After the writer Fritz Reuter moved to Eisenach in 1863, he purchased a plot of land at the foot of Wartburg Castle on which he had a magnificent neo-Renaissance residence built. Reuter spent his twilight years in this prestigious residence. When his widow also died in 1894, the villa fell to the Schiller Foundation according to his will. A year later, the city of Eisenach bought the property and set up a museum for the Low German poet.

At the same time, Nikolaus Oesterlein, a passionate supporter of Richard Wagner, had collected portraits and busts, playbills and letters as well as an extensive collection of literature on the composer's person and work in Vienna and made them accessible to the public in a private museum in 1887. Soon afterwards Oesterlein was forced to sell his treasures and the lexicographer Josef Kürschner, who lived in Eisenach, lobbied for the city to acquire them. After the purchase in 1892, Oesterlein's Wagner collection was housed in Fritz Reuter's villa and finally opened to the public as the Reuter-Wagner Museum in 1897.