The Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais
In May 2006, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) relocated from Schillerstrasse to the Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais at Hauptstraße 120, right in the middle of Heidelberg's world-famous historic Old Town.
Our new home is a beautiful old Bürgerpalais with a long history. Prior totoday’s building there was a house on the property of Hauptstrasse 120 which, first mentioned in 1564, reached four stories high. Previously afflicted on several occasions, the eastern half of this first building was severely damaged by a fire in 1689 during the Palatinate War of Succession. Only four years later, both parts were obviously damaged even worse by the consequences of the war.
In 1699, the “Haus Neukirch,“ as the Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais was previously called, was bought by Burkhard Neukirch. Having already lived in parts of the old building for some years, he started to build a new house on the fundaments of the former building. After manifold rebuilding throughout the following decades, especially on the fourth story, it was at the beginning of the 18th century that the current structure was built, making the home of the HCA in fact fifty years older than its subject of study, the United States of America.
Over the course of nearly 300 years, the Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais has seen a whole array of owners. It has housed families, students, and several university departments. A bookstore and a jeweler as well as a butcher have occupied the ground floor over the last decades. Today, a jeweler once again occupies part of the ground floor whereas an arts and crafts shop makes use of the other section.
In 2006, the former „Haus Neukirch“ was renamed in honor of Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn, who acquired the building and generously granted the HCA rent-free use of the rooms for the next ten years. Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn’s gift allows the HCA to grow in ways that would otherwise have been impossible. We are now able to offer our services to a greater number of students and host international conferences and visiting professors.
The HCA‘s new location is perfect for students and faculty alike. The Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais is within short walking distance of the University Library, the Mensa, the New University, the Old University, and a number of university institutes. Here, right in the middle of Hauptstrasse, only a stone‘s throw from University Square, student life thrives.
Thanks to the generosity of the Engelhorn family, a modern annex to the historic building was envisioned from the very start in the interior courtyard separating the Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais from the student cafeteria and main university library. After experiencing some delay due to construction work on surrounding buildings, erection of the annex eventually started in 2008. On October 20, 2009, the HCA’s new academic facilities were officially dedicated by Honorary Senators Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn, Heidelberg Mayor Joachim Gerner, Heidelberg University Rector Bernhard Eitel and HCA Founding Director Detlef Junker.
The annex effectively turns the baroque town house into a small convention center and opens up new possibilities for the HCA in serving as a forum for public debate, as well as enhancing its research and teaching capacities. Amongst other facilities, the building comprises a new lecture room, an elevator, and a kitchen equipped for event catering. The most spectacular feature of the annex, however, is a 360-square-meter glass-covered atrium with a corkscrew staircase, making the entire space available for use as an auditorium, exhibition room, or even a concert hall.
The two seminar rooms, called Stucco and Oculus for their signature architectural features, have been outfitted with interactive whiteboards that combine integrated sound and dual use functionality. Thus, the HCA is well-prepared to host not only its new BAS, MAS, and Ph.D. students but also increasing numbers of international conferences and workshops.
The Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais is an architectural gem. Particularly noteworthy is the stucco, which can especially be admired on the second floor. Done in the Louis-Seize style, the trim and decoration were probably added at the end of the 18th century. Proof of ample artistic activity can still be found all over the building today.
The extensive restoration of the salons in the second story, the so-called Bel Étage, revealed carvings long lost to coats of paint. Lion‘s heads, musical instruments, roses and women‘s faces were literally coming out of the woodwork. The surroundings offer a splendid atmosphere not only for teaching but also for hosting international guests from academia, politics, and the media. Two of the Bel Étage‘s rooms, the Salon and the adjacent Salle Assemblé, are furnished with historic fireplaces. The Bel Étage is a wonderful location to found and foster a community of scholars at the HCA.