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Home Towns - Potsdam, Germany

Behind the Old Market Square

This site is part of our Old Market Square page, which is part of our Potsdam, Germany site. Click left the left turn sign to return to the Old Market Square site or the u-turn sign to get back to our Potsdam Start Site.
There are two other buildings close to the Old Market Square (and closely related to it too) that are worth mentioning: Potsdam's new Theater and an assisted living facility at the grounds of one Potsdam's oldest churches.

Royal Theater, 1795-1940

Hans-Otto-Theater, 1949-1992

The "Tin Can", 1992-2006

New Hans-Otto-Theater, 2006

Theater in Potsdam has a long tradition. The first Royal Theater was founded in 1795 by King Frederick William II. It was the first theater in Germany that was open to common people (until then, only noble members of the aristocracy were allowed to visit theaters). This theater was in use for almost 150 years. In December 1940, it sustained damage during a British bombing raid. Five years later, when the Soviet Army captured Potsdam, the Royal Theater was completely destroyed by artillery fire.

A new theater, named after actor Hans Otto who was executed by the Nazis in 1933, was founded in 1946. It was "temporarily" located in the New Palace. In 1949, it found another "temporary" home in a former club house.

One of the outstanding trademarks of socialist planning was the sometimes decades-long duration of temporary solutions. In 1968, socialist authorities decided to build a new theater, the opening was planned for 1974, but it was always postponed in favor of new living quarters. In 1985, a new plan was drafted, this time the opening was planned for 1993 and construction started in 1989. But these plans were scrapped after reunification and the half-built carcass at the south side of the Old Market Square was demolished in 1991.

At the same time, the old "temporary" home was closed due to asbestos-infestation. A new "temporary solution" had to be found, but Potsdam's new authorities didn't have any more luck than their socialist predecessors. For the next 14 years, the theater in the State's capital "temporarily" camped out in a make shift building that was soon known as the "Tin Can."

The new theater was designed by architect Gottfried Böhm. In Potsdam's centuries-long tradition of foreign inspiration, the building is designed after the Sydney Opera House. Construction started in 1997 and opening night was September 22, 2006, in presence of the German President and Brandenburg's Prime Minister.

The theater employs about 40 actors and has a maximum occupancy of 480 people. You can read more about it at Wikipedia (unfortunately only in German). You can also check the current repertoire at the theater's website (also German only).

Holy-Spirit-Church and Seniorenresidenz Germaniabogen

The Seniorenresidenz (German for senior citizen's home) may be only twelve years old, but the ground it stands on is as historic as it gets! This place, where the small river Nuthe empties into the much bigger Havel was Potsdam's birth place. Before the current building was built here, a careful excavation took place in 1996. In addition to the (expected) evidence of a Slavonic hill fort dating back to the 900s, archaeologists found 5,000 old stone axes.

Although the center of town shifted to what is now Old Market Square, the area around the old hill fort - called "Castle Fishery" remained inhabited by Slavonic fishermen and since 1375, wind milles were recorded here. Some time after 1660, Frederick William, the Great Elector, installed a bailiff's office, a granary and a wine cellar, but the area was still an island, connected with the town only by a causeway. In 1722, the area was incorporated and King Frederick I decided to build a church at the borders of River Havel.

The church, to be used simultaneously by members of the Lutheran and the Reformed branch of the Protestant Church was built under supervision of French architect Pierre de Gayette and was dedicated as Church of the Holy Spirit in November 1726. The 282 feet tall steeple was completed a little later in 1728 by German architect Johann Friedrich Grael. In 1747, none less than the great Johann Sebastian Bach gave an Organ Recital in the Church.

In 1806, the church's history reached a temporary low when it was used as a horse stable and food magazine by Napoleon's troops which occupied Potsdam from 1806 through 1809.

After returning to its original purpose, the church was renovated several times and was an integral part of Potsdam's rich architecture. Everything changed during the last days of World War II. The church survived the bombings, but caught fire during the ground battle in April 1945, when Russian troops captured the town. It was never rebuilt. Most of the ruin was stripped in the 1960s, and in April 1974, a blast removed the burned out steeple, last evidence of a great baroque building.

In 1995, the city and the parish of St. Nicholas decided to put a new building at the still deserted place. It was required that the building would resemble but not copy the old church, that it would protect the historic artifacts of the area and that it would serve the public good. Italian architect Augusto Romano Burelli was awarded with the contract. In 1997, the Senior Citizen's Home opened and the town celebrated the resurrection of a vital part of its skyline. The new steeple is 276 feet high, making it one of Potsdam's tallest buildings. There is a cafe on the top-floor, but we didn't find out about that until after our visit. Expect more pictures when we return next year.



Apr. 24, 1945XXXX XXX
Locals call the new steeple, somewhat disrespectfully, "The Hairpin."

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