Most of the houses in the old city centre are timber-framed, some with visible timber, some with the timber hidden under rendering, and the older buildings with overhanging upper storeys. This makes very attractive streetfronts. Roofs incline from the ridge to front and back, and are chiefly red-tiled. Gables generally join onto the next door building at varying levels. There are also one or two ancient stone houses with fine façades. The impression is of solid, well-to-do bourgeois dwellings, interspersed with narrow streets of small artisan and labourer houses. With a few eccentric and wonderful exceptions architecture is subordinated to practical use. The few "architectural statements" from post re-unification times stick out like sore thumbs.
Some houses have been fairly recently restored:
Some have been just holding their own till someone takes pity on them:
Some need restoration desperately:
And some will soon cease to exist, like one of the last two so-called Ständerhäuser (early timber-frame buildings in which the load-bearing pillars reach from the base to the roof) remaining in Mühlhausen. It also had one of the few still existing original Schiebefenster (windows with horizontally sliding sections):
Like many cities with largely timber-frame buildings Mühlhausen had a number of disastrous fires. In 1689 the last really big fire destroyed 586 houses, roughly half of the lower city. In 1707, just as Johann Sebastian Bach was starting his period as organist at the Divi-Blasii-Kirche, there was another, and the rebuilding was carried out in the style of the time, namely Baroque, so that Mühlhausen is rich in the elaborate and prosperous-looking houses of that style, both in timber-frame and stone.
Since I wrote about the buildings in desperate need of restoration a team of people led by a local architect (a lady architect, incidentally, Susanne Kreil-Kremberg ) bravely took on the restoration of three tall timber-frame dwellings just by St. Mary's Church and turned them into flats with commercial use at street level. The work took much longer than usual because the original shape was retained with its several overhanging upper floors. Most of the interior structure and the rear were completely rebuilt to suit modern use, insulation and fire precautions. The windows on the street front could perhaps have been less uniform. On the whole, however, one can be happy that demolition did not happen here, as so often elsewhere.
Update 2012: the house Obermarkt 15 has just been lovingly restored, at least on the outside as far as one can see. The owners evidently have an eye for interesting details and have found a joiner to preserve the front door. Admittedly it has been painted - no doubt the woodwork (see photo above) was not in a state to be left exposed, but they have kept the beautiful bevelled glass panes and the mysterious carved face which always fascinates passing children. Crude letter box flaps and ugly bell pushes have gone, and so, I see, has the blue East German historic monument plaque. I wonder why.