What can you be waiting for? Don’t you see the open door? Cross the threshold, have no fear: you are more than welcome here!” Inscription on the façade
Our house was built in 1260 and is therefore one of the oldest in town. From the 14th century onwards, several generations of the Biberli family lived here. In 1338, the first of them was warned by the town council not to tip rubbish into the lane. After the prosperous Biberli lineage died out, it became the home of town clerks, councillors, and other respected Zurich citizens.
The house acquired its present name in the 17th century because the then owner grew vines on the roof and sold the wine on the ground floor. Occasional gusts of wind would tip the vines over on to the neighbouring house, so he cheekily attached poles to it to support his plants. His neighbour was less than happy and sued him – successfully. Thus the property ended up in the records as “Zur Reblaube” – At the Sign of the Grape Arbour.
In 1778 the house became the vicarage of Johann Kaspar Lavater, the newly established minister of the neighbouring Church of St. Peter. The poet Goethe, accompanied by his employer Duke Charles August of Weimar, came to visit Lavater in this house in 1779 and probably stayed in the Goethe-Stübli, as it came to be known. Writing from Zurich, Goethe said of Lavater: “He is the best, greatest, wisest, sincerest of all mortal and immortal human beings I have ever known.” The vicarage was turned into an inn in 1880. Hermann Kaiser bought the house in 1919, renovated it, and commissioned skilled craftsmen to create the famous frescoed façade.
During the 70 years that the Kaiser family owned the “Reblaube”, they turned it into one of the most celebrated establishments in the city.