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Building History: La Redoute, Bonn Bad Godesberg

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

A neoclassical ballroom where Beethoven was discovered and ambassadors entertained international royalty

Historical drawing of La Redoute, Bonn Bad Godesberg
Redoute Bonn c.1800 (J. Ziegler after L. Janscha, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

As I spend many hours staring intently at the fine details of historic buildings, I often find myself drawn into their stories. In this series, I will share the remarkable histories of some of the buildings I have been fortunate enough to draw. Below is a brief history of La Redoute, Bonn Bad Godesberg.

Had I not received a wedding invitation from a university friend, I may have never come across La Redoute, a late-18th-century concert hall and ballroom, located just outside of Bonn in Germany. Yet even a quick search throws up a number of intriguing results: concerts by Beethoven for Haydn, a girls’ boarding school, hidden peepholes for electoral spies, an English Landscape Garden and lots of pictures of Diana, Princess of Wales. The building itself is opulent and dignified; yet far from imposing, it quietly asserts its majesty to those looking down on it through the trees of Redoutenpark.

Garden front of Redoute Bonn viewed from Redoutenpark
The garden front viewed from Redoutenpark

La Redoute was constructed in the early 1790s; designed by Martin Leydel for Archbishop Elector Max Franz. The word ‘Redoute’ is said to have meant, in the context of carnivals, ‘the place where people come together in disguise to dance, play and do other merrymaking’. At the time, Bad Godesberg was being developed into a spa town, with water said to have healing powers. As part of this, La Redoute was conceived as an elegant building for culture and entertainment, set among the newly-built avenues, promenades and gardens.

The building is neo-classical, in the late Baroque style with three central sections divided by pilasters and topped by six statues of muses. These represent dance, song, fine art, music, science and poetry. Its importance, at least in one of these areas, cannot be overstated: an early concert in 1792 saw a 22-year-old Beethoven present his composition ‘Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II’ in front of Haydn, who subsequently became Beethoven’s tutor.

The building became private property in 1794, as the Elector fled from French revolutionary troops. For 20 years, it provided a place for wealthy citizens to entertain, with a casino which was eventually closed by the Prussian government in 1815.

La Redoute was subsequently used as a summer house, a picture gallery and a girls’ boarding school. In 1857, it was acquired by the Wendelstadts, who undertook reconstructions including the installation of a Rococo-style fence, removed from the former Cologne Jesuit College to accommodate Cologne Central Train Station. The gardens were incorporated in the park and designed in the English Landscape style by the King’s master gardener, Konrad Wilhelm Nelle. Additions included a covered bowling alley and a teahouse in the late 1800s. Once again, La Redoute became a place to enjoy fine music and culture, with Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms regularly giving concerts.

At the start of the first world war, a military hospital was set up on the upper floor of the house by Richard Wendelstadt, a physician. After his death, it was sold to the municipality of Godesberg, along with its 25 acres of grounds, to use for cultural functions. The Garden Ballroom, a grand curved structure to the rear, was designed by local architect Walter Bühling and added in 1925.

After 1945, the Allied forces took possession and opened an officers’ club in La Redoute, which continued to be used when Bonn became the federal capital in 1949. In 1953, it was opened to German citizens and became a diplomatic corps club, used by the Federal Foreign Office for major state events.

Structural repairs caused La Redoute to close in 1972, and a 3-year restoration followed, costing over 7.5 million marks. This included the removal of a covert observation post, hidden by a wallpapered door and served by a peephole. The device used to allow the electoral secret police to overlook the Beethoven Hall: a reminder of the high political stakes involved in the building’s activities.

The federal government and ambassadors continued to hold events at La Redoute until 1999, during which it was furnished with fine state-owned pieces of furniture which were later removed. It was restored again in 2011, and now continues to offer rooms for private functions, seminars and weddings.

Gift drawing of wedding venue Reboute Bonn
My pencil drawing of Redoute Bonn

And what about the drawing itself? My own pencil illustration, created as a wedding present for the couple, took me about 3 days to draw at A4 size. As usual, I amassed a bank of photographs from various websites, showing the building in sun, shade, snow and darkness to use as reference. I built it up in layers using 2H to 4B pencils, before packaging it in tissue paper and a gift box to take on my 6-train journey to Bad Godesberg. It was handed to the bride and groom on 26 August, and – I hope! – will hang in their new home together, safely out of reach of their two boisterous dogs.

I hope you enjoyed the above article, which was put together using information from several online sources. It was designed to paint a picture of the building’s rich history. Please verify sources before using in any academic research.

Sources: ‘Text on the redoubt taken from the Günnewig homepage [no longer in existence]’, 2010, [accessed 28/08/2023]

'The History of The Redoute', [accessed 28/08/2023]

‘The last one turns off the light’, General Anzeiger, 31 December 2010, [accessed 28/08/2023]

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