Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Baruther Strasse in Kreuzberg 10965 might be a quiet, unassuming little street today – and this feeling of eternal peace is definitely amplified by the presence of a large, historic cemetery complex stretching along it. But before WW2 neither the dead nor those living on this block could count on keeping their peace. At the bus garage of ABOAG, Allgemeine Berliner Omnibus AG (Berlin Bus Company) at No. 14 the vehicles arriving, being repaired and leaving the garages provided enough noise to keep all of them awake.
When this photo was taken in 1908 ABOAG had just set up their third big depot and repair garage on a piece of land between Baruther Strasse 14 and Gneisenaustrasse 99-100. They most likely bought it from Spedition C. Brastrup, a local forwarding company who left behind a set of solid, ready to use buildings with excellent parking facilities: for 25 buses to the left of the main gate and 26 of them to the right. The 3-metre-wide gates to the sheds were also enough for the new double-deck Omnibussen as they were called at the time (Berlin introduced double-deckers on July 3rd, 1907). The buses above belonged to the new ABOAG fleet produced by Daimler in Berlin-Marienfelde.
The photographer captured the scene at the bus garage from the courtyard window of the house in Gneisenaustrasse 99-100: in front of him (in the early 20th century most photographers chosen for such topic were male) he saw the main entrance to the Depot through the house in Baruther Strasse, while to his left and to his right he had the Mietskasernen (tenements or “rental barracks”) in Nositzstrasse and Solmsstrasse respectively.
Here is a 1928 aerial photo of the block Gneisenau-, Nositz-, Baruther, Solmsstrasse in Berlin-Kreuzberg with its well visible high housing density: in 1910 an average building in Berlin had 76 residents, a European record par excellence!
And here the same area in 1945 with clear damage done to Nositzstrasse but Solmsstrasse looking almost unscathed.
After clearing up the ruins in the late 1940s the borough was left with an attractive albeit inconveniently cut plot at their disposal. Eventually, in 1989, after the old houses in the old Baruther Strasse 11a to 17 had been torn down, it was used to build a new and badly needed primary school: Lenau-Schule.
Apart from the school, the borough invested in a new kindergarten and performed a rather clever trick while planning it: the outdoor play area of the kindergarten was placed almost right in the old middle of the street, cutting Baruther Strasse in half and turning a big stretch of it into a pedestrian paradise. What might seem like a crass mistake was a simple way of preventing car drivers circumnavigating the (always!) heavy traffic in Gneisenaustrasse and Blücherstrasse to use this little thoroughfare as a short-cut between Zossener Strasse and Mehringdamm. It definitely worked.
One of the main sources for this text was a web page which is a treasure trove for anyone interested in the history of Berlin´s public transportation system, bahninfo forum. Have fun exploring!