HISTORICAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE WALLPAPER FACTORY
On this page you will find further information about the wallpaper factory from the Denkmal- und Geschichtsverein Bonn-Rechtsrheinisch e.V. (Monument and History Society Bonn-Rhine).
The wallpaper factory
The second half of the 19th century saw the breakthrough for Bonn as a commercial city, especially for the area on the right bank of the Rhine, which is also the location of the "Rheinische Tapetenfabrik" (Rhenish Wallpaper Factory) in Beuel, founded in 1893 at the time of high industrialisation.
Bonn Beuel as an industrial location and the history of wallpaper
The second half of the 19th century saw the breakthrough for Bonn as a commercial city, especially for the area on the right bank of the Rhine, which is also the location of the Rheinische Tapetenfabrik in Beuel, founded in 1893 at the time of high industrialisation. During this time, Beuel was one of the most important industrial locations in the entire Rhineland. This also changed the employment structure in the predominant trades, away from traditional crafts and towards factory work. The factory worker rate was significantly higher in Beuel than in the rest of Bonn. This becomes clear with the history of wallpaper manufacture, which became one of the most important trades in Bonn thanks to the Elector Clemens August.
Clemens August had the first wallpaper factory built in Bonn in 1746. Since then, a tradition of craftsmanship developed that was to flourish again in the age of industrialisation. With the technological change based on a number of inventions such as continuous paper, wood printing and aniline dyes, wallpaper production developed from a labour- and time-intensive craft to steam machine-driven machine printing. Production numbers increased enormously and wallpaper became an affordable product for all sections of the population.
Company history 1893-1980
The founder of the wallpaper factory in Auguststraße was August Schleu in 1893. Before that, he owned a wallpaper shop in the city centre, on Münsterplatz, where he sold wallpaper at disproportionately low prices. Due to his pricing policy, he was no longer supplied by the wallpaper manufacturers, as they wanted to protect their competitors. Due to the positive overall economic situation of the German Reich and the increasing demand, Schleu decided to produce wallpapers himself. He decided on the Beuel location, which seemed suitable to him due to its existing infrastructure with a railway connection and the large factory premises that could still be expanded. It was the former building of the "Stereos-Teppichfabrik R. Bovermann". After two years, it was given the name "Rheinische Tapetenfabrik Tilger & Co." because Emil Tilger became a partner.
Due to the good order situation in the following years, the company was able to expand. New buildings were constructed for steam boiler systems, steam engines and the power supply. Furthermore, new glue printing halls were built for the large printing presses, rolling halls in which the wallpapers were made up, warehouses and a locksmith's shop. The administration also moved to a larger building in 1901.
In 1904, a paper factory was acquired. Two years later, the company merged with the "Mannheimer Tapetenfabrik Engelhard". Since then, the company has advertised under the name "Rheinische Tapeten- und Papierfabriken Engelhard & Schleu KG". At that time, the company was the largest in this industry in the whole of Germany. At that time, 350 workers and employees produced an average of 120,000 rolls of wallpaper a day. Exports were extensive, which is why additional warehouses were established in Berlin and Paris.
But the Rheinische Tapetenfabrik, once one of the most traditional companies in Beuel, also experienced times of crisis. As the company grew, problems arose, such as overproduction and declining profitability. During the crisis of 1906-1911, the factory was taken over by the "Tapeten-Industrie-Aktiengesellschaft" (TIAG) in 1908. Furthermore, part of the production premises were leased out. However, these measures did not solve the existing sales problems. Finally, TIAG was dissolved in 1910 and in 1911 the "Rheinische Tapetenfabrik" became independent again. After the First World War, the company continued to operate successfully.
The following 1930s were not under a good star. Due to National Socialist legislation, the company became a general partnership under the management of Johannes Schleu and Erich Hoffmann. During the Second World War, the company had to cease operations. Two of Johannes Schleu's sons were killed in the war and about 40 percent of the buildings of the "Rheinische Tapetenfabrik" were destroyed in air raids. Towards the end of the war, a few employees returned home. However, steam engine-driven production could not be started due to the lack of coal. In addition, the production permit from the British failed to materialise. Traditional hand printing was reactivated and valuable hand printed wallpaper could be exchanged for potatoes to ensure food for the employees.
From 1949/50 to the end of the 1950s, in the years of reconstruction and the economic miracle, demand rose rapidly again. Thus, the company had a total of 205 employees in 1959. However, when, towards the end of 1973, housing construction slowed down considerably and new substitutes such as woodchip, panels and tiles replaced wallpaper, the fate of the wallpaper factory was sealed. In 1979, the company had to file for composition proceedings. After the bankruptcy was initially denied by the management, it was finally followed by the application for employee layoffs at the labour office and finally the filing for bankruptcy in December 1980.
Use after 1984
In 1984, the Beuel building contractor Werner Quadt bought the wallpaper factory at auction. He decided to buy it because he wanted to prevent a weakening of Beuel's trade and a buyer who was not from Beuel. He had many plans for the Gründerzeit building: "I want to bring life back into the halls," he told the General-Anzeiger at the time. His ideas included renting or selling part of the building to young entrepreneurs and using another area as a large parking deck. The wallpaper factory was also to be continued on a small scale. Student flats were considered for the top floor.
These plans took shape in the following years. The Gründerzeit façade was repainted and the numerous halls and rooms of the disused factory were converted into a commercial centre, the "Q-Center". In 1988, a total of 90 percent of the 16,000 square metres of floor space had already been let, although completion did not take place until the following year. These included an antique wholesale market, artists' studios and a family education centre, which offered its courses in various rooms. In 1989, the largest tenant, the sports factory, moved into the oldest part of the wallpaper factory on 2700 square metres, which was under the management of the national volleyball player Dieter Markus.
An old hall had to be demolished to create enough space for parking in the backyard. The façade in this area was renovated and adapted to the Wilhelminian style of the front of the factory. The owner of the wallpaper factory provides a room that can be rented for events, auctions or exhibitions. The Bonn Opera had seen a new venue in the wallpaper factory in 1992.
Today, the wallpaper factory offers numerous courses, businesses and cultural activities. The diverse choices range from photography, yoga, violin making, restoration, martial arts, graphics and design to ballet school. In addition, annual photo exhibitions or exhibitions of artists' initiatives take place. On the "factory days", the open days - everyone has the opportunity to look behind the scenes of the old industrial monument of the wallpaper factory.
In the private wallpaper museum, which is located in the former roller cellar of the factory, you can still admire the treasures of past decades. The centrepiece is a "16-colour glue printing machine" from the last century. The artists based at the wallpaper factory are provided with materials from the old wallpaper production stocks for their work.
Despite its proximity to the Königswinterer Straße (L 193) and its good connection to the transport network, the factory cannot be recognised at first glance. It is somewhat hidden, which can be explained by its elevated and set-back location. The entire site of the wallpaper factory and its surroundings appear quiet and rather secluded, despite the presence of some residential buildings. On the one hand, this can be explained by the location of the extensive site and by the fact that the majority of the area is used for commercial purposes. This impression is reinforced by the dominant atmosphere of the old industrial architecture, which is mainly expressed by the listed facades of the buildings. This refers especially to the factory buildings, which were built in the typical Wilhelminian style, using bricks.
Two other architectural styles can be identified: The subsequently added gatehouse, with its stucco ornamentation, represents more of a picturesque style, a type that was more common in country houses and villas of the time. The administration building, which was built in the 1950s, is in the Bauhaus style. The area with its backyard has to be explored first, it cannot be grasped directly at a glance.
The property "Ehemalige Rheinische Tapetenfabrik" (former Rhenish wallpaper factory) in Auguststraße is a registered monument (Bonn monument list, as of 1 August 2006, No. A 3717).
(Caroline Alt, Department of Geography, University of Bonn, 2013)