Engels House

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Engels House

A landmark for a pioneer

Friedrich Engels, one of the fathers of Marxism, became familiar with the entrepreneurial side of early capitalism during his childhood. His family owned a textile manufacture in Barmen in North Rhine-Westphalia, now a district of Wuppertal. Today you can appreciate the bourgeois, late-baroque-style of the Engels family’s half-timbered house in its new role as a museum. Thanks to an extensive renovation, that followed the guidelines for preservation of a historical landmark, you can experience the beginnings of a revolutionary development.

Supporting role: construction made of wood and earthen clay

Standing in front of the Engels House, it is difficult to make the connection to the labour movement. The two-storey residential building with mansard roof shines with its black slate facade, white window frames and green shutters in stately splendour. Inside you are welcomed by wooden parquet floors, stuccoed walls and ceilings as well as antique wallpapers.

Celebrating the occasion of Friedrich Engels’ 200th birthday, the former residence was extensively renovated following the highest historical preservation standards. Before construction work began, the decision was made to restore the house to its state at the turn of the 19th century. Extensive historical research was also carried out beforehand, which served as the basis for planning a renovation which would fulfil all requirements for the preservation of such a landmark.

Markus Truskawa from the Landmark Protection Authority of the City of Wuppertal explains the procedure: “The findings of the well-founded research have led, for example, to the use of historical materials. In particular, the use of modern earthen building materials and linseed oil paints lead to a great room climate that is not only extremely sustainable but which visitors will certainly feel and experience.”

Forgotten jewel: Valuable wallpaper on the walls

In addition to restoration of the load-bearing structure with clay plaster and reed mats, the roof and façades were re-shingled, and windows and shutters were restored. Inside, historical wooden components such as door panels and frames, baseboards and the stairs were given new shine.

The individual parquet sections were numbered, removed, refinished and put back piece by piece. A special surprise awaits you in the music room. Unexpectedly, during restoration, antique wallpaper was found there. It has been uncovered and protected with a transparent coating so that it can now be admired.

Origin story: the workers’ situation

The young Friedrich Engels saw the precarious situation the workers at his parents’ factory found themselves in. On a trip to Manchester to visit his father’s cotton mill, he met Karl Marx in Cologne. It was in Manchester that Engels first came into contact with the young labour movement, with which he immediately sympathised.

At the Museum of Industrial Culture housed in the Engels House, history is experienced as if in a time-lapse – from the bourgeoisie rooms to the Marxist worldview.

Photos ©Stefanie vom Stein, Media Centre, City of Wuppertal

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Clay Highlight:

Protected landmark preservation begins with building materials from Claytec

Under the exterior slate façade, as well as inside under the stucco and the antique wallpaper, there is a half-timbered framework in the Engels House that was originally filled with clay earth and plastered over. In the course of its more than 200-year history, the building has undergone major changes. In some places, clay was replaced with pumice.

In keeping with landmark preservation standards, Hebgen architects resorted to earthen clay again. New walls were built using ecological drywall with straw drywall boards and clay plaster. In some cases, wall heating was also integrated.

The clay plaster SanReMo from Claytec is ideal for renovations because it adheres to a wide variety of substrates. Priming with “Primer RED” also supports adhesion on surfaces that offer little grip or are non-absorbent. The roof pitch, insulated with wood fibre boards, were covered with a layer of reed matting before plastering.

Clay topcoat fine finishing plaster from Claytec, applied in a single-layer, gives the walls a fine finish. To ensure that it stays that way for a long time, Claytec Hessian mesh was used for reinforcement.

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