von der Heydt
|The Villa von der Heydt is one of the last villas in Tiergarten district to survive the development plans for a capital of Adolf Hitler‘s chief architect, Albert Speer; though badly damaged, it managed to get through the Second World War.
The building, constructed in 1862, enjoyed two quiet decades. Then the story of its use and occupancy became quite turbulent. In the 1880s, the Chinese embassy rented the building and ran it like a guesthouse. There was talk of smoked ham, shark fins, dried duck and dense clouds of tobacco and opium smoke. In the eyes of the poet Theodor Fontane, whose daily stroll led him past the villa, the water of the Landwehr Canal was already turning into the heavy yellow torrent of the Yang-tse-kiang.
Between 1890 and the First World War, a nephew of the original builder won back his family’s villa for German cultural life, and from it led one of the most glittering salons of Berlin society. In 1919, after war and revolution, the von der Heydt family gave up the lovely house, which was then taken over by The General German Sports Club. An exclusive club was established under the protection of this inconspicuous name. For almost fifteen years, until 1933, its members indulged in playing poker and baccarat in the secluded villa’s extensive rooms. Shortly after the Second World War, the ruined house’s cellar was rebuilt and used, right up to the sixties, to produce sweets and pralines. After 1966, when the house was listed, salvage work began and the rebuilding was completed in 1979.
Today, the neo-classic villa with its striking upper storey, surrounded by a low stone railing and crowned with vases, is the residence of the President of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Foundation for Prussian Culture). It sits under tall old trees in a walled garden, between Herkulesufer and Von-der-Heydt-Straße. A discreet path runs between the water and the garden wall to the Hiroshima-Steg, a more recent footbridge over the Landwehr Canal. From the cafeteria of the neighbouring Bauhausarchiv there is a good view of this pleasant scenery.