Front building of the Hackesche Höfe at Rosenthaler Straße.
Berlin's Hackesche Höfe (Hof means "courtyard") – just off S-Bahn Station Hackescher Markt, is a heritage site consisting of eight communicating, restored rear courtyards accessible through the main arched entrance at Rosenthaler Straße. The area, also known as the Scheunenviertel is one of Berlin's top entertainment hubs, popular with Berliners and visitors alike and a magnet for club-goers since the 1990s.
Hackesche Höfe: Symbol of the vibrant New Berlin
The restoration of this heritage building completed in 1997, was a central factor in the emergence of one of Berlin's liveliest quarters since reunification. Since the 1990s the area around Hackesche Höfe has been synonymous with the vibrant urban renewal of the New Berlin, combining a mix of business and offices, residential housing, entertainment venues, art galleries, boutiques, bars and restaurants - the unmissable urban mix of the New Berlin which emerged in the 1990s. The energy of post-unification Germany, a quest for renewal and reinvention, found expression in cutting-edge creativity in the arts and fashion and state-of-the-art design. The result is an original, new entrepreneurial spirit characterised by an exuberant convergence of life with lifestyle. The Höfe are an example of how this spirit was realised.
History of Hackesche Höfe dates back to the 18th century
Historically, development of the Höfe went hand in hand with the growth of Berlin as a thriving urban centre. The expansion started around 1700 from an outer suburb known as Spandauer Vorstadt, located outside the Spandau City gate which already had its own church, the Sophienkirche as early as 1712. Friedrich Wilhelm I built a new city wall here and the former suburb became a new urban district belonging to Berlin. Today's Hackescher Markt takes its name from the market built here by a Spandau city officer, Count von Hacke.
Jewish migrants and French Huguenots at Hackescher Markt
The influx of Jewish migrants and the exiled French Huguenots gave the district the cosmopolitan diversity which it never lost. The first synagogue was built in this area and the first Jewish cemetery established on the Große Hamburger Straße. Another name for the area, the Scheunenviertel (barn district) is associated today with up and coming art galleries and the more bohemian side of Berlin. The largest synagogue in Germany was built in nearby Oranienburger Straße in 1866.
In 1858 Hans Quiltz, a glass manufacturer acquired a licence for commercial use of the property at Rosenthaler Straße 40 and Sophienstraße 6. By 1905, Berlin was the most densely populated city in Europe with 2 million inhabitants. In 1907 Kurt Berndt and August Endell, a property developer and architect team took over the property. The first courtyard (Hof 1) was magnificently restored in art nouveau style with ceramic tiles designed by August Endell himself. The concept behind the 1990s restoration of the Höfe was in fact a renaissance of the original 20th century use of the site. The urban mix where the main areas of life, private residential space, work, entertainment and gastronomy could develop jointly in one living space has characterised this area for over a century.
Amongst the Höfe's residents before the War were an Expressionist poets' association in 1909 (Der Neue Club), a Jewish Girl's Club in 1916, the Imperial Cinema in 1921, a Jewish Student Canteen in 1913, wine merchants and a family department store. Jacob Michael, the Jewish owner of the property before the War, was forced into exile by the Nazis in 1933. Confiscated as a foreign asset it was only finally returned to Jacob's legal heirs in 1993.
Restoration in the 1990s
The SMAD (Soviet Military Administration) requisitioned the property in 1945. The building became communally resident-owned in 1951 after a tenants' association opposed the destruction of its original Jugendstil façade by Endell. Restoration began in 1995 under a consortium including a residents' association, private investors, local authorities, and was carried out by Berlin architects Weiss and Partner. The façade was fully modernised including the new completely new addition of the Arch at the entrance.
Main attractions at Hackescher Markt
The main attractions are the Chamäleon Variety Theatre housed in the original wine tavern and an original ceiling from one of the banqueting rooms in the large Hackescher Hof Restaurant immediately to the left of the entrance.
A walk around the area must include the Große Hamburger Straße with the Jewish cemetery – Alter Jüdischer Friedhof - destroyed by the Gestapo in 1943. Only one memorial tombstone, that of Jewish enlightenment philosopher Moses Mendelssohn is symbolically left standing on the grounds.