Have you noticed that many of Vienna’s 19th century buildings do not start with the first floor? The ground floor is usually the “Erdgeschoss”, but what should be the first floor, and sometimes also the second floor, have different names: “Mezzanin”, “Untertheilung”, “Hochparterre”, “Halbstock”, and perhaps other names. We don’t know the reason why all these names, but there are two stories. One says that these names were intentionally used for those floors that did not meet the legal requirements. You see, the height of buildings was regulated (in 1883: max 25 meters and no more than five floors, including the ground floor) and the height of the floors inside them as well. Therefore, if one could build a floor just under the legal requirements, then it was not considered a floor but something else.
As a result, one could build a higher building than what was legally allowed. The other story says that there was a tax imposed on the number of floors that a building had. Therefore, other names were used to describe the floors in order to avoid these taxes.
We can’t neither confirm nor deny these stories, but they don’t really make that much sense because the authorities considered these floors with other names as floors anyway. What we know is that the first floor is not always the first floor. Not even the second floor is always the second floor. And if you are on your way up to the 3rd floor in one of these buildings and without an elevator… you may be in trouble! Let us know if you have seen other names! (Cr)