Villa Denis - Home of the TU Kaiserslau-tern Foundation
With the support of 12 patrons, the Foundation acquired the Villa Denis and the Diemerstein Castle grounds at the end of 2007. These properties, which are located in nearby Frankenstein, house the headquarters of the Foundation and serve as a conference center for researchers and donors.
This successfully conducted fund raising project has been inspired and guided by the idea that a forum and crystallization point that fosters a sense of identity for science, the economy and society and is aimed at promoting interdisciplinary exchanges is arising here. A place of meeting that encourages open discussion in relative seclusion and quiet.
In the meantime, Villa Denis has established itself as a conference and cultural centre.
History of the Villa
The Villa is under protection as a site of historic interest. In many of its details it corresponds to the zeitgeist of the time of its construction. Like the villa Ludwigshöhe bei Edenkoben, it is one of the few well preserved buildings that were erected in the style of Bavarian classicism imported from Italy. The authority for the preservation of historic sites and monuments has highlighted the villa’s rank from both the regional as well as the art historical point of view. Thus the comprehensive restoration of 1995 / 1996 included reconstruction of the murals and ceiling frescoes, which today are believed to have been by Johann von Schraudolph. The Diemerstein Castle grounds, which lie directly above the villa and have an access to the villa’s park, extend the historical significance of this estate. It was first mentioned in a document of 1216 and later housed the reformer Ulrich von Hutten. His motto, “Die Luft der Freiheit weht” (“the breeze of freedom is blowing”) decorates the seal of Stanford University.
Paul Camille von Denis obtained permission from King Ludwig to acquire the property on which today’s Villa Denis is situated as well as Diemerstein Castle as a reward for Denis’s outstanding performance in constructing railroad lines. Von Denis had the villa erected between 1848 and 1852 and then lived there with his wife. In 1854 he sold the villa to the Ladenburg family. This bankers family from Mannheim had a decisive share in the economic development of Ludwigshafen and was one of the founders of BASF. A daughter of theirs, Julia Ladenburg, was successful as chairperson of the “Frauenbildung-Frauenstudium” organisation, which advocated and supported getting women admitted to universities as students.
In 1925, the villa passed into possession of the Association of Evangelical Homes, which sold it to Andreas Knappe in 2001. Thanks to the outstanding support of 12 patrons, the TU Kaiserslautern Foundation was able to acquire the Villa Denis at the end of 2007. It is now available as a conference center to the university, its research facilities, and the patrons.
Paul Camille von Denis:
Paul Camille von Denis, who was born in France in 1796, became well known for both his outstanding work as an engineer and his political activities too.
He built Germany’s first railway line in 1835. It was called the “Ludwigsbahn” and traversed the 5 km between Nürnberg and Fürth. Then von Denis was commissioned to build a railway line that would connect the Saar region with the River Rhein and thus simplify the transport of coal. Construction of this second, or “pfälzische” Ludwigsbahn with its 473 bridges and 12 tunnels lasted from 1844 to 1848. The eastern end of the line is where Ludwigshafen arose.
The political activities of von Denis were marked by the influence of the “German Press and Fatherland Club”, which advocated freedom of the press and democracy, and also, among other things, organised the Hambach festival, at which von Denis participated. This club was founded at the first school children’s festival on January 28, 1832. Von Denis was also a member of the “pfälzischer Landrat” (a district authority). When criminal proceedings were initiated against him in 1832 because of his political activities, he decided to go on a voyage to America together with Carl Adolf Ritter from Frankenstein. There, as well as during the subsequent stay in England as a student, he was able to study the beginnings of the railway.
Paul Camille von Denis was a building inspector in Kaiserslautern from 1817 to 1825 and was thus also connected with Kaiserslautern through the construction of the prison built on the ruins of the Johann Casimir Castle, the parsonage of St. Martin’s Church and the deanery’s building on Rittersberg (“Knight’s Hill”).