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Fachada Este de la Casa 2 de agosto de 1947East Facade of the House on August 2, 1947

Documented history of the construction of Villa Winter

It is not often that a house —in this case the house known as CASA WINTER— and the man behind it —Gustav Winter—, has been the source of so many stories. Those stories have featured in plenty of articles and reports for the past forty years and have spread even further with the rise of social networks.

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”—.

The history of the construction of the house based on documents.

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 (“The Tale of 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

La casa en la actualidadThe house today

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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In order to follow a chronological order, first of all, we must highlight the great work carried out by the three leading characters of this webpage: Mr. Guillermo Schrauth, Mr. Arturo Kamphoff and Mr. Juan Concepción Villalba. The letters exchanged between the former two and my father, clearly portray their significance, also showing the talent displayed by Maestro Villalba, the main person in charge of the construction of the house, and whose outstanding job and expertise allowed him to be able to handle any difficulties posed by the distances and materials that were then scarce.

A section of this page is dedicated to the memory of the work carried out during the first years by Mr. Salvador Falero and the first “German people”: Mr. Alberto and Mr. Juan LangenbacherMr. Ricardo HäbichMr. Ramón ZadowMr. Theodor Günther and Mr. Rudolf Kalab. Some of them currently have living relatives who can receive this well-deserved mention.

This tribute to our dear parents, consists precisely of showing our appreciation to the many people who played an important role for our family. Especially during those first years after our parents arrived to Jandía, toward the end of the 1940’s, and the difficult 1950’s and beginning of the 1960’s. Most of them are long gone, and will not be able to receive this, but nevertheless, they deserve to be remembered. Some of them worked and got paid for their jobs, however, they always went the extra mile with their support and eagerness, and it was thanks to them that our parents did not give up and left and stayed in Jandía instead. They could have returned to the Mainland, and our father, as he had done in the past, could have worked there as an engineer after the war, or in Switzerland or Germany. Then, we, his children, wouldn’t have had the chance to enjoy our childhood and youth on these wonderful islands. Thanks to all of them. Despite having so many of them unfairly escaped our memory, unfortunately, but others do remain and we want them to be remembered:

Juana Díaz and Pancho López were very significant at the very beginning, alongside Juan Viera Cubas, a witness of their marriage in Gran Canaria in 1951; to Juana Hierro and Patricio Francés; Gregorio Soto. Also, to many of the medianeros, some of them closer to us like Tomás Pérez and Silvestre Francés and their extended families.

Our parents were very fortunate to have the visits of Mr. Eulogio Espinel, who incredibly managed to “discover” underground water wherever there was any to be found. Also, we would like to thank all of those who later worked opening wells –like his children Miguel and Roque-, building canals, ponds and water tanks. Without the water, Jandía wouldn’t have been the same.

We would also like to thank all the men and women who worked on the paths and roads, so very necessary for Jandía to develop and used to come and go, often very early in the morning. Doctors José Peña and Juan Guerrero, from Puerto Rosario the first, and years later from Gran Tarajal the second, to help people who were sick or injured in Jandía and who deserved our appreciation. To all those female and male teachers who did such fabulous work in the 1950’s and 1960’s: Mrs. Angelina AmadoMrs. Juana MartelMrs. Flora FelipeMrs. Delia Bolaños and her husband Mr. Juan VegaMrs. Ana María and Mr. Luis Delgado, among others. Some of them were our first teachers.

The cooks of the Children’s Canteen, I’m sure they are dearly remembered by many men and women from Morro Jable. They cooked for many generations with love and affection. Some of them are, Lalita LópezCatalina RodríguezSoledad Francés and Antoñita Ramos. As we mentioned before, we have also forgotten some of their names, but they deserve our tribute.

We affectionately remember the many women who looked after us, and we would like to thank them for the affection displayed: Mª AntoniaPetraMaría RodriguezElenaMercedesJuana and Soledad FrancésConsuelo AlonsoMaruca and Catalina Pérez. And last, but definitely not least thanks to Guadalupe Viera and her son Juan Rodriguez. Luckily, most of them are still among us and will be able to receive our sign of appreciation.

We have a special spot in our hearts for our dear “adoptive parents”, María Montañez and Agustín Marrero, who lived in the family home in Morro Jable for 24 years.

We have been extremely fortunate to have been close to Lorenzo Cabrera, who keeps on sharing his good memory and priceless stories with us.

Our appreciation to the generous work carried out by Mr. Alfredo Méndez, relentless, going around from one place to another on his motorbike. We were lucky to have had him as a neighbour and having enjoyed the friendship of his children, playing with them, going on field trips together and fishing.

To all those priests who practised their priesthood in Jandía during the 1950’s and the 1960’s, with a special mention to Mr. Leonilo MolinaMr. Diego Ortiz and Mr. Ignacio Pérez.

We would also like to show our appreciation to a series of people who live in Gran Canaria, and who were key for our family, although they won’t receive our words of appreciation: brothers Andrés and Manuel Sánchez Pérez, efficient and generous; Vicente Martínez and David J. Nieves, author of wonderful movies and photographs of Jandía that were used to promote tourism. We remember our parents’ friends on this island with affection, many of them are our godparents: the Suárez-Cordóns, the Naranjo-Cordóns, the Pescadors – Hidalgos and, above all, Pino Hidalgo and Juan Nogales. And Mr. Francisco Rodríguez Cantón, their main legal advisor.

Furthermore, we have been extraordinarily fortunate to have had, and keep on having the affection and friendship of Toñi de Frutos and Guillermo Ferrer, our dear teacher, who put up with five teenagers and who gave us true life lessons.

To our nephew Carlos: without his priceless intervention, this project would have never seen the light.

And to our beloved parents.

Rafael, Gabriel, Juan Carlos and Gustavo Winter Althaus

I have a special spot for Mr. Andrés Santana (“Siete esquinas”) who shared his experiences and memories with me regarding the first half of the 20th Century in Jandía; with Mr. Juan Viera (“El truco”) who told me about life in Cofete, and Pepe Concepción, who told me everything about his arrival to Cofete in 1950, to work with his father building the house and the road, and who shared so many of his memories with me. Thanks to all of them, although they are no longer here to hear this.

I would like to show my appreciation to those who can still hear it: María Rodriguez RogerFaustina AcostaFlora HierroRenata LangenbacherBárbara Díaz and Claudio Reyero, and Juana Francés and Roque Espinel: all of them gave me a warm welcome and shared their stories about life in Jandía and in Cofete. I would also like to thank Marcial Arocha, who has provided me with his vast knowledge about the history of Jandía.

To José Luis Abaroa and Alexander Peer, for their thorough research work, and whom we have much to thank for the content of our father’s biography.

Finally, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the people who have contributed to the making and edition of this webpage: Nemesys 2.0 and tinkers, who have done a magnificent design and content integration job; to Dácil and Fermín, English and German translators, respectively, who patiently put up with all the changes I have been making to texts that had until then seemed already finished versions, and to CarmenJuan and Jesús, who have proofread the texts and provided me with priceless suggestions.

And to Esther, for an endless number of reasons.

Gustavo Winter Althaus
February, 2022