This building is located at the wide side between the Festival Hall and Multi-purpose Building, opposite the Workers Cottage and the Schweizerhaus.
On the second floor was the canteen which was stocked with those pre-microwave reheating devices in which the workers could reheat their lunches from home.
The house included two apartments for supervisors.
It was built in 1862 as a canteen (Kosthaus). The place became a fully licensed restaurant named Staubbach in 1868.
The name refers to SBI founder Arnold Staub and a waterfall of the same name near Interlaken in Staub’s homecountry Switzerland. (Staub = dust, Bach = creek)
Later on, the tavern named Staubbach on the ground floor became the canteen for the SBI workers. You could either eat-in or take the packed lunches away, and you also got cheap meals for your family members. This was very practical, as most workers had only a five or ten minutes way back home, even by bus which operated between Geislingen and Gingen. The bus schedule was perfectly fitted to the working hours of the workers.
Update September 2009
At the time of my writing up the history of SBI and the workers' estate, restaurant Staubbach was still operating. But on my current visit I had to see that it sadly has closed down. I hope it will reopen any time soon.
I thought the location is great, and you could add a fabulous beer garden. But who knows why the business was not sustainable anymore.
Update October 2012 - Good news!
Pleased to tell you that in the meantime Staubbach has re-opened. They also have a kind of beergarden on the side of the Square.
They have special feature days: Monday is Schnitzel day where every Schnitzel meal costs 6.50 Euro. Friday is steak day; every meal costs 10.90 Euro.
Closed on Tuesdays.
About 600 metres west of the workers’ estate you still find the old weir where once the power for the spinning and weaving mill were generated.
I was surprised to still find it moving and working right in the moment I was there.
Also the so called Turbinenhaus – the turbine keeper’s house – still looked the way I remember it from my childhood. I was told that some private person from Esslingen bought the whole plant, and a local guy, one of the former electricians of SBI, is still looking after it, clearing the rakes from driftwood and other stuff that should not be there, and the owner on-sells the generated power.
More photos, also of the turbine keeper's house, in one of the travelogues.
It would be quite nice to climb on this small tower, made of concrete blocks, which looks a bit like taken out of a fortress. There is a balcony-like iron structure on the east side, and a kind of roof terrace at the top. But they have taken away the lower part of the ladder, so nobody can damage this cultural-technological monument of historic significance – or risk his life…
At its top of the tower sits a wheel which once held the cable that transmitted the power generated further down at a weir (Gingener Wehr), to SBI.
The wheel has a diameter of 4.35 metres.
It transmitted 121.60 KW (= 163 PS). Some 17.20 KW (23 PS) of energy were lost in the process.
The cable spanned 467 metres.
The plant was planned by the engineer Albert Schoffer from Augsburg in 1873. The technology was called iron cable transmission (Drahtseiltransmission).
It operated from 1880 to 1923.
There is a short piece of the cable attached to the tower, right above an information panel, so you can get an idea how it once might have looked.
The 2.5 hectare park is adjacent to the Fabrikantenvilla, if you stand in front of it, to the left, and still is a green space.
It did not only include rare trees like American nut trees (Amerikanischer Schwarznussbaum), Red Beech (Blutbuche) and cypress (Scheinzypresse).
In the early days there were artificial lakes, fountains, and flower beds.
Although less spectacular today, the park, adjacent to the river Fils, is still quite nice for relaxing. There are some seats – and it is forbidden to take dogs to the park, so you can really enjoy its tranquility.
The transmission tower which transmitted the power generated at a weir further down the river, to the spinning and weaving mills, is still sitting in this park as a technological monument.
There are two ways of access:
1. if coming from Gingen on the walking and cycling track along the river, you just turn left into the park in a sharp right turn of the track;
2. from the carpark in front of the former spinning mill. Standing in front of the building, just walk or cycle past on the left side of the building, and you get straight into the park.
Photo 2 shows one of the iron gates that give access to the park. (This one is closed nearly all the time.)
You find the original owner’s villa if you leave the workers’ estate behind, heading west, cross the square in front of the former weaving mill building (now an outlet store) and carry on to the right. You soon see a locked modern gate, and behind mature trees the three-storey villa.
It was built in 1862. The design was by Leonhard Zeugheer from Zurich, who was considered THE architect of villas at the time.
However, what you see today is not the original design. The villa where founder Arnold Staub and his family lived, was altered on a big scale in 1920.
This red brick house with nice yellowish pattern was built in 1886/87 for the masters and supervisors and their families. It offered generously sized accommodation.
It is located at the corner between the Mehrzweckgebäude and the workers’ cottages of Neckarstraße.
The address is Bleicherstraße 17.
On one of my many cycling trips between Gingen and SBI I met a lady who lives in the Meisterhaus. I found it most enchanting that she knew a real lot about the house in particular and the history of the workers' estate in general, meaning: She did not only live there but was aware and interested in where she was living. She thought the workers' estate looked like a movie set for historic films. I think it is an open-air museum. History alive.
This brightly coloured three-storey building is located left of the restaurant (Staubbach), the former Kosthaus.
It looks unspectacular on the side of the square but lovlier on the side facing Weberallee (formerly: Fabrikstraße).
It had 5 units on the ground floor, a canteen, and a bakery. Under the roof were rooms for unmarried workers.
There were six additional accommodation houses for workers.
To give you an idea how cheap the accommodation cost was:
A worker paid an annual rent of 44 Kreuzer (then the currency) for the smallest apartment. He earned a minimum wage of 48 Kreuzer per day, some earned three times as much per day. So he had to work a day only for the annual rent.
The grassy central square – even called “Square” at the time – is surrounded by all those lovely communal and apartment buildings, includes two pavilions and an attractive fountain.
Also today it has a great atmosphere and is a nice place to relax. You can sit down in the pavilions and the shade of the trees, and enjoy the views of the surrounding buildings.
On this photo you see that the pillars around the square are modern, and the beautiful cobblestone street.
In total, the workers’ estate covered an area of about one hectare. It featured twelve different types of two- and three-storey buildings. This is the more astonishing as the estate, which has a strictly symmetrical layout, is a picture of perfect harmony and uniformity. However, it is far from displaying identical buildings. If you have a closer look, you get more the impression of an agglomeration of model houses.
The houses comprised 45 residential units and was concipated for about 250 people.
If you stroll around you will find some more old houses like this one, built of red bricks with integrated decorative yellowish patterns.
When the “Festplatz” was surrounded by the communal buildings and workers cottages, more residential houses were built in other styles, so the many workers could be accommodated. In total there were about 30 residential houses. One of the by-names this area had was "In der Kolonie" - the word "Colony" reflecting the fact that the people who lived there had come from many foreign places and found a new home right here.
The massive building of the weaving mill was the northern limit of the workers’ village, rising high right behind the Bath House/Festival Hall.
They were Württemberg’s first public baths. The building has a small clock tower and is beautifully half-timbered, with sawed wooden ornaments at the gables. After not being used as bath and washing house anymore, this big building which spanned one whole length of the square became a dining and festival room (after 1875). I remember the Christmas parties for retired former SBI workers. Everyone got a Christmas gift at this occasion, and they served coffee and cakes, poems were recited, plays performed and music played.
Today the building serves as a kindergarten.
This showpiece of the workers’ estate was built in 1868/69. It was planned by the Swiss architect Leonhard Zeugheer, and included a 6x4 metre swimming pool.
The clock tower is still in perfect working order. On my last visit in August and September 2009 I happened to be there several times when the bells started ringing, with the levers moving. Really something nice in our high-tech times.
If you understand German it is no problem to make a self-guided tour. There is a big information panel between the Bath and Washing House (Festival Hall), easily recognisable by its clock tower, and the restaurant Staubbach. Or just print my infos and the photo of this tip with the orientation map.
If you want a guided tour (on appointment only), the administration centre at the town hall in Kuchen will arrange this for you. Phone (07331) 9882-22, -23, -24, -25. Or contact directly Helmut Junginger, Weberallee 13, 73329 Kuchen, Tel./Fax: 0 73 31/8 12 56.
Town Hall - Administration Centre
Physical Address: Marktplatz 11, 73329 Kuchen
Postal Address: Postfach 1120, 73327 Kuchen
Phone (07331) 98 82-0
Fax (07331) 98 82-13
Direct link to the Workers Estate here
On this link of the website you can download a 16 page folder about the renovation of SBI.
On B 10 (main road between Stuttgart and Ulm), at the only traffic light between the villages of Kuchen and Gingen, the brown sign “Historische Arbeitersiedlung” leads to the workers’ estate. It is hidden behind a big commercial centre with supermarkets, shops, a car dealer etc. Take the right arm of the fork, when the left one leads to the supermarkets.
This is one of the few remaining buildings of the glory days of fabric production of the SBI. Apart from this only the founder’s villa, the nursery, the new laboratory and the administration building could be conserved. Non-usable buildings, including an impressive 60 m high red-brick chimney, were demolished in 1988.
SBI started as a weaving mill in 1857, the spinning company was added in 1861.
The building you see on this photo is the view of the spinning mill from a lane named Spindelstraße. It has this old and historic look.
If you walk around the building you will see the big block of the spinning mill, quite an impressive and fully renovated building that has got a new purpose.
This English style building, opposite the Festival Hall (originally the Bath and Washing House), is from 1864. The verandahs facing the Square are very attractive.
On the ground floor were the apartments for supervisors and the teacher of the enterprise’s school. On the upper floors you found the school room, a library and reading room, a pharmacy and hospital.
The hospital’s rooms were also used as a kindergarten, and as a communal and entertainment room for unmarried young women. In the wings of the buildings were workers’ apartments and a shop.
This early building (Neckarstraße 66) dates back to 1858 and is located right beside the Bath and Washing House and to the left of the Schweizerhaus.
The architect was Georg Morlok who was not only an architect but also an engineer of the railway company.
When this house was built a detailed plan for the workers estate did not exist yet.
This workers cottage (Arbeiterwohngebäude, Neckarstraße 71) was built in 1863, and is located to the right of the Schweizerhaus. It later served as a Mädchenwohnheim (home for girls resp. unmarried women).
The house had five apartments.
Arnold Staub, the boss of the enterprise, ordered that the workers had to keep a flower and vegetable patch in front of the houses. He wanted his workers to be self-sufficient. To motivate them to use their gardens he initiated competions in which the owners of the most beautiful gardens received awards, handed over by Staub’s wife at the annual Christmas party.