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Remnants from the American settlement: Little America on the Rhine

Remnants from the American settlement : Little America on the Rhine

Wide streets and big apartments mark the American settlement in Plittersdorf, as well as the Stimson Memorial Chapel. It was once an American oasis in Bonn.

“Let us pray for the American election, that everything will turn out fine,” preached Pastor John Carrick at Sunday services in the American Protestant Church in Plittersdorf. Only Americans were sitting in the pews. People from around 30 different countries come here to worship on a regular basis. Flags from their homelands are hanging at the historic Stimson Memorial Chapel.

More than 60 years ago, workers from the American High Commission created a little American oasis here in Bonn. There was an American commissary, theater, bowling alley, gas station, school, the American Club and the church. Before the U.S. election, General Anzeiger set out to find what remained of the once booming American settlement.

“In the big basement of the church, we had boy scout meetings,” recalls 75-year-old Don F. Jordan. His parents moved from New York to Bonn in 1952. His father worked for the State Department, not the High Commission so his family lived in Mehlem. As often as he could, he visited his 11-year-old friend in Plittersdorf. “It was like a little America,” he says, “wide streets, big apartments, and even the kitchen appliances were like the ones at home.”

In 1955, the Allied High Commission was dissolved and the settlement became mainly filled with American Embassy employees and German politicians. In the same year, Jordan went back to the states. Today, he lives close to the American settlement and is active in preserving it. He is connected to it through his career, just as it is connected to the history of Bonn.

The American Club was a meeting place for politicians, lobbyists and journalists. From 1966, Jordan was one of them. He came back to Bonn as a correspondent. “Chancellors, German presidents and the cultural elite met there for background talks with the press and for a summer fest,” he said.

When the capital of Germany moved to Berlin, the settlement changed. Vebowag, a real estate holding of the city, took over the buildings one by one. In 2012, Rolf Fischer, a retired schoolteacher purchased one of the apartments. During the renovation, it was very evident that the buildings were constructed in the 1950’s. He started educating himself about the history of the area, especially the vacant American Club and international kindergarten.

When Fischer heard that Vebowag planned to put more buildings in the settlement, he began an initiative called „Rettet die amerikanische Siedlung Bonn-Plittersdorf“ (RASP), meaning “Save the American settlement.”

There are no longer any hints of the bowling alley, commissary or U.S. Post Office, but there are new apartments and a shopping area now Baseball diamonds remain in use, a sign of the favorite American pastime. The Bonn Capitals are the local baseball team and have been around since 1989. Udo Schmitz, manager of the Capitals says, “It’s a little like the baseball field in Central Park, New York,” with a wink of the eye. He is also active in preserving that American lifestyle feeling in Bonn.

Orig. text: Christine Siefer