Mystery Building Nr. 8: The Brühl (Mile) District in Chemnitz

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Photos taken in January 2017

Our next mystery building article takes us to Chemnitz in central Saxony and in particular, this district. Located in the northern edge of the city center, 500 meters from Chemnitz Central Station (Chemnitz Hbf.), the Brühl Mile features a narrow street, flanked on each end with historic buildings- both those that survived the bombings of World War II as well as those that were constructed during the age of East Germany- and laden with lighting originating from the Communist era, where Chemnitz was once known as Karl-Marx-Stadt. Going from end to end between Georgenstrasse and Zöllnerstrasse, one will walk back into time to the period where everything seen is all in relation with this particular time period.  And while the Brühl district is bustling with activity during the summer, in the winter time, its true colors present itself in a form of a mixture of buildings filled with apartments and a handful of businesses as well as those that are empty but present themselves with artwork that is comparable with those presented in the large cities in Germany, like Berlin.

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While the empty buildings are scheduled to be renovated before the city celebrates its 875th anniversary in 2018, the question remains where the name Brühl originated. Here is what we do know about the Mile:

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The Mile was once a village named Streitdorf, which was owned by the lordship Blankenau in the 1300s. The village separated itself from the city of Chemnitz by a brook and a large field used for grazing. After the purchase of the village in 1402, it disappeared thanks to land encroachment and the eventual conversion to a hatchery for fish. Given its approximate location to the River Chemnitz, the area was ideal for this industry. The area was converted into a district which by 1795, it was named Anger. Planners proceeded to construct and expand the district beginning in 1835 to include 120 apartments at first. The numbers quadrupled over the next century, and the district eventually gained a theater house, church, textile factory, museum and lastly, a market square located at today’s Schillerplatz. With the draining of the brook came the establishment of a pond at the aforementioned present-day location. The last architectural work came with the public pool, which was built in 1935.

After the bombing of Chemnitz, which affected the Brühl district, buildings to the south and east were demolished to make way for Communist.based architecture, much of which can be seen along the Mile today. This includes statues, lighting and some of the characteristics that a person will see in an East German housing development in many cities today. Even the mural that exists at the Georgenstrasse entrance depicts what the district looked like before 1989.

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Yet there is a catch involved with the history of this district and that is with the name Brühl. When I first visited the district in January, my first impression was that it was part of an industrial district, where Brühl was a company. The slogan and lettering of the Mile, which can be seen at the Georgenstrasse entrance, clearly shows a trace going in that direction. Looking at the history of the industries that existed in East Germany, the connection of having residential areas near companies was considered the norm in those days, especially when looking at the relicts of the past today in many cities.

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Yet history books show that Brühl was first used in 1836 and the name has been stuck to this district ever since. This leads to the question of its origin and who created the idea. Furthermore, if one looks at the mural more closely, was Brühl located near an industry and if so, what was it? Given its location near the River Chemnitz and its history of being a fishery, it is likely that perhaps the fishing industry existed either solely or alongside any industries that happened to exist during the days of East Germany. But on the flip side, perhaps the housing district used the logo as a fancy way of drawing residents to then Karl-Marx-Stadt. The theory points to the second because of the SED having its regional party headquarters there in the 1970s before they relocated to the Congress Center, two kilometers south of the Mile.

But perhaps politics and industry could co-exist in one district, as potentially seen in the area along the Mile?  What else do we know about the Brühl Mile? Add your thoughts in the Comments page here as well as in the Files’ facebook page, which you can click here to access.

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The Brühl Mile is being repurposed and revitalized even as this article is being released with the purpose of having the district restored and brought back to life for businesses and residents in time for Chemnitz’s 875th birthday in 2018. Details on the project can be found via link here. At the same time, the City of Chemnitz is calling out to public on how to make the city prepared for this event. That is also in the Brühl page.

To close, here’s a little food for thought that a store owner along the Mile left that is worth thinking about. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Mystery Building Nr. 8: The Brühl (Mile) District in Chemnitz

    1. I haven’t contacted anybody about Brühl yet, as my visit came in the evening with a good coating of snow. However, as I will be visiting the city a few times this year, I will definitely pursue all contacts presented to me including this one. 🙂 Many thanks for the contact info. I will make use of that. 🙂 JS

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