Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
April 7th, 1839 and 1849 in Berlin witnessed the naming of no fewer than 14 streets and plazas in Berlin-Kreuzberg only. The sometimes old and in several cases newly built roads ceased to be clusters of letters and digits on the old city maps and became what they are today – some of the best known addresses in town.
Here is a handy list of all of them and a short text presenting the story of three streets in more detail:
Schlesische Strasse (named on April 7th, 1839)
Eisenbahnstrasse (the original Eisenbahnstrasse: on May 22, 1852 it will become Manteuffelstrasse instead)
Lübbener Strasse (again not identical with today´s Lübbener Strasse: on May 22,1852 it became the Eisenbahnstrasse of today)
Luisenufer (in July 1947 the name was changed to: Legiendamm, Oranienplatz and Segitzdamm)
Elisabethufer (since July 31, 1947 known as Leuschnerdamm and Erkelenzdamm respectively)
Lausitzer Platz (Lausitzer Strasse didn´t exist until until 1866)
Lausitzer Kommunikation (since 1868 when it was merged with Kottbusser Kommunikation called Skalitzer Strasse)
Waldemarstrasse (the only of the streets and plazas on the list located partly in Berlin-Mitte: No. 1 to No. 17)
As for Schlesische Strasse, its history is older than its name. Already before 1705 it was used as a field road and an extension of Köpenicker Strasse (the road to Köpenick). When Berliner Akzisemauer (Berlin Customs Wall) wrapped itself around the city in the first half of the 18th century, and after Schlesischer Tor – Silesian Gate – was built in 1735 for all those travelling in the direction of Silesia, the road became a significant city thoroughfare. It turned into a desirable address long before the end of the construction of the Landwehrkanal.
The oldest house in the street, the No. 13, is at the same time the oldest house in the whole borough of Kreuzberg. Built in 1827 it was converted to accommodate a sugar-mill in 1852. Today it is home to Universalstiftung Helmut Ziegner – a foundation holding here, among others, their integration workshops.
Today Schlesische Strasse is not only IN Kreuzberg – it IS Kreuzberg. Between 1839 and 2015 it developed from a horse-and-cart thoroughfare into a hub of hipsterdom and one of the most mystifyingly popular locations in town. It is not pretty, it is not cosy and it is far far from being mysterious yet it has an almost magnetic power over the majority of younger visitors (read: under 35) in Berlin.
Without them Kreuzberg – but also Neukölln – would be like Paris without Rue Rivoli and London without Pall Mall. Well, sort of.
The streets in question are Kottbusser Strasse which behind Kottbusser Brücke takes the name of Kottbusser Damm (with its eastern side belonging to Neukölln and the western flank placed firmly in Kreuzberg 61).
Until April 7th, 1849 the former two were known simply as Rixdorfer Damm or the road to Rixdorf – once the biggest village in Prussia as well as the core and the spore of today´s Neukölln. That year, however, the oldest road connecting today´s Kreuzberg with Köpenick and then continuing towards Mittenwalde and Dresden (hence its earlier name Dresdener Strasse) got divided in two.
Its second, southern part would keep the name Rixdorfer Damm – sometimes still used interchangeably with Cottbusser Strasse – until shortly before 1874 when it became Kottbusser Damm, once an elegant shopping boulevard for the well-heeled citizens of Tempelhofer Vorstadt (Kreuzberg 61 today) and for the said Rixdorf.