Market hall – butchers’ – office – university – Jewish school – military quarters – dwelling house – tobacco manufactory – and now, a museum devoted to the history of the town and of timber-framed architecture. No other house in Eppingen has been used in so many different ways over a period of more than five hundred years. Reason enough to find out more about it.
According to the most recent research, this impressive timber-frame building, now known as the “Old University” and featuring a Gothic pillared hall on the ground floor, was originally built around 1495.
It was originally conceived as a late medieval merchant’s house by one Hans von Gemmingen, dubbed “rich Hans” because of his wealth. However, immediately after it was finished, he sold it to the town authorities.
In 1564, the city of Heidelberg was suffering yet another outbreak of the plague, and Heidelberg University had moved its activities to various towns in the region – including Eppingen. But the very next year, this rural interlude came to an end with a farewell banquet, and the students headed back to Heidelberg.
During the “Nine Years’ War” (sometimes called the War of the Palatine Succession), the building was occasionally used to accommodate troops. Eppingen was subsequently stricken by famine and pestilences, and its fortunes declined. In the mid-18th century, the town accordingly sold the building to a schoolmaster called Johann Georg Rieger. He remodelled it in the baroque style and turned it into a residence – as the entrance still demonstrates today.
In the 19th century, and for a period of almost fifty years, the building housed a Jewish primary school, including an appartment for the teacher. The Jewish community had acquired half the building, which subsequently became known locally as the “Judenschule” – the Jewish school. In 1873, it was again sold, and housed a cigar factory for a while.
Since the 1950s, there has been what’s known as a “Heimatstube” on the ground floor. This room devoted to local history formed the nucleus of the present museum, which occupies all six floors.
In the stairwell, you’ll find a selection of different views of the house, documenting its appearance in the 19th and 20th centuries.
By the mid-1970s, the structure was at serious risk of collapse, at which point the town repurchased it piece by piece from the owners – of which there were four by that time. The building was then thoroughly renovated. What a shame “rich Hans” is no longer around to see the result. No doubt he’d be proud of his house – and of the Eppingen townsfolk.
All depictions: © Stadt- und Fachwerkmuseum Eppingen