At the beginning the Wassermühle Karoxbostel project was of limited local importance. The initiators were local people from neighbouring villages. But soon after the Mill Association was founded in February 2012 the situation changed. The number of members grew rapidly and continuously to 1.200 members today. Thus the Wassermuehle Karoxbostel e.V. is today the largest mill association in Germany with members and sponsors originating from the whole Hamburg Metropolis region and beyond.
From the beginning it was important for the responsible persons to create a place, where people of all ages and walks of life could meet, contribute their knowledge and skills and in return earn high appreciation. Consequently, for the initiators of the association not only the restoration progress of the monument ensemble was important, but also the participation of as many people as possible. For some time now the watermill has become a lively place to encounter, a regional centre for events of all kinds as well as a popular tourist attraction. These facts and the success in restoring the monument ensemble, visible to everyone, have established the watermills high reputation as a flagship project for voluntary engagement.
All restoration work at the mill ensemble was carried out with the aim of preserving the badly damaged historical monument for future generations and transform it into a vibrant meeting place for people of all ages, whether disabled or not. In agreement (Together) with the municipal authority for the preservation of historical monuments, the association’s board decided to restore the buildings based on a muse logical concept. It was very important that the cultural and historical significance of the buildings should be preserved.
Both objectives were achieved. During the renovation- and restoring works visitors could witness the progress being made. Since 2013 the Mill Society offers guided tours for domestic and foreign visitors as well as comprehensive programs of culture and environment on the premises. Moreover it participates on recurrent events like “Deutscher Mühlentag” (German Mill Day), the “Tag des offenen Denkmals” (Open Monument Day) and “Tag der Industriekultur am Wasser in der Metropolregion Hamburg” (Industrial Heritage on Waterside Day in the metropolitan region of Hamburg). All events, e.g. author’s readings, concerts, art exhibitions, theatre performances or fairy tail events have free admission and are always well attended.
At the Watermill Karoxbostel, recently recognized as a “Place of extracurricular Learning in Education for a sustainable Development” by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Culture, numerous education projects take place.
In January 2016 the Watermill became a branch of Seevetal’s registry office. Since then, numerous couples have celebrated their wedding vows here and and also celebrated in the mill thereafter. in addition, church services of various religions are held on the premises of the mill.
The voluntary work has been the important and deciding pillar for the restoration of the buildings. Since April 2012 every Saturday dozens of volunteer helpers meet at the Mill to help with the restoration. Their collective effort has created a strong sense of community and identification with the Mill project. Moreover many experienced experts of the “Jugendbauhütte der Deutschen Stiftung Denkmalschutz” (Youth Activists of the German Monument Protection Foundation) support the project with guidance and resources. There is also a cooperation with two disabled facilities, the local primary school, certified nature- and landscape guides, with the gamekeeper association of Hittfeld and the local group of the “Naturschutzbund Deutschland” (German Nature Protection Organization) When the restorations begun, corporate sponsors were in doubt, as to whether the ambitious work on the dilapidated could be successful. The enormous commitment and engagement of many volunteer helpers convinced the director of the Bingo Foundation, Mr. Karsten Behr, to release the initial funds.
This also encouraged numerous local firms to support the project Wassermühle Karoxbostel with generous and urgently needed contributions in material, expertise and labour. Five project steps were defined and performed to restore the building ensemble. In total 426.100 Euro of funding have been invested to restore the main building, the Watermill, the Sawmill and the reinstatement of the historical farm yard aspect. The European Union contributed € 129.000, the Federal Republic of Germany with € 48.000, the county of Lower Saxony with € 16.200, the district of Harburg with € 28.000, the community of Seevetal with € 35.000,- the German Foundation for Monument Protection with 67.000, the Bingo Environment Foundation with € 40.000, the Regional Association of Lüneburg with 27.900, the Savings Bank Foundation of Lower Saxony with € 20.000 and the Savings Bank Harburg-Buxtehude with € 15.000. The outstanding voluntary engagement of the “Mill Savers” and the cautious and skilled restoration work being carried out on the watermill ensemble, a unique cultural historic jewel, was honoured with the “Landespreis für Denkmalpflege” (State prize for monument conservation), the most important prize awarded by the Federal Republic of Germany. We believe that it could be a role model for other European projects of monument protection.