and shipwrecked sailors. Shipwrecks were a regular occurrence in those days, with cargos frequently lost overboard or plundered under cover of darkness, providing a welcome extra income for the inhabitants of the barren island.


DESOLATE AND DESERTED 

The island suddenly acquired importance with the onset of whaling in the polar sea. In 1780 more than a hundred ships were skippered by captains from Sylt, out of an island population of only 1,800 souls. Though things looked up for the island from the end of the 19th century with the budding tourist trade, Hörnum remained by and large an orphaned enclave.


PROGRESS ARRIVES WITH THE COBRA 

The turning point came in 1901, when a shipping line was established from Hamburg to Hörnum via Helgoland and a 153 metre long landing stage was built at Hörnum for passenger ferries to dock. The island railway collected passengers here and carried them north to the other villages on Sylt – for at that time there were no houses in Hörnum. The station was erected in 1903, the lighthouse in 1907 – it was not until 1924 that the first private home was built.

Mejer’s historical map of Sylt 
Mejer’s historical map of Sylt

 THE PIRATES´ HAUNT 

The development of H ö rnum was a long time coming. To begin with, the southern tip of the island of Sylt was just a haunt for wreckers and pirates, until it became a springboard for herring fishing in the 15th century.