Die Friedrichstrasse

After the Thirty Years War in 1674, Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm built the baroque fortress Dorotheenstadt. The Friedrich Strasse became the major connecting road between Dorotheen- stadt and other districts. In the course of this, the junction Unter den Linden/ Friedrich Strasse emerged as the most important intersection and represented Prussia's prosperity at its height.

In order to increase tax revenues, "Soldier King" Friedrich Wilhelm I urged a more rapid construction of the Friedrich Strasse. His son, "Friedrich the Great", ordered the construction of representative street frontages and financed the Bourgeoisie's house facades.

Friedrich-city expanded towards the north and south. The “Oranienburger Tor” became the northern customs district and “Hallesches Tor” became the southern customs district. Manufacturers settled there, while royal officials settled in Friedrich Strasse's middle. Three architectural highlights were added: the "Carree", which was later to become the “Pariser Platz”, the "Oktogon" (Leipziger Platz) and the "Rondell" at the “Hallesches Tor”, which was modelled on the "Piazza del Popolo". After the liberation wars in 1815, the “Rondell” was renamed “Belle-Alliance-Platz”, and in 1947 renamed in “Mehringplatz”. The peace column was erected by Cantian and C.D. Rauch in 1843.

After Friedrich-city's expansion and the installation of the "Rondell", the Friedrich Strasse was Berlin's most important north-south axis and the only thoroughfare in the royal city which was bounded by two city gates.

When King Ludwig XIV forced the Huguenots to leave France in 1685, Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm offered them "a free and safe retreat in the entire country and provinces", and gave them money and passports. The Huguenots spurred trade and commerce and integrated themselves at Friedrich the Great's court, influencing Prussian virtues for more than a century.

Chorus lines were at their height in the Apollo Theatre and Metropol Theatre until the 1920's. The Komische Oper, the Admiralspalast and the Schauspielhaus (which later became the Friedrichstadtpalast) were the embodiment of light entertainment.

After 1840, however, living conditions worsened so much due to the population explosion, that the Bourgeoisie began to protest against the authority's arbitrariness. The people demanded freedom of speech and press, amnesty for the politically persecuted and political equality, regardless of one's wealth, class, or religion.
King Friedrich Wilhelm IV ended the March revolution's uprising by having his subjects shot at in the Friedrich Strasse.

During the Wilhelminian period, the Friedrich Strasse - along with the Leipziger Strasse and Unter den Linden - became the heart of Berlin.
A legendary shopping street emerged. Banks and insurance companies settled there, and the "newspaper district" flourished in the southern part of the Friedrich Strasse. Thirty-six daily political newspapers were published there in 1900.

In 1882, the train station Friedrich Strasse was inaugurated as a grand architectural feat. It became the Friedrich Strasse's lifeblood and cultural centre, which provided amusement in its hotels, cafes, nightly swimming pools, vaudevilles and concerts, bars, restaurants and cinemas.

The "Coffee House Tradition" was started by the Wiener Café in the Kaisergalerie, the Café Burger and Café Kranzler.
Many honky-tonk bars emerged and the Berlin beauties of the night strolled there.

When the emperor resigned in 1918, and Karl Liebknecht declared the "Räte-Republik", life in the Friedrich Strasse continued in spite of the siege.
By the end of the 1920s, along with the German branch of Metro Goldwyn Mayer 70 percent of all film production companies had settled in the Friedrich Strasse. In 1936, 36 cinemas in the Friedrich Strasse showed movies from all around the world. Among these is the second oldest cinema of Berlin: the "Scala". (There in 2002/03 Kunstwelt e.V. invited international artists to discuss the Friedrich Strasse for the "KunstWinter-Berlin" exhibition).

In the 1930s, the NS-movement started the forceful displacement of Jews living in Berlin. Jewish doctors, lawyers, civil servants and merchants as well as the wine- and delicatessen store Kempinski & Co. had settled in the Friedrich Strasse (making about 10 percent of the population).

Allied bombing in Word War II distroyed many of the beautiful buildings. From 1949 to 1989, GDR officials/ functionaries glorified themselves in the Friedrich Strasse. The Admiralspalast became the political stage for Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel. The train station Friedrich Strasse turned into a transit train station, and the "Tränenpalast" (Palace of Tears) became the embodiment of Berlin's and Germany's division.

In the course of the workers’ revolt in the GDR on June 17th 1953, American and Soviet tanks stood opposite each other in the Friedrich Strasse, creating a credible threat of force at the former Allies sector line, Checkpoint Charlie.
From that time on, Checkpoint Charlie became a border crossing between two world systems, and, after completion of the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the Cold War.

The Mehringplatz in the city's western part was rebuilt as a residential and business area by Hans Scharoun and Werner Düttmann in the 1970s. In the 1980s a competing "Platten-bau" (tower block) - shopping district was built in the East.

Following the fall of the Wall in 1989, these new and barely finished buildings were replaced during the construction boom by sophisticated and stylish department stores such as Quartier 206 and Galeries Lafayette.

In the past few years and after a long time of neglect, the southern Friedrich-city has been receiving an upgrade through the construction of new buildings such as the "Berliner Ärztekammer" (Medical Association of Berlin), "Landes-Arbeitsamt" (State Employment Office), Convention Hall and Hotel Angleterre. Numerous visitors heading to the Jewish Museum stream out of the subway station and cross the Mehringplatz.

In the spirit of the Friedrich Strasse’s exciting and moving past, and as a result of patronage and sponsorship, the Friedrich Strasse is becoming a cosmopolitan connecting idea.

The History
The time plates
Belle Alliance
after 1945
The architects
Die Friedrichstrasse
Project history
The surroundings
The East
The West
The world oracle
The language of colour