In 1932, the editor and poet Hanns Heinen (1895-1961) and his wife Erna Heinen-Steinhoff (1898-1969) acquired an historic property consisting of two timber-framed houses on the Heerstrasse (towards Cologne) in the Höhscheid district of Solingen. The sum was 3000 Goldmarks.
The houses were given the memorable names “The Red house” and the “Black house” by the locals. The names probably came from the bigger of the two houses’ black slates. Due to the its exposed position atop a mountain range, the house resembled a large black block. By contrast, the smaller of the houses adjacent to the Black House consisted of red brick and timber frames, a bright red dot among an otherwise green landscape.
Both buildings represent a significant industrial heritage, which uniquely documents the mining history of the Berg region. The “Black House” - a timber framed house from the 18th century with an extension dating from the 19th century - was built as a so-called Steigerhaus (foreman’s house) of a lead mine. It has large rooms, which is not typical for timber framed houses in the region. The “Red House” was built in the 19th century as a workshop for knife or scissor grinders. On the side which faces away from the street there is a paving of bricks with an embedded drainage channel - most likely remnants of a stable. There are two troughs which were carved out of large monoliths.
Research on the history of the Höhscheid lead mine was carried out by Klaus Tettinger, Heribert Kremer and Heinz Knoop, which
was published in the 1980s in a brochure edited by the city’s municipal savings bank. In addition, the Solinger Tageblatt also published an extensive article containing maps and cross-sections on
24.12.1987 (same authors). The following quotes come from these sources:
“...having a link to the Rhine harbour of Hitdorf was of great importance to Solingen’s trade. In 1753, a section of this road was therefore built stretching from Solingen, over Höhscheid to Aufderhöhe: the Neuenkamperstrasse! This building work could be seen as the starting point for the Black House’s construction, as lead ore was found during the construction of that road. Due to the clayey ground, stones were required, so to obtain some, the chief engineer made some digging attempts in the surrounding area. Two miners confirmed they had stumbled across lead ore. Ore was mined there until 1814. At first, the pit delivered a good yield and was very profitable. But the deeper they dug, the more they had to deal with inflowing water. Despite installing three pumps, they could not master the water. The pit was then closed due to the high costs. In 1842, work began again at the Höhscheid mine. However, the activities do not seem to have lasted long. Work resumed once more in 1880, but was discontinued in 1889. The pit closed for good in May 1890...”
There is also further oral tradition surrounding the history of the house: When Hanns Heinen acquired the property, the previous owner shared some of his family’s stories with him (these remain unproven). After it stopped being a foreman’s house for the mine, the house was converted into an inn due to its favourable location on one of the region’s most important trade routes. The plaster on the back of the house and the large horse troughs could indicate this.
The previous owner also claimed that French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte spent the night at the “Black House”. However, this cannot be proven and is therefore doubtful. The house is thought to have later been used as a branch of Höhscheid Mayor’s office.
To commemorate the artists' colony "Schwarzes Haus", an information board listing the artists who worked there was installed on the historic building of the artists' colony in November 2020.
From 1932, this house became the venue for many artistic and literary salons. The history of the house as an art colony began when the painter Erwin Bowien (1899-1972) moved in upon his return from exile in 1945.
You can find more information on the Black House’s history as the “foreman’s house of the Höhscheid lead mine” at: