1920s Berlin was the place to be – it was the epicenter of culture and vice. The Weimar era brought out some of the best in German Culture, from Bauhaus Design, to Films such as Metropolis and The Blue Angel, to Literature and Art and most notably the Cabaret (this stuff had to be good if the Nazis decided to get rid of it all). Berlin loved itself a good party – so clubs sprung up like mushrooms throughout the city – over 200 at one point (like the Kolibri Festsäle und Kabaret). One of these surviving hotspots is the Ballhaus in Grünau – officially known as the Ballhaus Riviera.
*Warning – Ballhaus Riviera Info*
I found it actually rather difficult to gather any information about the Ballhaus. There are some breadcrumbs here and there to be found on the internet, but a lot of the sources seem to contradict each other. I’ve tried to gather most of the relevant information together here – but im going to see if I can find any *non internet* based information/sources.
There are actually 2 Properties on the plot of land were the Ballhaus stands, the Ballhaus Riviera and the Gesellschaftshaus Grünau. The Riviera was built in 1895 and had large Ball Room and several smaller rooms including a Bar and restaurant. Trying to do its name justice – the Riviera had a palm-lined outdoor dance floor, where guests could spend the summer evenings outside dancing and dining. The Gesellschaftshaus Grünau was built 2 years later in 1897 and with its impressive Ball Room, bathhouse and sporting facilities became just as popular as the Riviera.
The Riviera and Gesellschafthaus had their own pier – so boats cruised down the Dahme River and offloaded their guests into the large Beer Garden on the Banks of the River.
The Ballhaus Riviera became such a hotspot in the 1930s that it was a “badge of honor” for musicians to play there. In the 1940s the Riviera fell under the administration of the KdF – Kraft durch Freude ( KdF – Strength though Joy, the large state-controlled leisure organization in Nazi Germany).
Both the Ballhaus Riviera and the Gesellschaftshaus survived the war undamaged – though they had lost a lot of their former splendor in the DDR years. Despite not being able to live up to its glory days – the Riviera managed to attract thousands of visitors on the Weekends. Not to be outdone be the decadent West Berlin with all its clubs – a Disco was opened up as well in the Gesellschaftshaus in the 80s.
Following the German Tradition of things going to shit after reunification – the Property was taken under administration by the Treuhandanstalt in 1990 and then transferred over to the Treuhand Liegenschaftsgesellschaft (TGL). The property slipped into disrepair as no one wanted to buy it due to its exorbitant listing price. Parts of the property were put under Denkmalschutz, which just complicated any possible sale or renovation.
After lengthy legal discussions – and against the will of conservationists – the TGL managed to sort out a deal with the Bezirksamt in 2001, where they would be able to tear down the buildings only having to preserve the large ballroom and art deco facade. The TGL had planned to build a Congress Hotel in its place, but no investor could be found to buy the land (for an undisclosed price) who would be willing to cough up another 15 million euros to save the ball room and facade.
Seems like no one was dumb enough to fall for this trap until 2006, when a Turkish Business Woman bought the property and agreed to build said hotel (and a floating restaurant). Apparently they ran a study and found out that nobody would use/need the proposed hotel (I could have told you that for free), so a new plan was drafted up to build some nice little houses on the property. The Bezirksamt rejected the plans because they were “disproportionate” . At this point the Business woman has broken off all contact with the Berzirksamt, and the buildings are left to rot.
A few people have written about this place before, praising its splendor and low amount of vandalism. Let me make it very clear – this place is destroyed. Whoever said that it hasn’t suffered from vandalism must be blind. Of all the abandoned buildings ive visited, the Ballhaus Riviera only ranks above the Kino Sojus in terms of destruction. I have never seen so much Nazi Graffiti either – not even in Krampnitz which has a Giant Swastika Mosaic on the ceiling – it’s rather off putting to say the least, and put me slightly on edge walking through the buildings.
I wasnt really planning on visiting the Ballhaus that day – so I wandered in a bit unprepared. I didn’t have a flashlight with me (not 100% necessary but it makes life a lot easier when you can see where you are going) and it didn’t really help that there was snow/rain that day. The roof has holes – and in certain parts the building has collapsed in itself. It’s never a good sign when the ceiling above you has warped in a “U” shape (the floor will collapse under you when you try to walk over it) – so I would discourage anyone from venturing too far upstairs.
You can see traces of its former splendor here and there, mainly in a few of the surviving Doors and Ball Room(s), but the rest is just a sorry sight. Who knows how long until the buildings are torn down, or until they collapse – and despite (or because of) their rapid decay I can only recommend visiting the Ballhaus Riviera and the Gesellschaftshaus. The short trip to Grünau, the impressive Ballroom and a (very pricey) Coffee in Berlins “last art deco” Coffeehouse – Kaffee Liebig (just on the opposite side of the Ballhaus) make this a worthwhile trip.
While I normally don’t publicly provide addresses to abandoned locations – this place is so well documented and so destroyed that there’s little harm in me posting its location.
The Ballhaus in Grünau (Ballhaus Riviera and Gesellschaftshaus)
Regattastraße – Büxsteinstraße
S-Bahn: S8, S85 – Grünau
Tram: 68- S-Bahn Grünau
Bus: 163, 263, 363 – S-Bahn Grünau