House from Ransbach

“Fortified House”
Exhibition building

Built: 1504/05
Disassembled: 1979
Reconstructed: 1985

The two timber-famed upper floors of this fortified former storehouse with continuous posts at the corners and on the eaves sides rest on a ground floor plinth of solid quarried stone masonry. This masonry with its small red sandstone blocks and larger ashlar blocks rises from a perfectly square floor plan measuring 9.07 by 9.07 metres. The sturdy walls are about one metre thick. The entire wooden framework construction features timbers of impressive diameter, with the exception of the gable renewed in 1877, and is entirely unadorned. The entrance side of the lower floor has been orientated eastwards in the museum, but not the timber-framed superstructure, so that the latter is now rotated by 180 degrees against the orientation of the quarried stone base. The gable which was renewed in 1877 faced eastwards in the original location, but faces westwards now, and it has been fitted with weather-protective cladding, as has one of the eaves sides.

The so-called Festes Haus (fortified house) from the small village of Schwalm-Eder county is the oldest secular building in the Open Air Museum. It is a fortified storehouse or moat house, a building type rare not only in Hesse. It developed out of the medieval tower houses and residential towers.

At the time the Festes Haus was built, the Ransbach farmstead still belonged to Haina Abbey. The storehouse was ideally suited for protecting both the goods stored within and the villagers from seizure by enemy troops, as it was surrounded by an artificial moat. The defensive building also featured loopholes similar to those in fortress battlements. Haina Abbey was dissolved in 1527 in the course of the secularisation of church property under landgrave Philip I, the Magnanimous, of Hesse. Ransbach became a domain of the sovereign, which was leased out to independent farmers from 1544 onwards. The Festes Haus is said to have been used as the residence of the village swineherd from about 1775. Besides providing storage and residential space on the upper floors, it served as a herdsman’s cottage until 1858, and thereafter as the village smithy and as a small tavern, which was run by the family of Johann Heinrich Daum, and after 1888 by the family of Johann Heinrich Staufenberg. On the latter’s death in 1920, commercial use of the building ceased. A post office is supposed to have been located in the house for a certain time, but no specific dates are known.

In the last years of the Second World War, the building served as living quarters for conscripted labourers who had to assemble engines in nearby Ziegenhain. Katharina Staufenberg, the last tavern landlord’s daughter, continued to live in the building until 1969, in conditions which were extremely primitive by today’s standards. Thereafter, the former fortified storehouse stood abandoned for more than a decade, suffering increasing damage, until it was moved to the museum. Today, a memorial stone commemorates the building in its original location.

In the Open Air Museum, the impressive structure houses special exhibitions.

Location in the Hessenpark