Ziegelei Museum

The story continues

The history of the Ziegelei-Museum starts 1873 when the family Lörch acquired the grounds for their brickworks and continues with the museum.

In 1873, Martin Lörch bought the forest glade between the forests of Rainmatt and Lindencham and built a simple brickworks. A home nearby was added no later than 1879.

In 1906, the brick and tile manufacture was taken over by his eldest son, Caspar Lörch, who ran it until 1933.

Since 1982, the foundation Stiftung Ziegelei-Museum preserves the Ziegelhütte (brickworks) and the corresponding Biotop (small natural reserve that developed in the former clay pit). It supports the museum and its activities as well as the Fachstelle.

In 2013, the foundation was proud to open the only museum on architectural ceramics and the brick and tile craft in Switzerland on the grounds of the former brickworks of the family Lörch. It houses a permanent exhibition, special exhibitions, and an extensive collection. Its staff is happy to impart their knowledge about brick and tile craft and architectural ceramics to the public by guided tours and workshops.

The Wohnhaus – home of the brickmaker family
The house was built by brickmaker Martin Lörch before 1879. After his death in 1918, it was inhabited by his elder son Caspar and his wife Elisabeth. In 1935, Caspar Lörch died and his widow Elisabeth lived here together with her nephew Paul Wyss, the later postmaster in Hagendorn.

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The five-sided porch was added to the house in 1936, probably under the influence of Martin Lörch's younger son, Jakob. Jakob was an antiquarian and was affectionately called "Binzmühli-Heiland” (“Saviour of the Binzmühli”, his home in Rotkreuz) by all who knew him. Jakob’s hand shows not least in the round-arched entrance door (probably from a chapel) dating to the beginning of the 18th century.

Paul Wyss fitted out the house for his family during the 1960ies: for the first time, they had constant water, toilets, and a bathroom! The stable that was attached to the house was converted into a garage with a laundry room, with living quarters on the upper floor.

In the mid 70ies, the former valley on the side of the house was used as a dug-out material dump, making the house visually loose a whole floor!

After the Ziegelhütte and the Biotop had been bought by the Naturschutzbund (today Pro Natura) in 1979 and donated to the then-founded Stiftung Ziegelei-Museum in 1983, the Canton of Zug bought the rest of the property from Paul Wyss.
The former home of the brickmaker family was put under monumental protection in 2011. In 2012, in connection with the construction of the new museum building, the foundation could acquire the house from the Canton of Zug and restore it. The ground floor accommodates the Fachstelle (scientific department) with a library, on the first floor is a rented apartment. A garden is associated with the house, with a trellis, that was set up around the wood-enclosed well.

The property (Ziegelei-Areal)
In 1873, Martin Lörch bought the clearing between the forests of Rainmatt and Lindencham for 3'000 Franks. It’s situated at the eastern edge of the Reuss river valley, just at the foot of the lateral moraine from the most recent Ice Age. The area is called Kellenmatt / Chellenmatt or Meienberg / Meyenberg, depending on the written sources. As early as 1645, the clay from the “Kellenmattgraben” (Kellenmatt trench) was used for the production of architectural ceramics by the Abbey of Frauental. Later, it was used by the brickworks of Sins.

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Here, Martin Lörch had all he needed for the production of architectural ceramics:
clay and water for the manufacturing of bricks and tiles as well as wood for firing in the kiln. Around the middle of the 19th century, many brickworks became mechanized, with machines and efficient kilns. By contrast, Martin Lörch together with his wife Rosina founded a simple brickworks in 1873. There they made bricks and tiles by hand and fired them in a chamber kiln. He built his first brickworks with second-hand wood from demolished houses. In the beginning, they probably lived here under poor circumstances.

Soon after, probably before 1879, Martin Lörch built a home for his family (in 1874, his first son Caspar was born). The small house is situated slightly above the brickworks and was equipped with a small shed. In 1892, the brickworks is supposed to have been rebuilt and in 1896 it was enlarged by a second gable – using second-hand wood that was salvaged from the Lake after the “Zuger Seekatastrophe” (a catastrophic incident when the first row of houses slid down into the Lake of Zug and many people lost their lives).
In 1899, the group of buildings was completed by a rather large stable barn. It remained in this form until the 1980ies.

The brickworks was taken over in 1906 by Martin’s elder son Caspar and his wife Elisabeth. They continued the craft in the traditional way until the brickworks had to be closed in 1933. The Ziegelhütte (brickworks) was used as a shed and fell more and more into disrepair.

From the mid-70ies, the former valley between the main road and the Ziegelhütte was used as a dug-out material dump. Because of the dump, the historic Ziegelhütte building and the former clay pit, that had in the meantime developed into a low-moor bog, were almost destroyed. In 1976, the demolition could only be prevented through a great effort of the cantonal curator of monuments, Josef Grünenfelder, the president of the Naturschutzbund (society for nature conservation), Albert Zemp, the foreman of the municipality of Cham, Josef Stähli, and the good will of the landowner Paul Wyss.

In 1978, the Ziegelhütte and the low-moor bog in the former clay pit were put under the protection of the Canton of Zug. In 1979, both were bought by the Naturschutzbund (today Pro Natura) and in 1983 donated to the foundation Stiftung Ziegelei-Museum that had been founded in 1982. The remaining grounds with the house were bought by the Canton of Zug in 1988 and donated to the foundation in 2012.

In 1982, the stable barn was destroyed by fire. The new museum stands in its place.

After having realized the significance of the cultural landscape as a whole, in 2008 the house was put under cantonal protection as well and the Denkmalpflege (Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments) supported a replacement building in the place of the destroyed stable barn.

In 2011, the Stiftung Ziegelei-Museum got permission to buy a portion of the Canton’s property and erect a museum building in the place of the former barn.

The former Lörch home now houses the office and the library of the Stiftung Ziegelei-Museum as well as an apartment. The size and architectural shape of the museum reflect the former barn and therefore complete the complex of the old brickworks, consisting of the Ziegelhütte, home, and stable barn.

The foundation Stiftung Ziegelei-Museum

“The foundation intends to preserve the Ziegelhütte Meienberg in Cham, to preserve the accompanying Biotop and foster a brick and tile museum and all related activities, especially in the field of clay processing.” – That’s how the founders of the Stiftung Ziegelei-Museum phrased their plans and goals on April 14, 1982, in the deed of foundation.  

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The Constitution of the foundation was basically the result of a rescue mission in pressing need and at the last hour: in 1975, when the grounds in front of the Ziegelhütte (brickworks) were used as a dug-out material dump, the doom of the Ziegelhütte seemed to be sealed. The demolition of the derelict building and the filling in of the low-moor bog in the former clay pit was imminent.

The Ziegelhütte and the bog were finally saved through a great effort of Dr. Josef Grünenfelder, the cantonal curator of monuments, Albert Zemp, the president of the Naturschutzbund (society for nature conservation) and Josef Stähli, the foreman of the municipality of Cham. The Schweizer Heimatschutz supported their efforts. The municipality of Cham for their part took the low-moor bog eventually in the municipality's inventory of nature reserves as "essential to being protected”, while the Denkmalpflege (Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments) assessed the Ziegelhütte as an “extraordinary technical monument of trans-regional importance”.
After the Naturschutzbund had bought the Biotop (bog) and the Ziegelhütte, the cleaning-up and repair work started. Everything was done by volunteers. Meanwhile, people from the brick and tile industry, led by Ernst Schumacher of the Ziegelei-Körbligen, volunteered their help, too.

It soon became apparent not only the building itself but also the products of the brick and tile making craft, in general, were worthy of preservation. It seemed natural to envisage a museum, possibly in the Ziegelhütte. In order to put it into operation, the Stiftung Ziegelei-Museum was founded in 1982. No one knew then it would take 30 years to realize this dream.

Apart from uncountable hours of volunteer work, large financial means were needed to facilitate the constantly appearing new demands. With Hanspeter Thommen from the general contractor company Alfred Müller AG and Alfred Müller in person, two personalities joined up with the pioneers who played a decisive part in the continuation and survival of the foundation. Apart from the many benefactors, patrons, and sponsors who shall not be forgotten, it was and still is the company Alfred Müller AG that enabled the development of the foundation to what it is today."

Urs Perner, president of the foundation Stiftung Ziegelei-Museum, 2013.


The New Brick and Tile Museum

The foundation Stiftung Ziegelei-Museum Cham found at long last a home for its Brick and Tile Museum on the grounds of the former brickworks of the Lörch family.
The existing architectural ensemble, consisting of the Ziegelhütte and the home of the brickmaker family, was completed with a museum building. Its simple architecture is a reminder of the former stable-barn in this place that burnt down in 1982.

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The foundation’s office and collection space were situated quite a distance from the Ziegelhütte, in the commercial area of Cham. Now, all divisions are united on the grounds of the former Lörch brickworks: the Ziegelhütte is used for guided tours and workshops, the former home of the brickmaker family for research work, the library and the office, and a new building in the place of the burnt down stable-barn for exhibitions and the museum’s collection.

The new museum building fulfills two main requirements: to serve the museum operation and to complete the ensemble of buildings that are representative of the former enterprise. The location and the size of the new building, therefore, follow the former stable-barn. Its architecture interprets the creative and constructive features of a traditional agricultural building and gives the frame for the museum work.

In the winter of 2008/2009, five architectural firms were invited to compete for the new museum building. The winner was the project «Tegola» by Paul Knill from Herisau. It was chosen for its architectural merits in combination with economic and operational criteria.

As first building in the Canton of Zug, the roof of the new museum is covered with panotron®-solar tiles.

An overall concept was created in collaboration with the landscape architects Benedikt Stähli and Silvan Durscher, Cham, and realized together with the involved departments of the Canton of Zug. In the framework of the landscape development concept of the municipality of Cham, the grounds of the former brickworks and their surroundings were upgraded and re-landscaped to make them come alive. Among these measures number a walkway on pillars into the Biotop (small natural reserve in the former clay pit), a small clay quarry with a narrow-gauge railway, and last but not least the “Zwergenwerkplatz” (“dwarf’s activity area”), a nature-oriented playground for children.


The Lörch family,
sometime after 1918



Ziegelei-Museum · Ziegelhütte · 6332 Hagendorn / Cham · +41 41 741 36 24 ·
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