In August 2008, after visiting the childhood home of the Brothers Grimm, the Museum Steinau, and the Castle Museum, I was on my way out of Steinau on the bicycle route R3 when I came across this “Private Museum” at Brüder-Grimm-Straße 31.
This is the house where Manfred Zimmer was born in 1941, and where he lived his entire life. His family has owned this house since 1520, and his direct ancestors have lived here since the beginning of the 19th century. His grandmother ran a delicatessen in this house from 1921 to the middle of the 1960s.
When his parents died, Manfred Zimmer decided it would be worthwhile to preserve the house and its furnishings. When he started renovating the house he came upon numerous historical household and agricultural tools, which he spent many hours restoring.
Eventually he and his wife Hildegard turned the entire ground floor into a museum to display all these historical items, plus some others that have been given to them by neighbors. I asked if they ever went to flea markets, and they said they went to look sometimes, but they have never bought any items at a flea market or anywhere else.
Among the items on display are four cast-iron heating stoves, plus a container for transporting coal.
On the right is an old wood-burning kitchen stove. Some people in this region still do their cooking on this kind of stove.
Lots of households used to have pianos or other keyboard instruments, and the Zimmer household was no exception. Since there was no electricity when this piano was made, it had two candle holders for lighting.
Manfred Zimmer acquired this instrument (probably a harmonium) when a neighbor called him to say that it had been put out for collection as junk. So he went and rescued it, and spent many hours restoring it.
These old mechanical adding machines performed useful calculations for many decades, for instance in the grandmother’s delicatessen shop, before being replaced by pocket calculators. (For hundreds more such historical adding machines, have a look at my post on the Arithmeum in Bonn.)
Admission to the Private Museum in Steinau was free, when I visited in 2008, but they gladly accepted contributions.
Manfred Zimmer died in March 2017.
As of April 2021, the Private Museum (like nearly everything else) is listed as ‘temporarily closed’ because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Just two doors up the street, at Brüder-Grimm-Straße 27, is another remarkable project that is ‘temporarily closed’ because of the pandemic: the Literaturcafé Alte Apotheke (Literature Café Old Pharmacy), in a half-timbered building from the year 1680 which really did serve as a pharmacy for well over three centuries, until 2010.
The building was acquired in 2013 by Kirsten Ranft and her husband Hans-Ulrich Werchner-Ranft “with the aim of renovating it in accordance with its status as a listed building and transforming it into a literary café, with cozy rooms for sitting and chatting while having coffee and cake; with a spacious reading room and another event room.”
After five and a half years of hard work, the building was completely renovated, transformed and furnished, and the literature café was opened in August 2018. I haven’t been there yet, but from their WordPress website literaturcafe-steinau.de/ it looks like a beautiful and worthwhile place to visit. The two upstairs meeting rooms are called ‘Jacob’ and ‘Wilhelm’, after (three guesses) Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
My photos in this post are from 2008. I revised the text in 2021.