Serene Tseng steps into preserved, centuries- old apartments to experience how the different social classes in Berlin lived in the past.
Step inside centuriesold apartments for a glimpse of the past.
It's easy to forget it, considering the significance of Berlin’s 20th century, but the capital is actually well over seven centuries old. Berlin saw rapid growth beginning in the late 18th century, and as a result, many of its houses and apartments are windows to Berlin’s past.
During the Biedermeier Era, the arts and the middle class flourished. The Knoblauchhaus (www.stadtmuseum.de) was built during this time in 1761, and for nearly 170 years, it was the silk merchant Knoblauch family’s residence and commercial base. Today, the restored Knoblauchhaus is one of the few remaining houses from the 18th century, offering a glimpse into the everyday lives of an uppermiddle-class merchant family.
A century later, Fritz Heyn, another wealthy industrialist, had a house built for his family. Built in 1893, the Pankow residence had ornately painted ceilings with elaborate plaster molding, ceramic heating ovens, and a tiled bathroom, which was a luxury in the late 19th century. After Heyn’s death, his daughters lived in the apartment until 1972, retaining most of the original interior and furnishings. Now, as part of the Museum Pankow, the Heynstraße
8 apartment ( T: 030 4814047) is an authentic peek into the upper middle class during the turn of the 20th century.
On the other side of the coin was the working class, and the apartment at Dunckerstraße 77 in Prenzlauer Berg depicts the working person’s domestic life. The apartment, also run by the Museum Pankow, compares and contrasts the living conditions of the working class who lived in the
Vorderhaus, built directly facing the street, and the Hinterhaus, apartments in the inner courtyards where the largest families lived. Call 030 4452321 to book a tour.
For those partial to the Neo-Gothic style, the apartment building at Bleibtreustraße 15 (viewable from the outside) is especially evocative of medieval splendor. The embellished wooden doors give way to a beautiful, Neo-Gothic foyer with tall stained glass windows, intricate metalwork, a painted ceiling, and carved animals on the stair banisters. Built in 1902, this complex was designed to be one of Berlin’s most luxurious, and still remains visually so.
A room of the Knoblauchhaus. Inset, below: Kitchen corner at Knoblauchhaus.