France's president lives in a palace. The US White House is a neoclassical mansion. For 35 years, the leaders of West Germany lived in a modest-looking bungalow in Bonn. The building is now being renovated.
History was made here
A far cry from the swanky living spaces normally associated with heads of state, the flat-roofed chancellor's bungalow was fitted with plastic lamps and sported imitation wood.
The bungalow, located near the Rhine River and next to the chancellery, served as the official residence of the German chancellors from 1963 until the government moved to Berlin.
Empty since 1999, the historic building will soon open to the public. A restoration project is underway that will allow the building to host tour groups and special events.
Needs some work
The bungalow served as Kohl's home for 16 years
"It was built extremely well 40 years ago, but in the meantime, the roof is in need of rehabilitation," said Georg Adlbert, head of the Wüstenrot Foundation, which is investing approximately 1 million euros ($1.3 million) in the renovations.
The renovation is scheduled to finish by late 2008, Adlbert said at a recent press conference to announce the remodel.
West German chancellors Ludwig Erhard, Kurt Georg Kiesinger, Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl all used the building as their Bonn home. Chancellor Willy Brandt used it only for ceremonial events.
The Chancellor's residence will be opened to the public
The renovation will take care to preserve evidence of the stays of its famous residents. Some of the furniture will stay, such as a large conference table, floor lamps and two sofas, although with different coverings.
Kohl stayed 16 years, the longest of anyone. Kohl moved his family to Bonn soon after becoming chancellor, bringing with him his wife, two sons and a Hammond organ to the bungalow. He paid 2,600 German deutsche marks (about 1,300 euros) rent each month and added personal touches such as heavy curtains and large square ceiling lamps. These additions will not be removed from the conference room.
The building was designed by the famous German architect Sep Ruf. The building needed to be multi-functional, with both a private living space as well as room for official business. The architect designed two square blocks. The smaller part became the private residence while the larger area was used for official functions.
Hans Walter Hütter, director of the nearby history museum Haus der Geschichte, said restoring the building was an important task. The museum plans an exhibit on the building once the restoration work finishes.
"We have here an authentic building where actual history took place," Hütter said.