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Presentation to GHRC Conference, Tanunda

21 May 2022 

updated 2024

Lothar BRASSE  

providing evidence for

'C.F. FAEHRMANN's built legacy'

To return to the Index of:   articles related to section 3812




 About the Presenter

  • Lothar is a retired architect who practised in both. contemporary and historic built forms. 
  • He graduated in architecture at the University of South Australia, where his undergraduate Thesis,” German Colonial Architecture in South Australia” won an award.
  • Having examined the use of Fachwerk as a means of cultural identity, he proposed in previous talks, a link between Lutheran affiliation and the distinct ‘Fachwerk’ building style; a style that can be found in protestant settlements throughout northern Europe, North America and Australia. 
  • Lothar is also a keen sculptor; three of whose public works can be viewed at Hermannsburg (NT), Adelaide Botanical Gardens and the Colin Thiele Library, Magill.

His presentation today will explain why Carl Faehrmann’s structures around Hahndorf are uniquely placed as being the best half-timbered structures in the context of Australia’s Lutheran heritage. 



For years Australia's Fachwerk (half-timbered) buildings have attracted widespread admiration – it not only helped to define 'Lutheranism' throughout Europe and its colonies, but also attracted admiration for its structural and artistic display. In South Australia, a number of correspondents, authors and artists were all attracted by the aesthetic contribution these timber-framed structures made to our landscape. 

Successive generations of German immigrants - particularly around the Hahndorf, Lobethal and Barossa districts - were moved to continue this style with minor variations to layout and timber patterns. The carpenter’s selection of timbers, his overall understanding of complex jointing techniques, principles of frame-engineering, geometric application and accuracy of craftsmanship were all carried out to varying degrees of success.

My talk will investigate the contribution made by what I speculate to have been by Carl Faehrmann. He may not have been the only person responsible but may have led a building team that included carpenter Friedrich Gladigau and maybe the architect Hermann Holzerland. It should also be noted that Faehrmann’s sons and Gladigau’s carpenter brother may also have teamed-up later.

My reason for suggesting a Faehrmann, Gladigau and Holzerland partnership  is because they were all fellow passengers on the Princess Louise and all hailed from the Hanseatic town of Tangermuende, situated c.120 km west of Berlin. They also ended up living relatively close to each other in South Australia.



Fachwerk is the German for Half-timber construction.

It literally means shelf work and as a built form became a popular brand for the protestants, particularly so after the end of the Thirty Year War (1618-1648). The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and subsequent erection of enormous Friedenskirchen, [churches of peace]  in Silesia, all were of Fachwerk construction and all were capable of accommodating thousands.

I would therefore suggest that Fachwerk became the unofficial brand of architecture for many Protestants - on land they occupied around Germany, France, and England and later in North America and Australia.  There was an undeniable use of this construction technique for village churches during the 18th c. eastern expansion by Frederick II, especially noticeable where the borders of Posen, Silesia and Brandenburg meet; that is, the district that became the catchment area of many of South Australia’s pioneer Lutherans. 

In Australia we can trace the use of Fachwerk from Klemzig in South Australia to Hermannsburg near Alice Springs to Nundah in Queensland with its structure-defining show of timbers, transportability and ease of construction. As mentioned before, this ‘German’ way of building also attracted much attention and praise from the English colonists.  

The Adelaide Hills and in particular the Hahndorf districts possess Australia’s [and probably the world outside Europe] – some of the best examples of Fachwerk, in both quantitative and artistic expression and although there were numerous competing carpenters within South Australia’s German communities, no one did it better than Johann Carl Friedrich Faehrmann.

Faehrmann was born in Tangermuende where we believe he also gained his ‘Master Carpenter’ qualifications. Although the city was affiliated with the Hanseatic League;  perhaps better known for its show of red-brick buildings, there was also a generous use of Fachwerk, with its competing geometric framing and colourful panels, adding much to the artistic and vibrant built -form of Tangermuende.

In 1849 Faehrmann set off for South Australia aboard the Princess Louise. He had joined many Berlin revolutionaries - generally known as the ‘Fourty-Eighters’ and a group described by Loedewyckx as Brausekoepfe (Literally sodaheads – with their minds intoxicated with utopian ideals).  

These firebrands included names such as Muecke, Schomburgk, von Rieben, Linger, Basedow, Todt and Schramm – all names that would eventually become well known and eminent Australians.

Faehrmann and his Tangermuende compatriot Gladigau teamed up for a while to work the Adelaide Hills as timber cutters and later as builders and both settled in Hahndorf, where Carl married Zebra pioneer Eleanore Liebelt. 

The Fachwerk buildings -many with a half-hipped roof - I attribute to Faehrmann were all likely to have been built after 1850. They not only stand out from the rest of Australia’s Fachwerk by their overall symmetry and sober aesthetics, but also in their clarity of function which we could attribute as a product of the Biedermeier period; a sober, middle-class style that evolved in Germany within the period bookended by the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 and the revolution in 1848.

Although the use of half-hipped roofs on many masonry and Fachwerk houses around South Australia’s communities is a quirky characteristic, it is a feature found throughout northern Europe and it is not unique to the German settlers or the Hahndorf area. It is however a feature that became more popular there from 1850 – that is, soon after Faehrmann’s arrival.

We do not know whether Faehrmann had any formal training in design or had his Carpenter’sMeister (Master) Certificate, but the engineering knowhow in his timber truss design – which also relates to the half-hipped roof structures, as well as solving complex span solutions - for house, church and mill designs - suggests that he had more than elementary carpentry training.


The case for Faehrmann

Indicators that Faehrmann had a leading input in Australia’s best Fachwerk structures are:

·      {C}In Hahndorf, Wittwer’s Main St Flour Mill is the only easily accessible evidence that we have to link Faehrmann and Gladigau with structural carpentry. Nearby St Michael’s Church can also be linked to the team but a detailed carpentry analysis is yet to be carried out due to access restrictions. The jointing techniques, qualities of timbers used and structural layout in the Mill are identical to the buildings attributed to Faehrmann. 

{C}·      {C}In 1975/76 I drove Ossie Faehrmann (Carl’s grandson) to Paechtown where he assured me that his grandfather was the carpenter.


{C}·      {C}All building I have ascribed to Faehrmann were built after c.1850 – that is, soon after his arrival to the Colony in 1849.

{C}·      {C}All carpentry was of high grade, pit sawn redgum. Faehrmann had ready access to these timbers in length, quality and quantity.

{C}·      {C}There is a consistency in the clarity of layout in the timber framing, as well as the jointing techniques, quality workmanship and numbering.

It is also not unreasonable to assume – although not proven - that fellow Tangermuendian and Princess Louise passengers such as carpenter Gladigau and architect Holzerland collaborated with Carl to manage contracts under a ‘Tangermuende Three’ partnership. 

Furthermore, due to the scale and workload, Faehrmann would have had to engage other carpenters to work with him. Other disciplines such as masons, bricklayers, plasterers, joiners and glaziers were probably independent and there is no evidence that he performed the duty of coordinating builder.

What sets the Fachwerk buildings I have attributed to Faehrmann apart from all other Fachwerk structures built by others ‘builders’ in and around Hahndorf is the use of select pit sawn timbers - as opposed to those roughly dressed by adze or broad axe. As mentioned earlier, all of Faehrmann’s timbers were pit-sawn red- gum and dimensionally true and accurate. Furthermore, the recurring quality of jointing techniques, the Roman numerals and sequence of numbering, all point to his input.

Perhaps the most telling feature of his work however is the practical layout and Biedermeieraesthetic.



I suggest that the Liebelt House (Slide 5) was Carl Faehrmann’s first building – a sort of wedding present, his entry into Hahndorf’s social circle and by not being an original Zebra pioneer –  this house would have launched his career there as a serious house builder, one that commanded respect. I believe that Faehrmann built all Fachwerk Houses in Paechtown and Friedrichstadt as well as others along Hahndorf’s Main Street. 

All of his Fachwerk houses are variations of the Flur - Kuechen Haus (passage – kitchen house but also known as Weaver House) which was made popular by King Frederick II during his 18th C. eastern expansion. These houses are readily identified by having two centralized chimney stacks astride the central passage.  All are part of a symmetric plan, where the central passage also served as the kitchen. One or two rooms on either side are accessible from this passage and if there were two rooms on either side, they were also inter-linked by a common, connecting door (Slide33). 

All Paechtown front facades were near- to symmetrical and all had varying timber patterns. Tis was most noticeable most by the number of braces, varying from none to three. (See slide 41).

Only the Friedrichstadt Granary had 4 braces at its principal, front façade. (Slide 24). Interestingly the braces here boast the additional artistic feature of being bent,- a quirky feature Faehrmann used in his in-law’s house (Liebelt house Slide 5).

Faehrmann was also responsible for building many roof structures for other solid brick and stone houses as found in and around Hahndorf. It is interesting to note that in all of his houses the roofs are all half-hipped (Krueppelwalm-Slide 16,17) as opposed to gabled. 



Two types of barns were commonly used and attributed to Faehrmann and his team, and all had gabled roofs:

The smaller of the two variants were of simple, rectangular in plan, roughly 3 to 4 m x 6 to 8 m, similar to a single or double car garage of today. They all had trussed roof systems of approx. 45-deggree pitch and all were all built of red-Gum.

They were clad with timber boards or slabs, with no attempt at revealing the Fachwerk pattern. 

The others barns were much larger and most expressed the Fachwerk framing by having wattle and daub or brick as infill. They had a footprint measuring approximately 11 m x 8 m, and a ridge height that reached around 8 m.

Floor plans were symmetrical around a central passage with a front, double-leaf door system. The wide, central passage was flanked by mezzanine bays on either side. (See Slide-49)

A skillion-roofed portion approximately 2 m wide stretched along the back façade. (Labelled as Stock Pens in Slide - 49) A low, skillion structure for animal pens was applied along the north gable elevation of the Beerenberg Barn (now removed). 

The long, main lean-to also had a small, personal door which when opened in conjunction with the double main- doors opposite created a draft to help threshing and winnowing.

Three full-sized barns - denoted as 3/3 Barns - that fit this template remain near Hahndorf (slides 61,49and 59) with a 2/3 sized version of the plan at    Beerenberg. (Slide 52) 

This 2/3 Barn is however one of the most artistic, with numerous bent-braces on all elevations.

The only other structure with bent braces is the Granary at Friedrichstadt, which was converted to a residence in the 1980’s. (Slides 20 - 28)



 Johann Carl Friedrich Faehrmann 1826 – 1896



Tangermuende Fachwerk – Predominantly a Protestant Construction technique with a larger, ornate red brick building behind, hinting at the city’s Hanseatic Heritage. The distinct red-brick architecture of the merchant communities was based in Germany and spread from England to Latvia. This Hanseatic red-brick architecture can also be seen in Port Adelaide’s Heritage precinct today.  


Johann Carl Friedrich Faehrmann married Hahndorf pioneer Johanne Eleonore Liebelt in 1854. Eleonore Liebelt was 6 years old when she arrived on the Zebra in 1839.


 It is reasonable to assume that Carl Faehrmann built this ‘Liebelt’ house which once stood on his future father-in-law’s House Allotment- the second allotment along Main St (from Adelaide). This was House Allotment 15 in the original Hahndorf plan (now lot 19).


Ossie Faehrmann was 81 when he pointed to himself being held by his mother in this 1961 Pix Magazine article.



It is believed that Grossvater (grandfather) Carl is on his left and Grossmutter (grandmother) Eleonore on his right. The by then already dilapidated house would have been between 30 and 40 years old. Grossvater and Grossmutter were terms Ossie used during my 1975 interview with him


Timber framed Fachwerk construction consisted of a top and bottom plate, with posts at roughly equal intervals as well as on the sides to window and door openings. Timbers would have been red-gum with dimensions around 150 x 150 square. Of interest here is the use of the bent braces at the corner for purely aesthetic reasons. They were most likely cut from a suitably large piece of rectangular timber.


Liebelt House Fachwerk and Conjectural Plan showing central kitchen(K) with cooking hearth and two rooms - Parents bed room (B) and Living Room (L) - on either side. A steep staircase would have led to the attic where the children slept.

10 11


Friedrichstadt – Land near Hahndorf purchased by Johann Friedrich Paech in 1846. Many parcels of land were sold to family members as well as other Zebra families. Much of the wall and roof carpentry to houses and barns I have attributed to Carl Faehrmann.




J.F. Paech House, Friedrichstadt.



Solid Brick walls with typical Carl Faehrmann timber roof structure (attributed).





Son of J.F.Paech House. Fachwerk and roof timbers attributed to C.F.Faehrmann. Fachwerk Barn at Ravenswood also attributed to C.F.Faehrmann was built for J.F. Paechs (Rentschner Paech later at Friedrichstadt) son at Ravenswood, North East of Hahndorf.



‘Granary’ - Fachwerk construction attributed to C.F.Faehrmann near J.F.Paech house which was entirely clad in corrugated iron when this 1980’s photo was taken. This structure is now part of a much altered and enlarged house.


Wedding party of 1903, celebrating the union between Gustav Adolph Kuchel and Louise Martha Braendler, at the Friedrichstadt Granary, south wall. Photo by Diederich in the Mueller collection showing pug infill panels in deteriorated condition


Entire ‘Granary’ south wall with wedding party showing Fachwerk framing including bent braces – attributed to Carl Faehrmann.


‘Granary’ East Elevation Fachwerk framing including bent braces – attributed to Carl Faehrmann.


 ‘Granary’  Perspective from North – East, showing an abundance of bent braces.

23 24


‘Granary’ in 2022 showing conversions including a brick chimney and windows.



 ‘Granary’ attic, showing bent braces before (right) and after renovations.


‘Ossie’ (Oswald) Faehrmann .

Ossie Faehrmann was 81 when he pointed to himself being held by his mother in this 1961 Pix Magazine photograph. It is believed that ‘Grossvater’Carl  is  on his left and ‘Grossmutter’ Eleonore on his right. 

I interviewed Ossie in 1975and took him to look at the Paechtown buildings.

Ossie assured me that they were all built by his grandfather (Grossvater) Carl Faehrmann. There are no records to substantiate this but an overall clarity in design, method and detail in construction technique can be taken as circumstantial evidence when one compares substantiated carpentry work, he did for Wittwer’s Hahndorf Mill. 

28 29 30



31 32 33
34 35 36
37 38 39
40 41 42
43 44 45
46 47 48
49 50 51








PowerPoint Slides


{C}1.                               {C}Faehrmann The Builder






6.                   .

7. - 9.             

10-12.            House Analysis









18.                  Typical braced post to beam 




21.                  .














30.                  Paechtown is on Friedrichstadt land originally purchased by J.F.Paech in 1848.

Another Paech family with Johann Georg as patriarch settled there later, building 4 Fachwerk houses and several Fachwerk Barns.


31-33             Paechtown,  showing Houses 1-4 and associated Barns.

All houses were based on the ‘Flurkuechen Haus’  ( passage kitchen house). Plans were near symmetrical with central passage/kitchen with one or two rooms off either side. This plan type – also known as “Weber Haus” (weaver’s house) was made popular during Frederick William ’s 18th C. eastern expansion. 


34.                  Paechtown House 1 and 4

Both were destroyed by the February 16, 1983 bush-fires.


35.                  Turn of the century Paechtown House 4 

Note the Pidgeon loft on right hand gable

(SA Archives)


36.                  Paechtown House 4 taken 1970’s (LB)


37                   Paechtown House 4 17 Feb 1983 the day after Ash Wednesday.


38.-41            Paechtown houses showing comparative Fachwerk of principal(front) elevations. Note the absence of bracing to House 2 and that all elevations varied in length. This may give an indication in the order of construction as being 1,3,2 and 4.


42.- 48.          Typical Fachwerk timber Construction detail – case study of Paechtown House 2.


49.                  One of the two large remaining Paechtown Barns. This is a full-scale plan designated as 3/3 as opposed to the 2/3 Beerenberg variant as below.


50.                  Location of Beerenberg Barn.


51                   Beerenberg 2/3 sized Barn. 


52-54             Beerenberg 2/3 sized Barn photos 2019 showing bent brace in photos 53 and 54.


55-56             Beerenberg 2/3 sized Barn, Axonometric Plan and View. 

West Elevation shows use of Bent Braces.


57.                  Location of Reimann (later Mooney) 3/3 Fachwerk Barn.  


58-59.            Reimann 3/3 Fachwerk Barn with red brick to front infill panels and later stone residence. Note how the stone residential roof is half-hipped.   

60-65.            Ravenswood, 3/3 Fachwerk Barn built for Friedrichstadt (Rentschner) Paech’s oldest son, Johann Friedrich Wilhelm. 

The two later additions built to the left of the original, stage 1 Fachwerk Barn, show a decline in German values, aspirations and workmanship, suggesting that the integration of first-generation Germans into the Australian way was now complete. From the meticulous stage 1 carpentry joints, the smoothly finished square or rectangular timbers for floor, wall and roof members were no longer desired for stage 2 – although the roof lines were continued. Rough tree trunks merely plonked into the ground with a rudimentary flat roof completed stage 3.

 The ‘she’ll be right’ ‘Aussie’ mantra had bye now become the norm.






[1]  Our Townships, Farms, and Homesteads: Southern District of South Australia : Compilation of a Series of 25 Articles Written for the S.A. Register and Adelaide Observer in 1892.

2 Gladigau’s Carpenter brother Friedrich Wilhelm arrived in the Colony onboard the La Rochelle in September 1855. He lived for a while in Hahndorf Victoria St., then jobbed his way to the State’s South East including Mt Gambier, Yahl and then to Natimuk in Victoria.


[3] Friedenskirche – Three large Churches of Peace were built soon after the Thirty Year War ( 1618 – 1648) in  Jawor (German: JauerGłogów (then German Glogau and burned down in 1758)and Świdnica (German: Schweidnitz) in what is now Poland. They were all enormous Fachwerk structures capable of accommodating thousands.


 Loedewyckx p.10


 The Hanseatic league dominated commercial activities along northern Europe from the 13th to the 15th century. Bricks were commonly used as ballast on the League’s low draft ships and many port buildings are testament to this red-brick architecture.

It could be argued that many Port Adelaide red-brick commercial buildings – are the successors of this Hanseatic legacy via England/London (my observation).   Wikipedia accessed 6.3.2023


Iwan W. An image from a similar photo point to the one on slide 19 was printed in Iwan’s book in Chapter IV Abbildungen (Photographs). This was wrongly placed in Lights Pass and later corrected in Schubert’s translated version.

(Iwan W.; Schubert D. Because of their beliefs: emigration from Prussia to Australia. Highgate, South Australia 1995 .)  




Brasse L  German Colonial Architecture in South Australia. Undergraduate Thesis, University of South Australia 1975.

Hallack E.H. Our Townships, Farms, and Homesteads: Southern District of South Australia : Compilation of a Series of 25 Articles Written for the S.A. Register and Adelaide Observer in 1892.


Loedewyckx A. Die Deutchen in Australien. Ausland un Heimatverlagsaktien-gesellschaft Stuttgart, 1932.


Young G. , Brasse L., Harmstorf I., Marsden A. Hahndorf V1 & V2 Techsearch Inc. 1981.

Iwan W. Um des Glaubens willen nach Australien.Verlag des Luth.Buechervereins, Breslau 1931.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           


Wittwer E.A., Liebelt F.J.  Liebelt Family History. Lutheran Publishing House 1975