Try searching for Köllnische Straße in Berlin today and you will be directed to Niederschöneweide in Treptow-Köpenick. But Berlin – or, to be more precise, what used to be its sister-town of Cölln – had its own Köllnische Straße, one that bore its name for almost exactly a century. Until it vanished along with the whole district it belonged to.
The Second World War and the 1960s refurbishment of Berlin’s old centre deprived the Fischerinsel – later famous for its towering 60-metre tall DDR high-rises and many prominent residents of the said buildings – of both its original architecture as well as its old street-grid. In fact, the old Marktviertel (the name “Fischerinsel” dates back to the 1950s – alternative earlier name “Fischerkietz” had not been in use before the first half of the twentieth century), a historic district at the Spree, would have most probably vanished anyway: demolition plans existed since the 1920s and would have almost certainly been executed had the Nazis come out triumphant in 1945 (keyword: Germania).
As it was, despite initial will to restore the remaining buildings after nearly 50% of the – in some cases listed – architecture had been lost, Fischerinsel was literally swept clean of the quaint but mostly dilapidated old houses and filled in with at the time so badly needed multi-storey mass-accommodation.
One of the nine streets which vanished as a result of this “update” was Köllnische Straße. Called a “street” but more of a lane, really, it connected Fischerstraße with the street An der Fischerbrücke.
It was often photographed by Berlin’s image-chroniclers but the most famous time-witness of all must be the author of our today’s photo, artist and Berliner per excellence (one of many great locals who were not born in Berlin), Heinrich Zille.
Whether he took this photo before or after a visit at one of his favourite Berlin Kneipen is not clear – although we can probably assume that for Zille it was “work first, pleasure later” that counted as a rule – but what we know is that the said Kneipe was almost right behind his back as he was taking the picture. The famous “Zum Nussbaum” – you know it today as a popular tourist restaurant in Berlin’s Nikolaiviertel – used to stand on the corner of Köllnische Straße in Fischerstraße No. 21. The restaurant in Nikolaiviertel is its 1987 replica.