Stadtbad Oderberger Straße

Entrance of the Stadtbad Oderberger Strasse - also known as the Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin, Germany

The Stadtbad Oderberger Straße – also known as the Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg

On every second sunday in September, Germany (and several other european countries) celebrates the “Tag des offenen Denkmals”(Day of the open Monuments) as part of the European Heritage Days. Monuments, buildings, and Institutions which are generally closed off to the General Public open up their doors in an effort to promote the countries Architectural and Historical Heritage.

This year over 200 Venues opened their doors in Berlin – and an estimated 4.5 – 5 million people ventured out to explore them.

With over 200 venues, it wasnt easy to pick out one to visit. Fellow Berlin Blogger – AndBerlin had tweeted that day that the Stadtbad Oderberg Straße also knows as the Stadtbad Oderberger Straße was opening its doors again and I knew that this was the place I had to see. AndBerlin had visited the location himself earlier that year and wrote not one, but 2 posts about it. *Just to avoid any confusion – the Stadtbad went under several names, and despite the signs saying Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg, it is officially called Stadtbad Oderberger Straße.*

*Warning Historical Info about the Stadtbad Oderberg Straße / Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg*

 

Berlin was rapidly growing in the 19th Century (lets not forget that Berlin was once the largest industrial city in continental europe) but the area in between Königsstadt and Rosenthaler Vorstadt (now known as Prenzlauer Berg) was being severly neglected. The city decided to remedy this by building a Hospital and  a Cattle Market there  between 1870s and 80s. Realizing that the city was suffering from a Hygiene and Sanitation issues they also drew up plans for a “Volksbad”.

Public sanitation in Berlin was seemingly never one of the most pressing issues the city wanted to deal with.  Most houses – if they had the luxury of indoor plumbing – had to share a toilet. Like coal ovens instead of central heating, this unique architecture of having a toilet situated in your stairway has managed to survive over into our century.

A midfloor level shared bathroom common with 19th Centruy German Apartment Houses

Whats beyond that Door? Another Apartment?

A midfloor level shared Toilet in a 19th Centruy German Apartment House

Surprise! Its a shared Toilet!

Now unless you belonged to the upper crust, you for sure didnt have a Shower/Bathtub in your apartment. This is where the Volksbad comes into play. Unlike the Hallenbad – whose main focus lies on the swimming pool – the Volksbad is there to give people a chance to have a proper bath and wash. Its equipped with of showers and bathtubs, so the entire family can show up for a sunday wash.

None other than one of Berlins most important (and quite often overlooked) Architects Ludwig Hoffman designed the Bath. Now Hoffman deserves an entire post to himself – so ill save his praise for another date, but anyone who walks through Berlin today will have seen at least one of his works (i.e The Pergamon, The Märchenbrunnen, The Möckernbrücke, the Altes Stadthaus).

Hoffman was a pioneer when it came to designing buildings that not only were aesthetically pleasing but also highly functional.

Back to the Volksbad.

Stadtbad Prenzlauer-Berg - Stadtbad Oderberger Straße

The Stadtbad Oderberger Straße – also known as the Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg.

Plans for a German Renaissance Stadtbad were drawn up in 1897, and the Building itself was completed by 1902. simultaneously Hoffman designed and Built a “Gemeinde Doppelschule” – A school which taught both Girls and Boys (though in separate classrooms) – adjacent to the Stadtbad. Interestingly enough, the top floors of the Stadtbad were the official apartments of the School Teachers, while the bottom 2 floors were waiting rooms, and housed the Bathtubs and showers.

 

Plan of the Oderberger Stadtbad and the Gemeinde Doppelschule

Ludwig Hoffmans plans of the Stadtbad and the School

In 1936 the city decided to build over the Bath courtyards due to a lack of space.  The Oderberger Stadtbad continued its existence as a public bathhouse right through the war – and quite uncommon for Berlin – actually survived the war without any structural damage. With the separation of Germany (and Berlin) the DDR continued operating the Stadtbad and even added a Sauna in 1977. The DDR as a state was too poor to support widespread housing modernizations (meaning many appartements still didn’t have proper bathrooms) so the Stadtbad not only became a hygienic necessity but also a social meeting point for the people.

A new more efficient heating system was installed which brought the addition of a fantastically ugly concrete chimney in 1985. Despite “some” modernisation attempts, cracks started showing up in pool floor and the vaulted ceilings, so the pool was closed at the end of 1986. The Baths, Showers, and Sauna kept on running until 1994, respectively 1997, but then the city called it quits. The DDR had some extensive renovations planned but the German Reunification put a hold to those.

After the reunification a cooperation was formed to save the Stadtbad Oderberger Straße. After 10 years of activism and lobbying – the now 1000 man strong cooperation managed to buy the Building. Again plans were drawn up to restore the building to its former glory, but they all failed due to the exorbitant costs. In 2007 the German Foundation for Monument Conservation bought the building from the Cooperation and laid out its own plans for the restoration. As with the Coops plan, this one failed as well as the estimate restoration cost had risen to 17 million euros – and the city refused to foot a part of the bill.

Come 2011, the GLS Language school (which owns the property of the where the former Gemeindeschule once stood) offered to buy the Stadtbad and restore it. The only catch to this plan was, that GLS decided that it would be a great idea to build a hotel inside the Bath. After negotiations with the city and the GFMC, GLS received approval for its Hotel plans under the condition that some parts/services of the Bath would remain accessible for the public.

 

A Neptune Gargoyle on the facade of the Stadtbad

A Neptune Gargoyle on the facade of the Stadtbad

Staircase leading up to the first floor of the Stadtbad

Staircase leading up to the first floor

First floor of the Stadtbad

First floor of the Stadtbad

Hallway in the Bath Section of the Stadtbad Oderberger Straße

Hallway in the Bath Section

A Lock on the Bath Door

A Lock on the Bath Door

The shower section of the Stadtbad Oderberger Straße

The Shower Section

Shower Button

Not really sure what this button did – but it was in all the showers…

A Towel Hook

A Towel Hook in the Bathroom

Bath and Shower Soap Dish

Bath and Shower Soap Dish

A Bathtub in the Stadtbad Oderberger Straße

One of the few remaining Bathtubs

Window on the First floor

Window on the First floor

View from the Gallery over the Pool

View from the Gallery over the Pool

Upper Level Archway

Upper Level Archway

View of the Pool from the upper Level

View of the Pool from the other side

The Frog King Mural

The Frog King

The former Water Tower of the Stadtbad

The former Water Tower – now being converted into Hotel Rooms

Ornate Banister in the Stadtbad Oderberger Straße

An Ornate Banister

Back Staircase to the First Floor

Back Staircase to the First Floor

Empty Room on the Ground Floor

Empty Room on the Ground Floor

The Vaulted Ceiling of the Stadtbad

The Vaulted Ceiling

Chipped Pool Wall

Chipped Pool Wall

Inside view of the former Ticket Booth

Inside view of the former Ticket Booth

Cornerview of the Stadtbad

Corner view of the Stadtbad

broken windows

broken windows

Back View of the Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg

Behind the Stadtbad

Broken Portal Obelisks from the former Gemeinde Schule

Broken Portal Obelisks from the former Gemeindeschule

Portal Face from the former Gemeinde Schule

Portal Face from the former Gemeindeschule

200. Gemeindeschule Knaben

200. Gemeindeschule Knaben – They Boys Entrance

*Bonus Story*

Just as I was about to leave, I spotted an open door in the back. An open door is an invitation. If they didn’t want people going in there, they would have locked it.

So I ventured in and realized that I had come across the cellar, furnace and engine rooms of the Stadtbad. Only problem was that aside from the first room which had windows everything was pitch black.  Then out of nowhere at 10-year-old boy named Tim showed up with a camping lamp and asked if I wanted to have a snoop around. Slightly suspicious (cue “Its A Trap” in my head) I said sure why not and started wandering off. We ended up having an interesting chat – where it turns out that he was looking to “acquire” some Cathode lamps (those huge lamps you find in offices) because apparently they don’t flicker. So we wandered for a good 15 minutes through the underground alleyways. Periodically Tim would spot some electic cables and plug in some lamps the we found lying around so that we would have some more light. Most of the rooms that we found were empty, or they were filled with boring junk. Tim did find his cathode light which he promptly plugged in and schlepped back to the entrance. I took this as my cue and headed back outside. I need to add that I heard the rumor that apparently a few years back they found the corpse of a murdered girl in the cellar – but I couldn’t find any evidence of that during my later research.

 

Empty Machine Room of the Stadtbad Oderberger Straße

Empty Machine Room of the Stadtbad

exploring whats underneath the Stadtbad

and that’s the last you’ll see of that cathode light….

Water Pressure Gauges

Water Pressure Gauges

Treuenbrietzen Pressure Gauge

Treuenbrietzen Pressure Gauge

Coal Carts for the Oven

Coal Carts for the Oven

An Empty Cellar Room

An Empty Cellar Room

another empty room

another empty room – this time with a Bench

Cellar of the Stadtbad

Good Thing I had some Light – I would have probably fallen into one of those holes in the floor

Dark alleyways in the Cellar

Dark alleyways in the Cellar

Door Bolt

Well that looks makeshift…

stadtbad catacombs

That room was filled with water – not a good idea to fall in there

torn door label

A Torn Door Label – Couldnt make out anymore what it was for

Cellar Stairs leading into the Stadtbad

“Secret Stairs” leading back inside the Stadtbad

 

After examining the condition of the Building, the construction and planning crews have decided to tear down the concrete chimney (most likely to happen before the end of 2012). Seeing as it was never part of the original structure, I wouldn’t count it as a huge loss.

Now, while im against any new Hotel in Berlin (there is simply no need or justification to build more of them) it seems like the restoration plans of the Stadtbad Oderberger Straße struck up a positive cord with the people. I guess most people are just happy that it’s not being torn down (unlike other “protected properties like The Eisfabrik), but im not sure if people will be too happy when they are charged 15 euros by Hotel/Language School to use a (once) public pool. The outcome of this endeavour has yet to be seen – a completion date has not yet been announced.


 If you want to see more pictures of the Stadtbad Oderberger Straße have a look at the Flickr Album: Stadtbad Oderberger Straße

 

 

14 Comments

  1. David says:

    You certainly saw a lot more of the building than I did and it was great to read your post and find out so much more about the place.

    • Thanks David! I was a bit gutted that they had closed off the upper floors – I was curious to see what had become of the old apartments. It would have been nice to find out more about the School as well- but there was 0 information about it available online, the closest I got was finding a reference of Hermann Zwick, a Prussian School Inspector sending a letter for the celebration of its opening.

      The place was absolutely packed as well, it was funny hearing people reminiscing about spending their childhood there.

  2. James says:

    Great post, amazing photos. Maybe next September….

    • Thanks James ;) well what I forgot to mention in my post (but andberlin mentioned in his) that its still ocasionally open for events/functions, so you might hav a chance to check it out sooner than that ;)

  3. great informative post – as usual ;)
    regarding the torn door label: it most likely said “Rattengift”. i remember this style from a cellar door in friedrichshain.

    • thanks im glad you liked it!

      Thanks for the Rattengift tip – I was rushing to take pictures as my light source was wandering to another room, so I didnt have a chance to read what was on it.

  4. ebe says:

    Definitely sorry we missed it. We’re lucky you did such a spectacular job covering it! Beautiful pics & info, as usual

    • Thanks Ebe! You should try and have a look at the Stadtbad Wedding – though not as old – its a cool place to check out

  5. Great post man! Interesting stuff, and fantastic pictures. I really have to get in for a butchers now…

    • Thanks Dude! id be watchfull though, construction crews are inside ripping out the old tubes and pipes.

  6. Kate says:

    I *ADORE* Berlin but never made it to the event when I was living in Frankfurt. Thanks for such a wonderful post– it let’s me live vicariously from London!

    • Kate says:

      whoops–LETS, not Let’s!

    • Hi Kate,
      glad you enjoyed the post! how long did you live in Frankfurt for? If im not mistaken, London has its own special event like this – The “Open House London” which is supposed to take place on the 22-23 of September!

  7. Isa says:

    Ha! Love the bonus Tim story.

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