The time-honoured “Bergisches Land” has some of the continent’s highest levels of rainfall. As a result, the vegetation is lush and the landscape green. If a plot is left to its own devices there, it will become overrun with dense vegetation in just a short period of time. Large surfaces covered in stinging nettles and thorny bushes are not uncommon. If you follow the small country lane which winds down a slope behind the back of the timber-frame houses for approx. 200m, you will come across an unusual barn made of blackened bricks with a large, overgrown square plot covered with blackberry bushes and other plants beside it.
This barn was originally built for a completely different purpose. The building is actually an industrial monument that was built in the last 3 decades of the 19th century as a pump house for the lead mine’s drainage system. The miners were always having to deal with floods in the tunnels and decided to overcome the problem using steam-powered pumps. The mine closed for the last time at the end of the 1880s.
This overgrown plot next to the brick structure is where the mine’s shaft tower once stood. A large spoil heap nearby stands as testimony to the previous intensive mining work. This near-square plot was once an integral part of the “Artist’s Colony at the Black House”. Hanns Heinen and his wife Erna also acquired this plot when they purchased the timber-framed houses in 1932.
Hanns Heinen was a keen gardener and found a way to compensate his intensive work as a writer and journalist in the tranquility of gardening. With great diligence and effort, he transformed the plot next to the former pump house into a large, colourful flower garden. A tall, time-honoured cherry tree with a mighty trunk and branches was the centrepiece of the garden. The space under the tree was a fixed point for the Heinen family and later the artists of the colony, as well as the many visitors to Erna Heinen-Steinhoff’s salons. In the summer especially, there were large garden parties held at long tables. If it rained, they would run to cover in a small gazebo right next to the barn. For a long time, it was possible to get a spectacular view over the mountainside from the garden into the depths of the Rhine Valley, with fields of wheat in the foreground and the Kohlsberg farmstead in the middle field with its distinctive church.
The garden was surrounded by fields of wheat until the 1980s, therefore making it a perfect observation point for the artists. The view, the various flowers, the cherry tree and the other ornamental plants, and then crops in the years of hunger following the war, were highly valuable to the Heinens and provided them with many motifs. The garden was, in all respects, an artist’s garden and is part of a long-held tradition, like Monet’s garden in Giverny, albeit without the ponds or water plants. This garden would be an ideal addition to a possible museum trail as part of the upcoming museum project.
These photographs document the current state of the artists’ garden and the former pump house of the lead mine - as at February 2021