A Berlin fire insurance of 1831 makes mention of the historic corner building of the block of buildings known as Kalkscheune (Limestone barn). There are indications, however, which would suggest that the building had been erected a couple of decades earlier. Being one of the outstanding trailblazers of the industrial revolution in Berlin, Johann Caspar Hummel had the first machine works in Berlin erected at this site in 1804. He was involved in the erection of many a public building such as the Schauspielhaus am Gendarmenmarkt, the Opera Unter den Linden and a series of famous bridges in Berlin. His name is especially attached to the repair and re-erection of the quadriga on top of Brandenburg Gate, looted by Napoleon in 1806 and returned to Berlin in 1814. Horse stables are still discernible at the courtyard side of the Kalkscheune buildings, because in the absence of a steam engine, in Hummel's factory machines were driven by horses. It was only around 1818 that Hummel had his first steam engine running, a gift from the King of Prussia! The name of Kalkscheune hearkens back to Kalkscheunenstraße, a small lane that links Johannisstraße and Ziegelstraße. These street names designate the trades established in the early 18th century along the lower reaches of the Spree river and which survived by the mid-19th century in this neighbourhood. Later, the machine works became the location of the first Prussian bicycle manufactory, inaugurated by Queen Augusta. During WWII, the machine hall was hit in an air raid, and the burnt-out first floor was taken down. In the fierce final stages of the battle of Berlin which raged in the immediate neighbourhood, the Kalkscheune buildings were the only to escape complete destruction and later demolition. After WWII, following the GDR government's decision on the "planned construction of socialism", the buildings were confiscated without compensation in 1953. In later years, the hall of the former machine works was used for assembling fire extinguishers. Hidden on the attic of the corner building, members of the secret police used most modern equipment for eavesdropping on foreign delegations accommodated in the opposite "Johannishof" building, guest house of the GDR government. By and by, the premises had become more and more dilapidated and in the end were used as a mere storeroom. In 1996, a group of enthusiasts rented the premises from the WBM housing association and established a privately financed cultural business to operate under the name of Kalkscheune. That period was distinguished by spectacular parties, legendary cabaret evenings and jazz concerts, documented in a series of live produced sound carriers. Following the sale of the premises to a group of investors, the listed former factory buildings were completely restored and modernised with special care being taken to preserve the industrial charm as it was at the turn of the 19th century. As the restoration proceeded, the reconstruction of the courtyard pavement uncovered remnants and foundations of houses of long bygone times. Today, Kalkscheune is the venue of events like product presentations, media and gala performances, awards ceremonies, panel discussions, and concerts. The premises include rooms at three different floors with varying capacity and ambience as well as a planted inner courtyard. The ambience of a historic factory site, modern equipment and facilities and the fascinating history of the site contribute to making Kalkscheune a very special venue in Berlin. It is a very lively and living element of the city's cultural life.
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