Essay by Carl J. Bachem on the occasion of the Open Monument Day

The nationwide motto of this year's Open Monument Day is "Talent Monument". Under this guiding principle, our association has also presented its Vilicher monument to the visitors, and Carl J. Bachem has written a corresponding essay on it: "What makes the Mayor Stroof House a monument?" Here is the text:

">Talent Monument < What makes the Mayor Stroof House a monument?
Monuments are witnesses of a mostly long life. They store knowledge that makes us people of today curious. Specifically, they provide information about what previous generations created - in terms of uniqueness or even just everydayness. They give us an insight into circumstances that we can hardly or only with difficulty comprehend today. They were part of the lives of our ancestors - and allow us to feel today how the people of those times lived. Not every historical building is a monument. What is essential is its certain peculiarity, often enough even its uniqueness. Important is its pattern of typical appearance, its characteristic appearance. Important is its very own life story, its specific, perhaps outstanding function. Important are its characterising features, above all its architecture: the way and the quality it conveys under craft, technical and also under artistic aspects. In all this, what constitutes its individuality, what its authenticity? What is the "certain something" of a building that appeals to us today? What are its specific characteristics that make it valuable to us? What are the characteristics with which it convinces us that it should be safeguarded for the future?the monument as an anchor of identity in times of increasing Cancel Culture! - It is its convincing characteristics, its "talents" as it were, that make a building a "monument" for us!Brief outline of the historyThe Mayor Stroof House is around 300 years old. It stands on the ruins of a previous building, the remains of which are still preserved in the cellar (stair block) and in the quasi-historical annex (Bergisches Zimmer / Brunnenkammer), probably also in the fire wall of the stone kitchen. Here, at the entrance to the village, there could have been a fortified residential tower in the early Middle Ages. There is some evidence that the neighbouring lowland castle later operated its (flood-protected) well house here on the slope - until the destruction of Vilich in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1716, the Freiadelige Damenstift zu Vilich acquired the castle (today "Burg Lede") and with it this ruined building site.

At the same time, the monastery exercised territorial rule over the northern part of the current city district of Beuel, from the Sieg to today's Siegburger Straße: the "Herrlichkeit Vilich". For its administration, it needed offices and living quarters for the staff. Thus, around 1720/ 30, the stately residential and official house of the head of the administration was built on this site. He officiated here until 1785 and also lived here together with his family.

Afterwards, the newly married Leonhard Stroof moved in, the former teacher at the monastery school, now a promising junior employee in the monastery administration. In 1803 at the latest, when the abbey was dissolved (secularisation), he probably acquired the estate, which also included various farm buildings. When the civil municipality of Vilich (the core of the later city of Beuel) was founded in 1808 and Stroof was appointed its first mayor, the former monastery property mutated into the first administrative building of today's city district of Beuel; in a sense, it became the first Beuel "town hall".

This is where Stroof lived with his family. He also carried out his official duties here. When he later moved to the Eschenhof in Schillerstraße, his son ran a small farm here, which passed into the hands of his descendants in 1938 - who in turn wanted to replace the house with a "modern" new building (like the one to the south) in the 1970s. However, this was prevented by the Denkmal- und Geschichtsverein (Monument and History Society), which succeeded in saving the building in 1980/85.

"House of History in Bonn on the right bank of the Rhine"

What are the >talents< of the Mayor Stroof House, that are in the focus of today?

In terms of its structure, the building is a typical baroque half-timbered house of our region with a hollow tile roof and a crippled hipped roof. And yet it is different. The owner, the noble ladies' convent, wanted to present himself in a "distinguished" manner, i.e. to stand out from the rural and peasant life. The building was furnished accordingly. On the outside, it had to look like an urban stone house, plastered, with projecting portal accentuation (central risalit) and with large windows framed in natural stone. Inside, all the half-timbering, including the ceiling beams, is plastered.

In the process, a room on the upper floor, the former Ladies' Room (today the "Small Salon"), received an additional stucco: floral plaster decoration (as, by the way, can also be found in the - equally old! - Beethovenhaus in Bonn), a so-called Cologne ceiling. Inside, the entire house was painted, not figuratively but with stencils - unique for the Rhineland! Today, remnants of this can be found in almost all rooms; in the "Bergisches Zimmer" (ground floor) they were the model for a reconstruction in 2019. Furthermore, the house was equipped with oak wall panelling from the beginning, large parts of which, painted white, can still be seen in the "Amtsstube".

The hearth wall and the stone floor in the kitchen have been preserved quite authentically from the early days, even if they have been patched up many times during their 300-year existence: the wall is made of a wide variety of stone chunks from the Finkenberg (Limperich) to Wolfsdorfer Krotzen (Siegburg), the floor of andesite from the Siebengebirge. The smoke trap wall in the upstairs staircase is also authentic. And in the cellar, the aforementioned staircase from prehistoric times can still be seen; its function was replaced in 1720/30 by today's outside access.

Many of the original doors with their hand-forged fittings are still there, as are the remains of the original plank floors.

Most impressive, however, is the staircase made of rough planks, a staircase box leading up to the attic: not "beautiful", but a true testimony to former living conditions. A look up through the hatch shows the hollow pans, set in straw docks ("straw dolls") to keep out street dust and snow. This is where laundry was dried in winter: the copper linen hooks are still there. The many-limbed timberwork is a typical example of so-called recumbent roof trusses. A half-timbered partition wall, clearly recognisable as a former southern gable wall, proves that the addition of a storey above the "Bergisches Zimmer" (painting!) must have taken place in a later building phase, presumably around 1785 during the transition to Stroof.

This spatial extension created what is now known as the Great Salon (library), which must have been the family's "parlour" in Stroof's time, which must have previously been on the ground floor (now the exhibition and lecture room) - until it became the council's consultation room there. (This room is the only one not "historically" furnished today).

Only much later, probably around 1880/90, did two fixtures come into the house that catch the eye as soon as you enter: the tiled floor by V&B in the entrance hallway and the wooden staircase in the kitchen, the museum foyer, which with its corner post is typical of the Gründerzeit. They are both probably attributable to Stroof's grandchildren - who were already living in a changed world. By their time, not much of the original furnishings may have survived.

When the Monument and History Society took the house under its wing in 2009, there was not a single historical object left. So it had to acquire all the inventory. In doing so, it was committed to Rhenish-Bergisch-Eifel provenance and carried by the thought: How might the people of the 18th and 19th centuries have lived in this house? - Mayor Stroof's original glasses, a pince-nez, and his secretary's desk have been preserved - as have his death notes from 1825.

Carl J. Bachem - 10 September 2023″.