Station: [17] Hofstetter House - Retirement Flat

You’re probably wondering how and why Michael, the old shoemaker, managed to live in the “granny flat” in this house until he died, even though its ownership changed.

In the past, every farmhouse had what was called an “Austragstube” – an accessory dwelling. This amounted to a form of retirement provision. In those days, there were no state pensions; it was the farm, including the land, which secured people’s livelihood until they died.

Once an owner grew old, he retired. He bequeathed the farm to his children, or even sold it on – but not without making arrangements for his retirement. For instance, as you heard in the story of Michael the shoemaker, the departing owner was granted a right of residence for the rest of his life. This “jointure” was precisely detailed in any purchase or inheritance agreement, or deed of transfer, and attested by a notary. 

So the former owner moved into a specially provided accessory dwelling – like the one we’ve reconstructed here as an example. These often had a separate entrance. Having different generations living together in this way wasn’t always easy, especially if the new owners weren’t from the same family. One farm in Probfeld, for example, had a separate entrance on the opposite side of the house from the yard, because the residents didn’t want to meet.

In addition to their right of residence in a room with heating, the retirees also had the right to a supply of food – grain, potatoes, milk, lard, eggs and meat, plus consumer goods such as salt, and paraffin for lamps. The shared use of the well and the kitchen garden was also guaranteed …

… and the use of – okay, come on outside and see for yourself!