A dream becomes reality
"The penny had dropped"
The idea came to Siegfried Wendel on his honeymoon. In the mid-1960s, he and his wife Gretel visited an open-air museum near Los Angeles. The tourists from Germany were particularly impressed by a house that looked like a saloon from the outside, but inside there was a whole arsenal of player pianos and other automatic instruments. It was immediately clear to Siegfried Wendel: "There should be something like that in Germany." The penny had dropped. Five years later, the first vague idea had become reality.
Start in Hochheim
On October 17, 1969, the "First German Museum for Mechanical Musical Instruments" opened its doors. In the local history museum of the city of Hochheim am Main, the Dalheimer Klosterhof, Siegfried Wendel welcomed his first visitors.
Actually, Wendel, who was still working as a social worker in Mainz-Gustavsburg at the time, had already considered Rüdesheim as the ideal location for his plans because of the large number of tourists. But the Rüdesheim city fathers refused to support him.
In Hochheim, the space in the local history museum soon became too small. In 1971, Siegfried Wendel moved his music machines to the former "Fischle" winery, which he had acquired specifically for this purpose. The museum was now bigger and more beautiful, it could now accommodate almost twice as many instruments. However, Wendel's biggest problem remained unsolved: "There were no streams of visitors."
Move to Rüdesheim
Siegfried Wendel immediately seized the opportunity when in 1973 he heard that the building of the former wine cooperative in Rüdesheim was to be rented out. In order to better emphasize the attractiveness of his collection he renamed it to "Siegfried's Mechanical Music Salon". Nevertheless: "At first, the tourists ran in large droves from the bus parking lot, past the music salon, to the Drosselgasse."
This only changed when Wendel managed to establish contact with English tour guides during the Rüdesheim Wine Festival.
Visit to the Federal Chancellor
Siegfried Wendel's collection became known nationwide when the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt invited him to his garden party in Bonn. From eight in the evening until four in the morning, Wendel and his staff gave a concert with mechanical musical instruments in the Palais Schaumburg. The "Report from Bonn" [Former German TV magazine about current politics] showed Siegfried Wendel with a black cape, flowing beard and hat.
However, the rush of visitors after the garden party at the Federal Chancellor's brought new problems again: Now the rooms in the former winegrowers' cooperative proved to be too small and cramped. So Siegfried Wendel considered whether he should accept the offer of the city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber to move his museum there.
However, this time those responsible in Rüdesheim reacted to keep Siegfried Wendel there. They offered him the Brömserhof on Oberstrasse, an old knight's residence just fifty meters away from the tourist magnet Drosselgasse. Parts of the building date back to 1310. "I had already stood in front of this house when I wanted to go to Rüdesheim for the first time and thought to myself that it would be ideal." Wendel didn't think twice and stayed in Rüdesheim. He moved his museum for the third and last time.
Since then, the collection and visitor numbers have grown steadily. The music cabinet currently presents its 350 instruments to its approximately 130,000 visitors per year - from the distinctive music box from the 18th century to the massive fairground organ.
Since 1998 the Wendel family is no longer the tenant, but the owner of the Brömserhof. The inventory of the museum at its current location is therefore secured for the foreseeable future. Above all because his wife Gretel was not the only one who shared her husband's enthusiasm for mechanical jukeboxes.
In the meantime, son Jens has inherited his father's legacy in the second generation. And together with his daughter Lena and son Lucas the family business continues in the third generation.