Potsdam – The area between Babelsberg Palace Park and Lake Griebnitzsee is part of the Potsdamer Forest when Wilhelm Böckmann acquires it. The developer of the future Neubabelsberg villa colony project says that “factories or facilities that cause foul odors, noxious fumes, smoke, steam or noise, insane hospitals, prisons and anything incompatible with a villa area means that The land may not be built. ”That was in 1873.
Böckmann’s vision: a summer resort for wealthy Berliners looking to escape the big city’s noisy and unhealthy behemoth. On the outskirts of the village, in the countryside. The city of Potsdam did not matter, Potsdam was far away. But a house by the lake, peace and quiet, and a newly opened train station in front of the door – it was worth striving for the same.
Three kilos, 470 pages, hundreds of photos
The history of the Neubabelsberg villa can therefore only be told in connection with Berlin, says former Potsdam conservator Jörg Limberg. An architect and expert in monuments wrote a book about this unique settlement: “Neubabelsberg. The history and architecture of the Potsdam villa colony ”, thus far-fetched.
It contains three kilos, 470 pages, hundreds of photos and loads of work that took 25 years. If you ask Jörg Limberg why he did it, he replies succinctly: “It had to be.” Originally, Limberg was to research classical modernism for the city around Griebnitzsee, such as the buildings of Mies van der Rohe.
To this end, he rummaged in building records from before 1945, including thousands of sheets and folders with historical plans that were actually going to be destroyed. “They should really go to the shredder,” says Limberg, and still sounds surprised. “And while sorting and flipping through, I realized that there was much more at stake than just the architecture and the history of the buildings.” He had to write it down.
The book presents the history of the settlement from Mr. Böckmann’s idea, through political and administrative decisions, to details of individual houses, gardens and the fate of the inhabitants. In addition to building records, Limberg also searched address and address books, sports and social magazines, and similar items that provide information about the social life of the time.
Residents opened their libraries in Limberg
“I found a lot about entrepreneurs in the Reich Handbook of the German Society of Who’s Who in the Economy.” Limberg is also a local expert, has looked after historic houses over the years and has worked closely with current owners and residents. “People liked to tell stories. Many have opened their libraries to me. “
In the late 19th century, anyone who bought a plot of land from Böckmann or the later Terraingesellschaft Neu-Babelsberg was a banker or entrepreneur, publisher, art collector, scientist, lawyer, or royal administrator. Paul Herpich owns a large fashion house in Berlin and commissions Alfred Grenader to build a villa by the lake, today the so-called Stalin’s villa. Franz Urbig, co-owner of Deutsche Bank, employs Mies van der Rohe. Today the property, known as the Churchill Villa, belongs to SAP co-founder and patron Hasso Plattner.
Unpaved roads, unreliable water supply network
However, houses from the first phase of development are rather modest summer residences. The infrastructure is only gradually developing. At first, there are only dirt roads, water pipes are unreliable, pressure in taller houses is weak, there are complaints. Wastewater is initially collected in pits and pumped out. Gas and electricity were not available until 1910. There are no shops at all. Employees go to the market to shop otherwise they get what you need from Berlin.
[Was ist los in Potsdam und Brandenburg? Die Potsdamer Neuesten Nachrichten informieren Sie direkt aus der Landeshauptstadt. Mit dem Newsletter Potsdam HEUTE sind Sie besonders nah dran. Hier geht’s zur kostenlosen Bestellung.]
From the outset, however, there are clear ideas about what a settlement should look like. There are guidelines for construction, fencing, landscaping. Many houses have a separate kitchen garden and some have a modern tennis court. People play sports, afford pavilions, romantic lakeside grottos and elegant boat hangars. There is a steamboat running on Griebnitzsee and the Teltow Canal, which works like a bus, and there is a swimming pool in the middle of the lake.
Summer cottages become country villas
Over time, holiday homes become country villas. The community is growing. “People were well connected, there were relationships through marriage,” says Limberg. You felt good among your kind. Yes, and besides, celebrities like some Ufa movie stars like Brigitte Horney and Lilian Harvey have also lived here, but that only makes up a small part of the importance of the villa colony, Limberg says. Cologne is German social studies on a much larger scale.
The second part of the book deals with individual houses and their builders: who came, who went, who was the architect, how was it arranged, when it was renovated, who designed the garden? Thanks to numerous photos, private photos from outside and inside, and historical plans, it is a living, tangible history of the city. The biographies of the houses give an insight into the carefree everyday life, but also into the times of National Socialism. Jewish owners are expropriated, many emigrate, some choose to commit suicide. The villa Heidmann, which does not exist today, becomes a Jewish retirement home in 1940: Post-Dams Jews are forced to move here before being deported in 1943.
First, they were taken over by the Soviet occupiers, then by the GDR
Immediately after the war, the area of Neubabelsberg was taken over by the Soviet occupiers, and the inhabitants were displaced. The Russians did not leave the last houses until 1954 and returned to the city. East Germany seized power, Griebnitzsee became a border area, and in 1961 a wall was built on the lake shore. The train station becomes unreachable. After the reunification of Germany, many properties were returned, but today the descendants of earlier families hardly live here.
The history of the villa settlement Neubabelsberg is unique because of its connection with the German border. Settlements with a similar architectural history include the Berlin villa estates Alsen, Lichterfelde-West, Westend and Hirschgarten. A comprehensive publication with a detailed index of architects should therefore be of interest not only to Potsdam residents. However, only 800 copies were printed.
“It’s just a special topic, it’s hard for publishers to get excited about it,” says the author. An important result of Limberg’s research work and the work of the monument conservator is visible to everyone: while only six houses were replaced in the GDR, today there are 69 of them, attracting history and architecture lovers not only from Potsdam and Berlin.
Today, Wednesday at 19:00, Jörg Limberg will present the book at the Potsdam Museum.