Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin



Krankenhaus Am Urban around 1898

Krankenhaus Am Urban around 1898

 At 9:oo AM sharp the newly opened 3rd municipal hospital in Berlin, Krankenhaus Am Urban, checks in its very first patient: a Dienstmädchen (a maid, a female servant) suffering from an unspecified lung condition.

Before noon that day the male station is going to take in several patients as well. A couple of hours later 20 persons in need of hospitalisation are going to be relocated from Krankenhaus im Friedrichshain – the first municipal hospital opened in Berlin in 1874 and already for some time struggling to provide medical help to all those who need it.

The new hospital has the capacity of 574 beds for 192 men and 166 women on the internal medicine ward, as well as for 120 men and 96 women on the surgical ward. The fact that more men are to be admitted than women has nothing to do with discrimination: men are much more often victims of industrial accidents – a sad but almost every-day occurrence in the times of heavy industrialisation.

Hermann Blankenstein, the architect of this hospital and of plenty of other both medical and non-medical Berlin establishments, like the famous Markthalle IX in Kreuzberg 36 (more about Blankenstein in the post here), being a skilled craftsman and a man of vision made sure that the new hospital had extra space for more beds than originally planned. He knew that with the social and market developments in Berlin the demand for them will be growing.

Having originally planned a not very effective but economical gas lighting for the Krankenhaus, Blankenstein was soon surprised by the good news that Berlin Parliament agreed to cover the costs of an electric lighting installation. And so Krankenhaus Am Urban became the first Berlin hospital lit with light bulbs instead of gas flames.

This, in return, had an immense effect on the effectiveness and the speed of treatment: the surgeons could finally operate on their patients regardless of the weather or the time of the day. Which in many cases saved humans lives by itself.

Electricity was not the only innovation introduced here. The hospital between Dieffenbach-, Grimm- and Urbanstrasse was also the first one to be equipped with a telephone network: the person responsible for the check-in at the central reception desk placed next to the main entrance in the administration building could immediately reach every ward, both medical heads of the hospital (in 1890 those were Prof. Fraenkel and Prof. Körte – after whom Fraenkelufer and Körtestrasse in Kreuzberg were named), the hospital´s administration manager as well as make phone calls to other numbers in Berlin.

The administration building and the entrance to the hospital´s reception desk in 1942 (photo: Bildindex)

The administration building and the entrance to the hospital´s reception desk in 1942 (photo: Bildindex)

The third novelty introduced at the hospital Am Urban were the hydraulic lifts in the two-storey pavilions – the buildings had two floors to win more space within the relatively small plot on which the complex was built. Unfortunately, as it turned out later the doors to the lifts were too narrow to allow any hospital beds to be transported inside them (probably the only mistake made by Blankenstein and his assistants). The management had no choice but to issue an order to place all the serious medical cases on the ground floor only.

In 1898 Krankenhaus Am Urban will open an X-ray laboratory: first in the cellar of the surgery building and then 9 years later, in 1907 as a separate building altogether. Its head was Konrad Biesalski, the man who established the very first clinic for disabled children in Berlin. On the corner of Freilingrathstrasse and Fontanepromenade in Kreuzberg (more about Biesalski and his revolutionary approach towards the treatment of disabled children in the older post here).

After the old part of the hospital was closed down, the listed historic complex was renovated and converted into a residential complex. Today apart from the regular flats and apartments it houses a small psychiatric day-clinic, a clinic offering help to mothers suffering mental problems, a small denomination-free chapel and dozens of freelancer offices (usually as part of the generously planned flats).

No longer required to provide help to the suffering, it offers quiet and comfortable accommodation to almost a hundred families. And the only pain and tears you might experience there these days are those of the little kids accidentally running their tricycles against one of the beautifully restored historic walls.

You can find out more about the hospital and its history in the following posts:





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