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Former Landscape Park – Overgrown Fairy Tale Landscape – Transformation in the Future

On the Internet, one finds numerous references indicating that the park at Haus Mödrath was planned and laid out by the surely most important German garden architect Peter Josef Lenné (the designer of Sanssouci Park in Potsdam and the Berlin Tiergarten). The park is essentially contemporaneous. Lenné was born in Bonn in 1789. In accordance with family tradition, he learned the gardening profession in Brühl and received the post of an assistant in Potsdam in 1816. This was followed by a position with administration of the Royal Garden. Despite his intense activities in Berlin and Potsdam, he turned to the Rhineland in 1812/15 and between 1842 and 1864. Insofar as the Reinecker and Merkens families, who commissioned Haus Mödrath, were prosperous members of Cologne society, Lenné could surely have come into consideration as the garden’s architect. In any case, Eugen von und zu Hoensbroech, provost of the Order of Malta for the Bergheim district, attributed the park to Lenné on the occasion of the 1950 opening of the children’s home in Haus Mödrath. Our research has now convinced us that Peter Josef Lenné was not the architect of the garden.

The research carried out by the art historian Dr. Rita Hombach led to two garden architects who could have been in contact with the Reinecker and Merkens families. Jakob Greiss and Duplan. Jakob Gottfried Ignaz Greiss, born 1800, was a student a son-in-law of Maximilian Friedrich Weyhe, who was in turn Lenné’s cousin. Greiss participated in public and private garden projects in and around Cologne, where he was appointed director of the municipal department of gardens in 1826. He is mentioned in conjunction with nearby Loersfeld and Hemmersbach castles. Duplan, who biographical dates and first names are unknown, was an assistant to the Düsseldorf garden director Weyhe. Around the middle of the 19th century, he designed the new landscape parks at Loersfeld and Frens castles, both of which are in the vicinity of Mödrath. It cannot be stated with certainty, whether one of them was responsible for the park at Mödrath.

As opposed to the building, little is known about the history and development of the park. It must have been so overgrown and altered as regards form by the 1960s, that Jochen Hild’s file on gardens belonging to manor houses and courts no longer categorized it as an English landscape park in the Rhineland. Dr. Hombach expressly points this out in her publication “Landschaftsgärten im Rheinland” (Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft).

The manor house, park and allée form a unit of monument value and accordingly have landmark status. According to the files of the monument protection agency, the former paths through the park were already overgrown in the 1980s, but “the historical tree population as well as the allée are preserved in the presently unkempt park whose outlines are still preserved.” Individual copper beeches, sycamores, red woods and a circle of lime trees in addition to the chestnut allée leading to the former Mödrath mill still evidence the origins of landscape garden design.

Working together with the Düsseldorf Büro für Landschaftsbau WKM and in collaboration with Wald und Holz.NRW, the monument protection agency, the lower landscape authority and the lower water authority, we will in the future be giving the park a contemporary form with a view to the history of its development.