Foto de la fachada Este en construcción
Fachada Este de la Casa (2 de agosto de 1947)

Documented history of the construction of Villa Winter

This autumn, 2021, marks two important anniversaries for us: the hundred-year old birth of our mother, Isabel Althaus (3/10/1921), and fifty years since our father, Gustav Winter, died (23/11/1971). Since his death, news articles started to show up, later turned into “documentaries” or “investigation” programmes, and in the past few years, those stories have significantly grown in social networks, spreading stories and tales…

The main topic, the fact that the house was believed to have been either a base for German submarines during the 2nd World War, or a mansion where parties were held for important nazi officers, and later used as shelter by them.

How it all started: the house of Cofete, is known as “the Winter’s house” or “Villa Winter” -although people from Jandía, and the family, have always known it as “the Cofete chalet”-

It is high time we bring forward a series of documents (letters, quotations, contracts, periodical reports about the work carried out, designs, photos) which “speak” for themselves about the house, and how it all started, its construction and everything surrounding it. Also, where the materials used came from and how they were transported to Cofete. There are also weekly dated reports that include the list of people taking part in the work and how much they were paid for the job.

When checking all the aforementioned documents, it is easy to follow the detailed construction process that provides us with the following data:

  • The first steps were taken toward the end of 1941: once its location was chosen, the work on the foundation got started, works such as weeding and digging. The house is located on a hill that goes from the mountain to the beach. The foundation work got underway, and the work was interrupted a few months later, at the beginning of 1942.
  • In October 1946, with the arrival of Maestro Mr Juan Concepción Villalba to Cofete from Lanzarote, the foundation work resumed. Once it was completed, during 1947, they started to build the main body of the house: the basement, walls, arcades; and work started being done on the partition walls on the inside, making the bedrooms, the living room, dining room, library, etc. In the last few months of that year, the tower was built. The documents attached (backed up by detailed photographic evidence of every step of the construction) show the weekly progress of the intense construction work carried out throughout 1947.
  • From 1948 onwards, the work slowed down, and it mainly boiled down to overlay work and finishing touches, inside and outside, as well as installations and carpentry. In 1951, the sloped roof with tiles was erected (1952). The work went on until 1954. We cannot pin down a finishing date, since the work was really never completed as projected. The family never lived in that house, but in Morro Jable instead.

This is not a biography of Gustav Winter. However, as promoter of the house, we must provide some brief details in order to contextualise the situation and understand how he became interested in this place, the project he aimed to develop and how he purchased the property –as seen in the Background section of this website-.

One of the great difficulties when it came to the construction of the house, was down to the lack of a road, until the end of 1951, that would allow them to carry the necessary materials. The section called Access to Cofete, shows the ways in which it used to be, and can nowadays be accessed.

The main section of this page, gathers the documented history of the Construction process.

In the section called The Life of the House, we talk about the most relevant facts related to it, as well as about those who have lived in it and all the owners it has ever had.

Finally, the Submarines in Cofete and other Tales section includes documents that refute those rumours.

It’s been almost 20 years since my first, and, so far, only article was published in the press in this regard (“La leyenda de Cofete”, La Provincia, 17th January 2002. Gustavo Winter Althaus). I then expressed my feelings of powerlessness and pessimism when it came to refuting such wide-spread tales, with stories that lacked any documented grounds and any other way to prove such statements. I still feel exactly the same way.

How did those stories come about? It is all part of an isolated stand-alone house in the midst of overwhelming nature, which makes it particularly stunning. The owner: a German person. From then on, rumours and speculations started to spread, stories invented and word of mouth did the rest, adding new groundless tales. Appearances are in favour of those tales and this increases interest on the behalf of the story followers. When we hear a story over and over again, we are more prone to believe it, even if it is not true. We tend to want to believe what confirms our own prejudices. Is that all? Is that enough? Is there any evidence to back that up with?

Human beings tend to fabricate stories and tales and we don’t generally bother to check them out. Instead, we just say: “it is said that …”; or “many people are saying that…” Is that really enough? And then there’s those behind sensationalist reports, overall, they don’t bother to do any research: what truly matters is to sell and dramatise as much as possible in order to have a larger audience.

When a story is so widely spread, it is probably useless to try to come up with arguments against it. Most people are not up to giving up an attractive story that covers our gossip needs. Those stories are bullet-proof against reality. In doing this, we are under no illusion that those stories will fade away. Our intention in submitting those documents, is to provide another perspective for those who have heard or read all those tales about the house and the family: the story behind the construction of the house, based on documented evidence.

Rafael, Gabriel, Juan Carlos and Gustavo Winter Althaus
Written and edited by: Gustavo Winter Althaus
November 2021

Foto de la fachada de la Casa en la actualidad
La Casa en la actualidad

Regarding the submitted material

The fact that during the first years the house was being built, between October 1946 and August 1948, Gustav Winter lived in Madrid, allows us to provide a detailed report, unusually so, of the construction process, especially regarding the year 1947. During that year, the work sped up and there were regular weekly reports confirming the state of the construction, along with photographs of the house. He then answered with new guidelines and the corresponding designs, leading the construction work.

One of the main sources that allows us to follow the construction process of the chalet de Cofete closely, is the correspondence between March 1946 and August 1948 (when Gustav Winter permanently moved to Jandía). Correspondence between:

  • Mr Arturo Kamphoff, legal agent and representative of Dehesa de Jandía S. A. in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
  • Mr Guillermo Schrauth, representative in Jandía, and
  • Gustav Winter, leaseholder of the property, who lived in Madrid during that time.

The letters sent by Mr Arturo Kamphoff (hereinafter AK), or by Mr Guillermo Schrauth (hereinafter GS) to Madrid, were generally addressed to Mr Manuel Girona, owner o Dehesa de Jandía S. A., friend and partner of Gustav Winter (hereinafter GW), but it was really he who received and answered those letters.

Every one of the letters sent, were numbered and signed and then generally, an unsigned copy was filed away for documenting purposes. Some of those letters were kept in the archives of Jandía; others were taken from folders belonging to GW from the time when he lived in Madrid. Depending on the archive the letters we submit come from, whether that is from Jandía, or from GW’s personal archive, there are original copies signed and unsigned copies of the letters exchanged.

In addition, there are also letters exchanged with other parties: building engineers, suppliers, as well as other documents: contracts, invoices, designs, photos, etc.

As it happens with the letters, the quotations, construction progress reports, lists of staff hired, etc., they are written on very thin tracing paper. When scanning two or more stapled documents, the text on the following page can be seen slightly.

None of the material submitted has been altered in any way. With regard to the photos, some are digitalised copies of original negatives that have been saved, and others are digital photos that we have no negative copies of.

English translation by Dácil Sánchez 
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