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               IPA HOUSES HISTORY

IPA now has over 63 properties in 21 countries worldwide  where members can stay in reasonably priced accommodation. Today there are IPA Houses across the globe, from Australia to South Africa to the United Kingdom - the concept is still developing with more Houses being opened each year.

IPA Houses-History

The following article has been compiled with the help of Alan Carter (International Secretary General 1994 - 2003), Jürgen Reher (member - Section Germany), Theo Leenders (International Secretary General 1985 - 1994) and Horst Lindemann (member - Section Germany).

Further information about IPA Houses can be obtained from the International Administration Centre (IAC).

It all began with a tent ....

Back in 1959 there was a camping site at Unnenberg near Wuppertal, where IPA members from the whole of Europe used to gather.  The popularity of this camping site increased year by year and when it closed in 1968 it was recording an annual turnover of 1,100 overnight stays. But as one knows camping is a pastime for young persons and this was recognised by the IPA, who were looking round for alternatives.

IBZ Castle Gimborn was founded in 1969.  A group of IPA members from Denmark, Germany and Holland used to meet up in the beautiful area called Oberbergischer Land (the high country) near Cologne for family holidays. 

Close by was the dilapidated castle in the small village of Gimborn, which was owned by Frei Herr (Lord) Von Furstenburgh.  This early group of pioneers, which included Theo Leenders, the 3rd International Secretary General, befriended the aging Lord, who agree to lease his castle to the IPA on condition that they renovated it. 

A committee was set up which later became the Board of Management for the IBZ Trust.  They then considered it would be appropriate to have a self-catering house close by for visitors to the castle.  Frei Herr Von Furstenburgh was pleased to let them lease an old gamekeepers cottage on his small estate which had fallen into disuse.  This was renovated by the Wuppataal IPA Branch and became known as the UHU House, the first IPA House

It took only two years before the UHU House near Wuppertal was able to play a role. As the IPA members in Wuppertal set about converting the UHU House they could never have imagined the pioneer work they had started. In subsequent years IPA Houses have become well known all over the world as places of enjoyment and relaxation. Shortly after the IPA House at Gimborn was founded IPA Houses at Blender-alm in Kempten and the Thielker-Haus at Bad Oeynhausen were established. 

The IPA House which was established at Bad Oeynhausen by Karl Reichenberg, Chairman of the local IPA Branch, who leased and converted an old schoolhouse and was named the Thielker House after the local Mayor who supported the project. 

The impetus to create more IPA Houses was driven by the thinking of like-minded members who wanted to create places where IPA members could meet regardless of national boundaries. The pioneers who drove this philosophy forward were people like Karl Reichenberg. He had experienced the trauma of the Second World War and personally suffered the horrors and privations of that time and during the post-war years.

The idea quickly caught on in other European countries. The IPA members of the Netherlands were strongly represented in the early beginnings of IPA Houses. They knew the reality of being an occupied people. The pioneering member for IPA
Houses in the Netherlands was Rolof Kemkers who stood down in 2001 from national office after over 37 years of service with the Netherlands Section.

The founders had always set their sights at creating IPA Houses to serve as places for rest and relaxation. The many IPA Houses that exist today differ greatly in form and presentation.  They vary from simply furnished houses in wonderful locations to converted schools and well-furnished villas.

In nearly every case the houses have to be renovated and modernised.  There is little comparison today with the early houses which set out to provide simple accommodation at low prices.  The high standards which have been achieved today represent a big change.  There were few facilities in the earlier houses and little comfort.  But in spite of this they were popular and well-visited. Up until the 70's there was no need for regulations.  It was left to the individual house managers to manage in the way they thought fit.  These house leaders, as they were then called, did everything on a voluntary basis and showed incredible commitment.

For 9 years, from 1976 until 1985, the German Section maintained an IPA House at Leigh on Sea close to Southend.  After discussion with the British Section it was agreed that the house should be called "Arthur Troop House".  The circumstances were that a police officer named Johannes Sunnus who worked at the Federal Criminal Office in Wiesbaden inherited a large semi-detached house at Leigh on Sea from an aunt.  Not wishing to sell the house he offered it to the German Section for lease.  The offer was accepted and on 17th April 1976 the Arthur Troop House was officially opened in Leigh on Sea in the presence of our Founder, Arthur Troop, and members of the National Executive Council from the German and British Sections.  The Mayor of Southend was also present for the opening, which received wide coverage in the local press and was hailed as a success for British-German co-operation.  The IPA House was open to IPA members from all Sections and became very popular as it was close to the capital city and the cost was only £1 per person per night.

Obviously, it was not possible for the German Section to manage the house from afar, a House Manager was needed and was found in the person of Chico Bates, a serving Detective Sergeant in the Southend Police, who was known to Johannes Sunnus.  For 9 years Chico and his wife meticulously looked after the Arthur Troop IPA House as if it was their own.  Their work was greatly appreciated by the many visitors who stayed at the house.  When Johannes Sunnus decided to sell the house in view of his declining health in 1985 the Arthur Troop House was closed.  However, the German Section were intent on recognising Chico Bates for his extraordinary commitment.  He was awarded the German International Friendship Prize in 1986, becoming the 11th recipient of the award and the first British member.

Whilst one chapter closed another opened because the popularity of IPA Houses was recognised within the British Section and shortly afterwards IPA Houses were established in England and Scotland.

Karl Reichenberg is always regarded as the person who carried the early ideas of the house pioneers forward. As the Chairman of the Bad Oeynhausen IPA Branch, he was mainly responsible for the founding of the Thielker IPA House, which was converted from an old school.  He took the lead in 1976 in establishing the working group for IPA Houses in Germany. 

This early meeting was also attended by members from the Netherlands and Great Britain. This meeting set the standards as to what an IPA House should be. Affectionately referred to within IPA House circles as the father of IPA Houses, Karl Reichenberg stood down from his post at a meeting of the IPA Houses working group in 1997.  It was here that the then President of the German Section, Walter Herrmann, presented Karl with honorary life membership for his services to IPA Houses within Germany and for other valuable work he had performed for the IPA.

Today there are IPA Houses in 20 countries worldwide, with the prospect of more houses in more countries for use by IPA members.

Welcome to the World of IPA Houses.