The Kehlsteinhaus is situated on a ridge atop the Kehlstein, a 1,834 m (6,017 ft) subpeak of the Hoher Göll rising above the town of Berchtesgaden. It was commissioned by Martin Bormann in the summer of 1937. Paid for by the Nazi Party, it was completed in 13 months and Hitler would make his first visit on September 16th, 1938, but held until a formal presentation to him on April 20, 1939--a gift for his fiftieth birthday. A 4 m (13 ft) wide approach road climbs 800 m (2,600 ft) over 6.5 km (4.0 mi). Costing RM 30 million to build (about 150 million inflation-adjusted euros in 2007), it includes five tunnels but only one hairpin turn.
From a large car park a 124 m (407 ft) entry tunnel leads to an ornate elevator which ascends the final 124 m (407 ft) to the building. Its car is surfaced with polished brass, Venetian mirrors and green leather. Construction of the entire project cost the lives of 12 workers. The building's main reception room is dominated by a fireplace of red Italian marble presented by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, which was damaged by Allied soldiers chipping off pieces to take home as souvenirs. Much of the furniture was designed by Paul László. The building had a completely electric appliance kitchen, which was unusual in 1937, but was never used to cook meals; instead meals were prepared in town and taken to the kitchen on the mountain top to be reheated. The building also maintains heated floors, with heating required for at least two days prior in order for the temperature to be comfortable enough for visitors.
There are two ways to approach and enter the building, one is the road and the other is the Kehlsteinhaus elevator. Hitler did not trust the elevator, continually expressed his reservations of its safety and disliked using it, his biggest fear being the elevator's winch mechanism on the roof attracting a lightning strike. (Bormann took great pains to never mention the two serious lightning strikes that occurred during construction.)
Kehlsteinhaus lies several miles directly above the Berghof. In a rare diplomatic engagement, Hitler received departing French ambassador André François-Poncet on October 18, 1938 here. Also a wedding reception for Eva Braun's sister Gretl was held there following her June 3, 1944 marriage to Hermann Fegelein. While Hitler more often than not left the entertaining duties to others, he believed the house presented an excellent opportunity to entertain important and impressionable guests.
Referred to as the "D-Haus", short for "Diplomatic Reception Haus", the Kehlsteinhaus is often conflated with the Mooslahnerkopf tea house at the Berghof, which Hitler visited daily after lunch. That teahouse no longer exists, as it was demolished by the Bavarian government after the war.
The Kehlsteinhaus was to be the aiming point of an April 25, 1945 Royal Air Force bombing raid conducted by No. 1, No. 5, and No. 8 Group and No. 617 Squadron. The small house proved an elusive target for the force of 359 Avro Lancasters and 16 de Havilland Mosquitoes, with the Berghof area bombed and severely damaged instead.
It is uncertain which Allied military unit was the first to reach the Kehlsteinhaus. The matter is compounded by popular confusion of it and the town of Berchtesgaden taken on May 4 by forward elements of the 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division of XV Corps of the U.S. Seventh Army of the Sixth Army Group.
Reputedly members of the 7th went as far as the elevator to the Kehlsteinhaus, with at least one individual claiming he and a partner continued on to the top. In both the Library of Congress interview as well as more recent interviews, Finnell of the 3rd Infantry Division states that his regiment entered Berghof, not Kehlsteinhaus.
However, the 101st Airborne maintains it was first both to Berchtesgaden and the Kehlsteinhaus. Also, elements of the French 2nd Armored Division, Laurent Touyeras, Georges Buis and Paul Répiton-Préneuf, were present on the night of May 4 to 5, and took several photographs before leaving on May 10 at the request of US command. and so says the numerous testimonies the Spanish soldiers who went along with them.
Undamaged in the April 25 bombing raid, the Kehlsteinhaus was subsequently used by the Allies as a military command post until 1960, when it was handed back to the State of Bavaria.
Today the building is owned by a charitable trust, and serves as a restaurant offering indoor dining and an outdoor beer garden. It is a popular tourist attraction to those who are attracted by the historical significance of the "Eagle's Nest". The road has been closed to private vehicles since 1952 because it is too dangerous, but the house can be reached on foot (in two hours) from Obersalzberg, or by bus from the Documentation Center there. The Kehlsteinhaus itself does not mention much about its past.
Informal tours of the Kehlsteinhaus are available to be booked through the official website. Due to concern about neo-Nazis and post-war Nazi sympathisers no external guides are permitted to conduct tours.
The lower rooms are not part of the restaurant but can be visited with a guide. They offer views of the building's past through plate-glass windows. Graffiti left by Allied troops is still clearly visible in the surrounding woodwork. A large fireplace in the restaurant itself shows severe damage along its lower edges where soldiers have smashed off small shards of marble as souvenirs. Hitler's small study is now a store room for the cafeteria.
A trail leads above the Kehlsteinhaus towards the Mannlgrat ridge reaching from the Kehlstein to the summit of the Hoher Göll. The route, which is served by a Klettersteig, is regarded as the easiest to the top.