“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.