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is a large public square and transport hub in the central Mitte district of Berlin. The square is named after the Russian Tsar Alexander I and is often referred to simply as Alex, which also denotes the larger neighbourhood stretching from Mollstraße in the north-east to Spandauer Straße and the Rotes Rathaus in the south-west.
With more than 360,000 visitors daily, Alexanderplatz is, according to one study, the most visited area of Berlin, beating Friedrichstrasse and City West. It is a popular starting point for tourists, with many attractions including the Fernsehturm (TV tower), the Nikolai Quarter and the Rotes Rathaus (Red city hall) situated nearby. Alexanderplatz is still one of Berlin’s major commercial areas, housing various shopping malls, department stores and other large retail locations.
Early history to the 18th century
A hospital stood at the location of present-day Alexanderplatz since the 13th century. Named Heiliger Georg (St. George), the hospital gave its name to the nearby Georgentor (George Gate) of the Berlin city wall. Outside the city walls, this area was largely undeveloped until around 1400, when the first settlers began building thatched cottages. As a gallows was located close by, the area earned the nickname the “Teufels Lustgarten” (the Devil’s Pleasure Garden).
Memhardt Plan from 1652 with Georgentor
The George Gate became the most important of Berlin’s city gates during the 16th century, being the main entrance point for goods arriving along the roads to the north and north-east of the city, for example from Oderberg, Prenzlau and Bernau, and the big Hanseatic cities on the Baltic Sea.
After the Thirty Years’ War, the city wall was strengthened. From 1658 to 1683, a citywide fortress was constructed to plans by the Linz master builder, Johann Gregor Memhardt. The new fortress contained 13 bastions connected by ramparts and was preceded by a moat measuring up to 50 meters wide. Within the new fortress, many of the historic city wall gates were closed. For example, the southeastern Stralauer Gate was closed but the Georgian Gate remained open, making the Georgian Gate an even more important entrance to the city.
In 1681, the trade of cattle and pig fattening was banned within the city. Frederick William, the Great Elector, granted cheaper plots of land, waiving the basic interest rate, in the area in front of the Georgian Gate. Settlements grew rapidly and a weekly cattle market was established on the square in front of the Gate.
The area developed into a suburb – the Georgenvorstadt – which continued to flourish into the late 17th century. Unlike the southwestern suburbs (Friedrichstadt, Dorotheenstadt) which were strictly and geometrically planned, the suburbs in the northeast (Georgenvorstadt, Spandauervorstadt and the Stralauer Vorstadt) proliferated without plan. Despite a building ban imposed in 1691, more than 600 houses existed in the area by 1700.
At that time, the George Gate was a rectangular gatehouse with a tower. Next to the tower stood a remaining tower from the original medieval city walls. The upper floors of the gatehouse served as the city jail. A drawbridge spanned the moat and the gate was locked at nightfall by the garrison using heavy oak planks.
A highway ran through the cattle market to the north-east towards Bernau. To the right stood the George chapel, an orphanage and a hospital that was donated by the Elector Sophie Dorothea in 1672. Next to the chapel stood a dilapidated medieval plague house which was demolished in 1716. Behind it was a rifleman’s field and an inn, later named the Stelzenkrug.
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