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The Neighborhood

Callie’s is located in Wedding: one of Berlin’s most historically significant neighborhoods. The most international district in Berlin, Wedding captures an appeal and energy that is increasingly hard to find in the capital.

Here you can read highlights from our neighborhood’s rich history.

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The Origin of Wedding: the 13th century

The village Wedding was founded by the knight Rudolf von Weddinge in approximately 1210, making it one of the oldest documented settlements in the Berlin area.

By 1245, only 35 years later, the village had been abandoned. Although the reason is undocumented, it was likely either the result of the establishment of the neighboring twin-cities Alt-Berlin and Cölln—now both part of Mitte—in the 1230s or because the land was not arable.

A purchase agreement dated May 22, 1251—which detailed the sale of a mill on the Pankow river—is the first documented mention of the village of Wedding.

The pilgrimage route: 14th-16th centuries

In 1383 a church in the town of Wilsnack, in northern Brandenburg, was burned to the ground by arson. It is said that three hosts, each stained with blood, remained standing among the ashes. Proclaimed as an eucharistic miracle, the hosts soon attracted thousands of pilgrims from all over Germany, and places as far as Hungary. The church rebuilt on this site became one of the most distinguished pilgrimage destinations in Northern Europe. From 1384 to 1552 the popular pilgrimage route led through Wedding to the Wunderblutkirche St. Nikolai, or “St Nicholas Church of the Holy Blood”.

The pilgrimage route called ‘The Holy Blood Trail’ started at the Marienkirche in today’s Berlin-Mitte and led the pilgrims on a 125 km long journey in north-west direction to Wilsnack, possibly along today’s Garten- and Gerichtstrasse. Along this route, past the former village of Wedding, numerous churches were built.

By the 1500s, the pilgrimage route was rarely traveled and the churches in Wedding had been abandoned. Some wealthy citizens of Berlin, among them Berlin’s mayor Freyberg, purchased land in the area to use for agriculture.

“Vorwerk Wedding” – the settlement emerges: 17th-18th centuries

In 1601, a manor then known as “Vorwerk Wedding” was built by Bavarian count Hieronymus Schlick and purchased by the Electoral Prince (‘Kurfürst’) Joachim Friedrich two years later.

The manor was located north of today’s Nettelbeckplatz, between Reinickendorfer Strasse, Weddingstrasse and Pankstrasse. The “Vorwerk” formed the first settlement core of what would later become known as the Wedding district.

In 1782, Frederick II king of Prussia founded a settlement or ‘Kolonie’ for settlers from the Bavarian cities of Ansbach and Bayreuth in the area of today’s Koloniestrasse.

The Prussian king invited a group of foreigners, consisting exclusively of gardeners, and provided them with land and housing so that they could contribute to the cultivation of today’s Gesundbrunnen. The settlement built for them was given the name ‘der Wedding’ or ‘Neu-Wedding’, due to its proximity to the manor Vorwerk Wedding.

Since that time, the district’s name is used with a definite article (“the”), a distinguishing feature of the neighborhood’s title even today.

Industrialization and new urban challenges: 19th century

The gradual industrialization of Wedding began in the 1870s, with the establishment of the Schering Aktiengesellschaft (1871) in Müllerstrasse 170-171, which remained one of the most influential Wedding-based companies until it was bought by Bayer Pharma in 2006.

The same year (1871) the brothers Max and August Hasse established their machine factory “Max Hasse Comp.” north of Wedding station which was inaugurated in 1872. Learn more about the building history here.

It was around this time that Wedding started to transform into a densely populated working-class district, in which so-called “Mietskasernen” (tenements) were established, with overpopulated apartment buildings and precarious living conditions.

Wedding’s population rose exponentially during this time: from over sixteen thousand in 1867 to over two hundred and forty thousand in 1910

Other large companies started settling in Wedding and significantly developing the area. The electrical company AEG began to build an enormous factory complex next to Humboldthain park in 1895; Osram began manufacturing the first incandescent lamps in Germany in a building complex on Seestrasse in 1904, and the print press manufacturer Rotaprint transferred its production site from Berlin-Mitte to Reinickendorfer Strasse 46 in 1916.

The Weimar Republic: Modernism comes to Wedding

The significant social changes occurred during the Weimar Republic (1918-33), the era of the first representative democracy in Germany. Its atmosphere of cultural and artistic freedom as well as democratic social ideals were also evident in Wedding. The district also became a site of important Modernist contributions to architecture.

The Housing Estate Schillerpark was built by Bruno Taut between 1924 and 1930. It was the first metropolitan housing project built in Berlin during the Weimar Republic and shows influences from modern Dutch architecture. Today it is part of the Palaces and Parks of Berlin and a Potsdam UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In 1927, renowned Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe built a complex of 88 apartments in Afrikanische Strasse.

Mies van der Rohe’s 1927 residential complex on Afrikanische Strasse.
“Roter Wedding”: the first half of the 20th century

The establishment of large industries in Wedding soon also had a political impact: during the Weimar Republic the district stood out due to the large presence of the workers’ party. Because it was a Communist stronghold, it was called “Red Wedding” during that time, a moniker that is still known by today.

Even before the Nazi’s seized power in 1933, Wedding was a hub of resistance. The Pharussäle, a restaurant and dancehall in the courtyard at Müllerstrasse 143, was known as the “living room” of the German Communist Party (KPD).

Interior of the Pharussäle on a postcard from the early 20th century. Photo courtesty Sammlung U. Horb

During the “Blutmai” or “Bloody May” riots, which took place in 1929 from May 1st to 3rd, unauthorized demonstrations organized by the Communist Party (KPD) were fiercely repressed by the police. Thirty-three civilians died in the Berlin working-class districts of Wedding and Neukölln in the escalated conflict. Police used armored vehicles with machine guns and fired at residential buildings with red flags on them. A large part of the conflict took place on Kösliner Strasse, which is only a three-minute walk from where Callie’s is today. These historic riots weakened the Communist party and paved the way for the Nazi’s to seize power shortly after.

During the war, the Pharussäle was set up as a canteen to provide food to those in need. It is rumored that throughout the war, youth used the hall to hold forbidden swing dance gatherings.

The neighborhood was badly destroyed in World War II: the main battle line of the Battle of Berlin (April 16-May 2, 1945) was located around Schul-, See- and Badstrasse, leaving one third of the buildings in Wedding either completely destroyed or seriously damaged. The Pharussäle was also destroyed in 1945.

Wedding as part of the “French Sector”: the post-war years

After the end of the war, Wedding was incorporated into the French Sector and subordinated to the French military government — it was, together with the British and American Sectors, part of West-Berlin from 1945 to 1990

The construction of the Berlin wall in August 1961 cut the historical connections between Wedding and the Mitte district, which belonged to the German Democratic Republic since its foundation in 1949. The row of houses on Bernauer Strasse, forming the border with Mitte, was where people repeatedly attempted to escape the GDR, risking death to do so.

When reconstruction programs began in Wedding after the war, a large number of intact buildings were demolished in order to correspond to a zeal for modernization. The area around Brunnenstrasse, for example, came to be known as the ‘Showcase of the West’ in the early 1960s, becoming the largest redevelopment area in Europe.

The Müllerstrasse, alternately called ‘Corso of the Wedding’ and ‘Ku’Damm of the North’ gained new popularity and importance in the 1950’s. Not only did it become the center of neighborhood life, an important shopping strip and nightlife hub, but also an administrative district with modern buildings to house Wedding’s city hall and job center.

While the northern section of Müllerstrasse was modernised according to the ideas of the time, its southern part, at the intersection with Lindower Strasse, was marked by the former sector border which was located here in the immediate post-war period. ‘Black market stalls’ shaped the view— flat buildings which were, however, demolished after a fire in 2004.

So-called guest workers and immigrants settled in Wedding in the 1970s, due to the neighborhood’s inexpensive living spaces. Establishing businesses and restaurants, the international community gave Wedding the diversity and multicultural identity it is still known for today.

Starting in the late 1980s, companies such as Osram and Rotaprint started ceasing their production in Wedding, which meant a major change for the working class district and a decline in population.

“Off-the-radar” and still becoming: the neighborhood today

In 2001, Wedding was transferred to the Mitte administrative district.

The district continues to see significant changes. In recent decades a number of former factories were converted to accomodate new uses. The buildings of the former Osram complex, at one time the largest incandescent bulb factory in Europe, were bought in 1997 by a real estate company and subsequently divided and rented. Today they are a network of shops, offices, and scientific institutions. Nearby, ExRotaprint was taken over by a tenant initiative in 2004 and became a model for sustainable artistic communities.

In recent years, artists, art galleries and creative offices have moved into the neighborhood, adding to Wedding’s cultural landscape.

In 2019, TimeOut Magazine selected Wedding as #4 in their ranking of the 50 Coolest Neighborhoods in the World (and in 2020 once again as the coolest district of the capital): “The city’s most underrated district champions the off-the-radar charm that Berlin was once known for.” Wedding continues to maintain its unique identity as a vibrant intersection of cultures.

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