An old cabaret theatre from the roaring '20s has been uncovered in the heart of
The semi-derelict music hall theatre, built in 1905 on Gartenstraße in Berlin Mitte, has
been buried in 30 tonnes of rubble since 1934 when it closed, perhaps as part of a
crackdown on the cabaret scene by the Nazi regime.
He stumbled upon the abandoned threestorey
building located behind a courtyard in the former communist east of the city.
'From the outside, with its bricked-up windows and rundown facade it was hard to
imagine the impressive architecture that awaited me within,' Dirk Moritz said.
'Opening the front door revealed an amazing sight: I found an old hall, a grand ballroom, a 300 square metre theatre, wall paintings and metre-high stuccoed ceilings. Memories of a glorious time at the beginning of the last century,’ Dirk Moritz said.
"Oh dear, what had been going on here before! Nine to ten tonnes of beer had been brought to taverns every day, the horses, they sometimes collapsed from carrying this weight - an enormous consumption!" (Eberhard Buchner, Variete and Tingeltangel in Berlin, 1905)
After an exhaustive search into the history of the building, Moritz discovered the music hall was designed by famous Berliner businessman/architect Oscar Garbe and constructed in
In the same year it was built the theatre hall, complete with a stage and vaulted ceilings,
was opened as a musical hall and restaurant, named “Fritz Schmidt’s Restaurant and
Festival Halls” and was soon an established venue for Berlin’s ballroom society.
A kitchen on the ground floor had a special lift to send up food and drinks to the hall on
the second floor. Garbe built other prominent buildings in Berlin, including the
Samariterkirche and the Ullsteinhaus.
After changing operators in 1919, it became "Kolibri Festival Halls and Cabarets". Its
location was in the Latin Quarter, as Berliners called it in the 1920s, and this period
was the heyday of the German "Kabarett".
In 1934 it stops being used for gastronomic purposes.
After World War II, the lower floor was
used for storing building rubble and rubbish. A locksmith moved in later but only used
the ground floor. Weathering and long-term vacancy further contributed to its decline.
Six decades later, in 1904, planning was approved for the ballroom to built by renowned Berlin construction company Oskar Garbe.
The beer, or Stangenbier, was provided by Berlin Alt-Hohenschonhausen "Lowenbrauerei" in 1905.
In 1911 a jam, waffle and chocolate manufacturer Alfred Braun & Co opens two shops on the ground floor.
In 1919 the dance theatre begins operating under "Kolibri-Festsale" with an additional cabaret programme.
In 1955 "Gerhard Kniebusch" smithery occupies the ground and upper floors as well as the basement.
There are no records after 1934 when it
appears that the theatre hall fell into disrepair. There is no information about why it closed but the Nazis often suppressed cabaret.
By 1989 the building is completely vacant and used to store rubble.
The Moritz Gruppe cleaned out the tonnes of rubbish and are to begin restoration and renovation works. The three-level building will soon once again comprise spaces for performances and exhibitions, studios, meetings and conferences, and luxury
apartments for short term and executive rental.
'Unfortunately we can’t turn it back to a music hall due to city regulations but we will
conserve interior features including the beautiful stucco,' said Dirk Moritz.
'Our aim is to make a contribution to art and contemporary living – a mix of old and new. Otherwise this beautiful piece of history would just be forgotten completely and probably demolished at some point,’ he said.
‘There are only a few remaining structures from this period, for example Clärchens
Ballhaus nearby, making it one of the last properties in Berlin where one can still
experience the untouched atmosphere of the Twenties and the Thirties,’ Dirk Moritz said.