Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Living in the Einhaus
Stube at Roscheiderhof Museum
Drinking Federweißer and eating Zwiebelkuchen (last post) is not much fun if you are outside on a cold and rainy day. As autumn days get shorter and colder, one thinks about shelter, a warm fire, and home. November is a good time to come inside of the typical Quereinhaus of our ancestors.
In past posts, I've described bits and pieces of life inside the 19th century barn house. But I've not tried to organize everything into a unified whole because I knew it would be a difficult task. The floor plan for the family's living space in the typical "barnhouse" of southwestern Germany, Luxembourg, and French Lorraine is, unfortunately, foreign to me. My ancestors adopted American-style farm buildings once they settled in their new country.
My main sources of information for the typical floor plan of the Quereinhaus come from opposite ends of the spectrum - the published papers of a scholarly symposium given by architectural experts versus a children's book about farm life in French Lorraine or "Lothringen" as is was once called. In spite of the difference in intended audiences, these two sources are in remarkable agreement (I confess that the children's book is much easier to read.) After studying both of those sources, there were still a few things I could not quite grasp. Various German internet sites have helped fill in the gaps in my comprehension as has a museum guide for the Roscheidhof open air museum at Konz. After many hours of puzzling over the architectural drawings and definitions of words that are no longer in new German dictionaries, I still have questions about the rooms inside the Quereinhaus, but I do have a much clearer image of of the family's living space.
Ground Level of the Living Space
Diagram of the ground level of living space - left of drawing
Alkoven - alcove
Kuche - kitchen
Kammer - chamber, small room
Spüle - sink unit/dry sink
Eichener Unterzug - oak beam support
Tenne - thrashing floor
Stall - animal stable
Nachbar - neighbor
As you can see in the diagram above, a long hall separated the living quarters of the house from the barn and stable area. The house was entered from its street door leading to the hallway or, as it is known in the old dialect, the "Ern". This hallway ran from one end of the house to the other; that is, from entry door to the kitchen or Kuche. There was an inside door, usually closed, which was midway along the hall. It opened into the Stube, the family's living area. This is where the family ate, rested, or worked at chores, especially in winter. The Stube almost always had a spinning wheel (some also had a loom), table and chairs where meals were taken, a chest, a bench, a cabinet for dishes, a rocking chair and a cradle. A crucifix hung on the wall. Perhaps there were also one or two pictures of a religious nature purchased from a peddlar or brought back from a pilgrimage church.
The dividing wall between the kitchen and the Stube was the location for an open fireplace. This wall had an opening which enabled heat from the kitchen fire to warm the Stube by means of an iron plate called the Takenplatte. It functioned as a stove because the heat from the kitchen fire would heat the iron plate. The front side of the Takenplatte often was ornamental, embossed with religious figures or symbols. The use of the Takenplatte to heat the Stube was the common arrangement until sometime in the nineteenth century when each room began to have its own heating source.
In order to regulate the heat better, the so-called Takenschrank cabinet was built around the Takenplatte. The doors of the Takenschrank could be opened to allow more heat into the room or closed when the heat was not needed. Because of the warmth, the Takenschrank in front of the Takenplatte was an excellent storage place for food or other objects which might be damaged by moisture. One might find the bread, jam, cheese, and even the homemade brandy in the Takenschrank.
The kitchen was, according to the one of the speakers at the Roscheiderhof symposium, "the kingdom of the wife" where she would cook and bake and get water ready for the washing. The open fireplace in this room was used to smoke ham and bacon as well as for the preparation of the daily meals. From the kitchen a wooden stairs went to the upper floor and a stone steps led down to the cellar. There was cellar space only under the kitchen and the Stube in most houses. This was the storage place for the potatoes, sauerkraut, other root vegetables from the garden and for the milk.
In many houses, a small room that served as the bedroom of the husband and wife and the youngest children was entered from the kitchen and heated by the kitchen's fireplace. When the parents grew old and were ready to give over the running the farm to the next generation, their living arrangements changed. These grandparents were no longer to be the occupants of the marital bedroom. According to one speaker at the Roscheiderhof symposium, a place for them to sleep was often worked into the Stube. Their bed might be placed in a corner and heavily draped in the Turkish style or built into a little alcove with locking double doors. This is the arrangement shown in the diagram above.
Upper Floor of the Living Quarters
Vorräte - storage
Salz - salt
Zucker - sugar
Honig - honey
Regate - shelves
Kruge aus Steingut - earthenware jars
Schranke - wardrobe
Kisten - chest
Truhen - trunk
Leinenvorrate - storage place for linens
Kleider - clothing
Wertsachen - articles of value
Schlafraum Gaste - guest room
Steigenkammer Schlafraum - sleeping room in the open area at the top of the stairs
Ofenstein - heated stone in upper chimney of the kitchen's fire place
The older children, unmarried brothers and sisters, and any household or farm helpers slept on the second floor of the home. As you can see in the diagram above, there is a small "Ofenstein," that is, a "stove stone." I am guessing it served somewhat the same purpose as the Takenplatte, but lacked the decorative styling and had less ability to absorb the heat from the lower level's fireplace and furnish warmth to the upper area of the house. Its placement in the main sleeping room on the second floor would indicate that this was not a "guest room" per se but a room which might be given over to guests who stayed the night with the family.
Much of the space in the upstairs area was devoted to storage rooms as you can see from the diagram. The preservable foods meant to feed the family would be housed here: root vegetables in bins, preserves in jars, honey, salt and flour and sugar. Items made of cloth, such as bed linens and towels, clothes (an early walk-in closet?) as well as any item that were of special value to the family members all had their place in a Vorrate as well.
Loft of the Living Quarters
Getreide - grains
Rauchkammer - small room for smoked meat
When one notes that the space above the ground floor living quarters housed not only the foods and clothing and sleeping space for the family but also the storage rooms for the various grains that would be used to feed the animals, make flour for bread, and seed the fields in the spring, it is easier to grasp the confined space which held families of eight to twelve or more people.
I remind you once again that the material above is a simply drawn picture, based on the architectural plan of one Einhaus and my less-than-perfect translations skills. But the information does help me picture the indoor life of my great-great grandparents as they worked, ate, slept and shared life in the company of their children, elderly parents, relatives and their neighbors and friends.
About one thing I have no doubt. I am sure that they made good use of the Takenschrank and the Branntwein kept in it.
Symposium, Alles unter einem Dach, (papers presented in 200o at the Open Air Museum in Roscheiderhof bei Konz and published by the Museum)
Morette, Jean. Landleben im Jahreslauf: Alltägliches aus einem lothringischen Dorf vor siebzig Jahren für alte and junge Leser gezeichnet und erklart von Jean Morette, Saarbrucker Druckerei und Verlag, 1983
Museum Guide: Freilichtmuseum Roscheider Hof Konz, 2001