Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Did you know that the legendary Berlin entertainment venue, Haus Vaterland, which used to stand on the corner of Köthener Straße and Stresemannstraße in the old borough of Berlin-Kreuzberg, was designed by the same architect as the equally legendary railway station Anhalter Bahnhof and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial Church in today’s Breitscheidplatz?
Franz Schwechten’s steel-frame building with a stone-coated facade opened in 1912 not as “Haus Vaterland” (that name was attached to it only later) but as “Haus Potsdam”.
Eventually it housed twelve different cafes, tea-rooms and restaurants as well as a cinema. In 1912 its main venue was named after a famous London street in the City of Westminster, however, quite understandably perhaps, by early autumn 1914 the name “Cafe Piccadilly” became an inconvenient reminder of a common truth: that despite waging war on each other Germany and Great Britain used to be and technically still were closely linked in many different ways.
German Kaiser Wilhelm II was Queen Victoria’s grandson and first-degree cousin to British King, George V, with whom by August 1914 he was in the state of war (Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, another main player in the World War One drama, was Wilhelm’s cousin of third degree – it find out more about the fascinating family ties within that group visit this page goo.gl/idDNDj).
However, once the war had been declared it became clear that the cafe’s name was, to put it mildly, inappropriate. So out went “Piccadilly”, in came the terribly patriotic-sounding “Cafe Vaterland” (Berlin’s city council famously tried to change the name of Chausseestraße to something less French, too, but eventually decided that “Straße Straße” would have been a bit trop). By mid-1920s the building, whose management was taken over by OHG M. Kempinski & Co. Was commonly known as Haus Vaterland. After the 1929 refurbishment the name became official.