History of ELA Basel

ELA Basel was established in 1993 and has been dedicated to the education and development of children for more than 20 years. Initially it was set up as a small childcare centre called ‘Tiny Tots’. This grew into the Early Learning Association and expanded to include the mandatory Kindergarten and Primary School age ranges in Basel. ELA Basel is housed in two locations (Gartenstrasse 93 and St Alban Vorstadt 58) in the centre of the city and they have both been renovated to create bespoke, fit-for-purpose environments.


Ulmenhof (or Elms Court) is the historical name of ELA Early Years and Lower Primary School (Kindergarten). It is located in the business centre of Basel, close to the main train station. In 1840 this area was part of the Botanical Gardens of Basel. Towards the end of the 19th century the botanical gardens were moved to a new site at Spalentor. In 1893, Gartenstrasse 93 was commissioned by Professor Jacob Wackernagel, a son of the German linguist Wilhelm Wackernagel. Professor Wackernagel was married to Marie Stehlin and they moved into “Ulmenhof” where they raised a family of six children before moving to Göttingen, Germany  in 1902. The name “Ulmenhof” was chosen because the garden was filled with Elm trees, or Ulmen. The prestigious mansion was designed by Edward Vischer-Sarasin and Edward Füter-Gelzer, Basel architects who were also responsible for the SBB (Swiss federal Railways).


In 1942 the house was bought by a company called Ruhr and Saar-Kohle, and an additional building was added at the rear end with garages and rooms for concerts. The Ulmenhof was used as their headquarters until the middle of the 1990’s. It was then owned for a short time by an investment company and a lawyer before it was bought by a trust. In 2003 it was declared a protected property and in July 2008 ELA Basel moved into Ulmenhof from two locations and once again the property and grounds became a place for children.



First day of School at Ulmenhof – August 2008


The house at St. Alban Vorstadt was built in 1855 after a plan from Melchior Berri, a well-known Swiss architect, who owned a construction business and a school of construction and drawing in Basel. Not only was he a Swiss master builder but also an honorary member of the Architectural Society of London.


Until the end of the 19th century the area belonged to the monastery of St. Alban and they used the site to press fruit and grapes. The land was eventually purchased by the Vischer-Staehelin family who sold it to the banker Merian-Forcart in 1807. In 1855 the house at the corner Malzgasse/St. Alban-Vorstadt was built for Eduard Merian-Bischoff and his family. The back building and the connection were added some decades later when the location was used for business purposes, first for trading silk and textiles, later for building materials. In 1998 it was bought by a private bank who sold it to a private owner in 2011. ELA Basel moved in with its Upper Primary School in 2013.