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Green light for the Herrengarten!

How did Siegen’s Herrengarten get its name? Given the almost total absence of any sign of a garden, many people have surely asked themselves that very question over the years. What they may not realise is that the Herrengarten fully merits the historic moniker: in the 17th century, Wilhelm Moritz of Nassau-Siegen constructed a splendid pleasure garden across three hectares, comprising three entrances, wrought-iron garden gate, manor house, orangery, teahouse and summer house. Now, following decades of development, the Herrengarten is poised to re-emerge as a green oasis in the heart of town thanks to an urban regeneration project.

A pleasure garden for Siegen ...

... was constructed along the banks of the River Sieg by Count Wilhelm Moritz of Nassau-Siegen in 1669. With attention to detail and a hint of self-expression, a magnificent and highly modern park featuring a manor house, summer house, teahouse, vivid flower beds and stone statues of various deities was installed in the shadow of the Unteres Schloss for the amusement of court society. On completion, the garden extended from the present-day sites of Bahnhofstrasse, the post office premises and miners’ association building to the Historic Tiergarten forest at Weidenau, which itself was accessed via a magnificent avenue of spruce. The orangery was especially striking: the rare plants (by Siegen standards) that grew here included cypresses, orange trees, lemon trees and Seville oranges as well as laurel, cherry, honeycrisp and pomegranate trees.

The park shrinks

In the mid-19th century, around half of the park had to make way when the railway came to Siegen. As Siegen expanded and the Unterstadt became a second centre, the city acquired the site in 1911 and commenced construction of the miners’ association building and other structures. Other development plans were drawn up after the Second World War, but these were shelved due to a lack of funding and the Herrengarten ended up as a fee-paying car park. All that remained of the splendid garden of old was the teahouse – and that too disappeared in 1965. In 1977, the last vestiges of the Herrengarten fell victim to urbanisation as they vanished beneath a twin-level commercial building.

Heading for new horizons

Green spaces equate to quality of life, especially in busy city centre areas. With this in mind, the Siegplatte – a parking area that covered the River Sieg entirely – was demolished. Following renaturation of the river and its banks, the commercial building in the Herrengarten looked completely out of place to the city and its residents. In other words, the city was ready to return to the garden’s historic roots. As part of a project aimed at opening up new shores for Siegen, a contemporary people’s park is now being created. This will cast a fresh glow onto the nearby historic buildings while establishing a high-quality outdoor area of green space oriented towards the Sieg. To put the garden back into ‘HerrenGARTEN’, the park will have a modern layout. It will offer ample green space, cosy benches, a dance/promotional area and an illuminated platform which will double as a stage. For children, there will be a revolving drum, slackline and a barrier-free trampoline. In particular, the water plateau linking the garden to the urban zone will catch the eye; on its stone surface, visitors will be able to view the original plans of the Herrengarten, showing how the garden looked more than 350 years ago. The Herrengarten people’s park is scheduled for completion by mid-2024.