Hotel Adlon

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The Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin is a luxury hotel in Berlin, Germany. It is located on Unter den Linden, the main boulevard in the central Mitte district, at the corner with Pariser Platz, directly opposite the Brandenburg Gate and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

The legendary original Hotel Adlon was one of the most famous hotels in Europe. It opened in 1907 and was largely destroyed in 1945 in the closing days of World War II, though a small wing continued operating until 1984. The current hotel, which opened on August 23, 1997, is a new building with a design inspired by the original.


First Hotel Adlon

In the late 19th century, European hotels, which generally offered no more than overnight accommodation, evolved to become social gathering places which could host large receptions given by nobility and the wealthy. Modeled on American hotels like the Waldorf Astoria, new hotel buildings arose all over the continent with lavishly decorated ballrooms, dining halls, arcades, smoking lounges, libraries, and coffeehouses. In 1873 the Hotel Imperial opened in Vienna, followed by the Hôtel Ritz Paris in 1898, and The Ritz London Hotel in 1906. In Berlin, capital of the German Empire the Wilhelmine high society was eager to keep up with their rival metropolises.

In 1905 Lorenz Adlon, a successful wine merchant and restaurateur originally from Mainz, purchased two properties on Unter den Linden. Adlon ran several coffeehouses in Berlin, among others in the Berlin Zoological Garden, and had raised capital to build a hotel on Pariser Platz, at the heart of the German capital. He convinced Kaiser Wilhelm II that Berlin needed a luxury hotel at the level of those in Paris, London and the other European capitals, and so the Kaiser personally interceded with the owners of the Palais Redern, a Neo-Renaissance landmark designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in 1830, which sat at Adlon's chosen location. The Kaiser cleared the way for Adlon's purchase of the Palais and for the subsequent demolition of the historic building.

Designed by Carl Gause and Robert Leibnitz, the hotel was built at a cost of 20 Million Gold Marks, 2 Million of which were the majority of Adlon's personal fortune. Behind a rather sober façade, the hotel was the most modern in Germany with hot and cold running water, an on-site laundry, as well as its own power plant to generate electricity. It boasted a huge lobby with enormous square marble columns, a restaurant, a cafe, a palm court, a ladies' lounge, a library, a music room, a smoking room, a barber shop, a cigar shop, an interior garden with a Japanese-themed elephant fountain, and numerous grand ballrooms. The hotel was decorated in a mix of Neo-Baroque and Louis XVI styles and furnished by the Mainz company of Bembé, where Lorenz Adlon had been an apprentice carpenter in his youth. It was located in the heart of the government quarter next to the British Embassy on Wilhelmstrasse, facing the French and American Embassies on Pariser Platz and only blocks from the Reich Chancellery and other government ministries further south on Wilhelmstrasse.

The Adlon opened on October 23, 1907 with the Kaiser, his wife, and many other notables in attendance. It quickly became the social center of Berlin. As the rooms in the Stadtschloss were cold and drafty, the Kaiser paid an annual retainer to keep suites available for his guests. Likewise the Foreign Office used the Adlon for accommodation during state visits, with guests including Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. Notable guests of the early years included industrialists such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller, as well as politicians like Walter Rathenau, Gustav Stresemann and the French prime minister Aristide Briand. Many wealthy Berliners lived for extended periods of time in the hotel, while its ballrooms hosted official government functions and society events.

After World War I and the abdication of the Kaiser, Lorenz Adlon remained a staunch monarchist and thus never imagined normal traffic would pass through the Brandenburg Gate's central archway, which had been reserved for the Kaiser alone. He therefore never looked before crossing in front of it. Tragically, this resulted in Adlon being hit by a car in 1918 at that spot. Three years later, on April 7, 1921, he was again hit by a car at exactly the same spot, this time fatally. Lorenz's son Louis Adlon took over management of the hotel with his wife Hedda, who was German-born but had been raised in America. During the "Golden Twenties", the Adlon remained one of the most famous hotels in Europe, hosting celebrity guests including Louise Brooks, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Emil Jannings, Albert Einstein, Enrico Caruso, Thomas Mann, Josephine Baker, and Marlene Dietrich, and also politicians like Franklin Roosevelt, Paul von Hindenburg, and Herbert Hoover. The hotel was a favorite hangout of international journalists, including William L. Shirer, who mentions it frequently in his writings.

The hotel remained a social center of the city throughout the Nazi period, though the Nazis themselves preferred the Hotel Kaiserhof a few blocks south and directly across from the Propaganda Ministry and Hitler's Chancellery on Wilhelmplatz. The Adlon continued to operate normally throughout World War II, even constructing a luxurious bomb shelter for its guests and a huge brick wall around the lobby level to protect the function rooms from flying debris. Parts of the hotel were converted to a military field hospital during the final days of the Battle of Berlin. The hotel survived the war without any major damage, having avoided the bombs and shelling that had leveled the city. However, on the night of May 2, 1945 a fire, started in the hotel's wine cellar by drunken Red Army soldiers, left the main building in ruins.

Louis Adlon himself was arrested in his home near Potsdam by Soviet troops on April 25 after they mistook him for a general due to his title of "Generaldirektor". He died on a street in Falkensee on May 7, 1945, of cardiac insufficiency according to the death certificate.

East German Hotel Adlon

Following the war, the East German government reopened the building's surviving rear service wing under the Hotel Adlon name. The ruined main building was demolished in 1952, along with all of the other buildings on Pariser Platz. The square was left as an abandoned, grassed-over buffer with the West, with the Brandenburg Gate sitting alone by the Berlin Wall.

In 1964, the remaining part of the building was renovated and the facade was redone. However, in the 1970s what remained of the original Hotel Adlon closed to guests and was converted to serve mainly as a lodging house for East German apprentices. Finally, in 1984, the building was demolished.

Second Hotel Adlon Kempinski

With the reunification of Germany, the site was bought by a West German investment firm and a new hotel was built between 1995 and 1997. The building, only very loosely inspired by the original, was designed by Rainer Michael Klotz of Patzschke Klotz & Partners, and on August 23, 1997 German President Roman Herzog opened the new Hotel Adlon. The hotel occupies the site of the original building, along with additional adjacent land. It currently operates as Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, part of the Kempinski chain. Due to the hotel's success, it has been expanded twice with new wings at the rear on Behrenstrasse. The first wing, known as the Adlon Palais, opened in 2003, while the second, known as the Adlon Residenz, opened in 2004.

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