EISWERK YESTERDAY

“Cöpenicker Straße” – as this was the historical spelling – is one of the oldest streets in Berlin. It was built in 1589 as a path for the army to the independent town of Cöpenick. In the 17th century, the area along the River Spree was home to Berlin’s lumber or timber market and Koepenicker Strasse no. 40-41 was known as the “Small Royal Timber Market”, surrounded by a former brickyard. Over the centuries, Koepenicker Strasse evolved into an industrial area with many companies benefitting from the river as a means of transport.

BIMMEL-BOLLE’S ICE PRODUCTION

In 1893, Mr. Carl Bolle, affectionately called “Bimmel-Bolle” (Bell-Bolle) due to the bell-ringing milkmen who drove his dairy trucks, acquired the grounds of Koepenicker Strasse 40-41 from the wood dealers Carl & Paul Eger. Three years later he began producing artificial ice and built a high-rise cooling house for perishable food, one of the very first in Europe. In fact, Carl Bolle was already producing – or “harvesting” – natural ice from the Rummelsburg Lake in 1860 and in 1868, his company operated 18 ice storage facilities. Three years later he sold the Rummelsburg ice factory. In 1872, he founded the “Norddeutsche Eiswerke A.G.” with three locations in Berlin.

In 1909-10, Norddeutsche Eiswerke A.G. commissioned architect and constructor Albert Biebendt to build an apartment house and factory enclosing two courtyards on the site in Koepenicker Strasse. Between 1913 and 1924, the factory was modernized and enlarged to include three cooling houses and a boiler house with an engine room close to the river banks. An additional novelty came in 1914 with the installation of huge ice generators and cooling machines from Hallesche Maschinenfabrik und Eisengiesserei. In a lecture about the “The Berlin cooling houses of the Society of Cooling & Market Halls”, Prof. Dr. Carl von Linde, the inventor and founder of the competing Linde AG, reported that “…an important cooling house has been set-up and started operations… and for many, it may seem a rather daring undertaking to enter a scarcely established industry on such a large scale as the new cooling houses represent”. Norddeutsche Eiswerke A.G. in Koepenicker Strasse was now independent from unpredictable weather and it grew to become Germany’s largest ice production and cooling factory.

At the end of the 1920s, the factory’s entrance gate was enlarged to allow the transport of ice on rail tracks. The ice blocks were loaded onto wagons from the cooling house ramps and brought to the freight terminal at Görlitzer Bahnhof.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

During WWII, a large section of the residential building was destroyed by bombs. After the war the company was dispossessed and on January 1, 1952 converted into a state-owned enterprise under the name “VEB Kühlbetrieb Berlin, Plant II”. In 1986, the operations of Norddeutsche Eiswerke AG were suspended due to the declining demand for cooling storage and ice production. Eventually, the production of ice blocks was completely discontinued in 1991. In 1992 – after reunification – the employees made a bid to acquire the company themselves. But the business had no future and all of the cooling houses shut down in 1995, after exactly 99 years of uninterrupted operations.

TLG Treuhand Liegenschaften (today TLG Immobilien AG), the state company responsible for the privatization of East German companies after reunification, took on the historical site including all of the buildings. Over the next 20 years the buildings on the grounds of the former ice factory deteriorated and some of the cooling houses were demolished in 2010. Today, the buildings still in existence are protected by the Berlin conservation authorities. In November 2016, Trockland acquired one part of the plot divided two in 2008, including the residential buildings and the remaining cooling house.

In appreciation of his work, the history of the grounds are based on research from Mr. Peter Schwoch.

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© Mitte Museum Bezirksamt Mitte von Berlin Lauritz Lauritzen

THE COOLING HOUSE

Cooling houses for perishable goods were invented in the United States and played an important role in the food industry. The cooling houses at the ice factory in Koepenicker Strasse were built according to U.S. standards and insulated with 15 cm of cork. The cooling house depicted was built in 1910 as machine factory building and rented by Norddeutsche Eiswerke to various trades. In 1938, it was converted into a cooling house. For that purpose, the vertical ribbon windows between the pilaster strips were closed with masonry and the inner walls were insulated with cork.

© bpk/Kunstbibliothek SMB Photothek Willy Römer Walter Stiehr

DELIVERY OF ICE BLOCKS

In 1914, a new ice machine introduced by “Hallesche Maschinenfabrik und Eisengiesserei” revolutionized ice production. It could generate prefabricated ice blocks or ice bars 1.5 meters long. In earlier times, when refrigerators were not yet a ubiquitous commodity, these blocks were delivered to clients, such as breweries and as a result, a good transportation network was crucial.

© bpk/Kunstbibliothek SMB Photothek Willy Römer Walter Stiehr

TRULY REFRESHING WORK BREAKS

In the 1920s, the ice factory at Koepenicker Strasse employed between 80 and 100 workers. During peak times, around 350,000 kg of artificial ice was produced daily and the cooling houses had a capacity of 7,000 square meters of rentable space.

© Family Wolf/Peter Schwoch

THE RESIDENTIAL BUILDING

The residential building on Koepenicker Strasse and the side wing were built in 1910 by Albert Biebendt (1873 – 1939), an architect and constructor mainly of commercial and industrial buildings. The building served as access to the rear of the plant and accommodated several commercial and retail units, such as a bank, flower shop, tobacco shop and other. During WWII, in the night of February 3rd, 1945, bombs hit the street facing building and nearly two-thirds of the front was destroyed.

THE POLAR BEAR

A coincidentally discovered black and white photograph from the 1920s reveals the size and grandeur of the apartment house in Koepenicker Strasse. We were not only able to learn about the architecture in its entirety before it was partly destroyed by a bomb but also discovered a metaphoric symbol indicating the purpose of the buildings; the gable is adorned with a relief carved in Ettringen tuff stone of a polar bear on an ice floe, framed by icicles.

Inspired by the craftsmanship and the unusual nature of the relief, it was obvious to us that the EISWERK logo would have to include the polar bear. Our contemporary interpretation of a polar bear embodies the geometric structures of ice crystals as well as the theme and architecture of the new buildings.

Throughout the decades, Koepenicker Strasse 40-41 has been home to many families as well as smaller and larger companies. One former tenant of earlier buildings on the property was Friedrich Wilhelm Langerhans (1780 – 1851), Berlin’s first city construction director (Stadtbaurat).

In the 1930s, Ms. Agnes Hoesrich’s street front flower shop offered a service which was unusual at the time: “Blumenspenden”. The forerunner of “Fleurop” delivered bouquets and flower arrangements in Berlin and beyond.

Richard and Gertrud Baruch lived here until 1942 when the Baruchs committed suicide to escape impending deportation. Their son Martin Moshe Baruch was able to escape to Palestine in 1938. Today, they are not forgotten; “Stolpersteine” or stumbling stones in front of the house commemorate the family.

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