The Kaiserbahnhof Halbe is a receiver station, of which a number were built in Germany. A receiver train station is a separate building in a train station for highly placed individuals – in this case the German emperors or kaisers. This receiver train station was built in 1865 in the town of Halbe for the exclusive use of Germany’s emperors until 1912 when the station was converted to civilian residential use.
The Kaiserbahnhof Halbe lies just outside the town of Halbe which is about 40 km southeast of Berlin. East of the town is a level crossing from the main street which leads to Halbe’s train station. Parallel to the railway track about 10 meters apart from each other to the north is the Public Building and Station to the south the extraordinary and historic listed property, the Royal train station building, also known as the Royal reception building.
In older sources and postcards of the station it is known as the Emperor station or is designated the Imperial Hunting Seat for the Hohenzollern family. Separate receiver stations are known in Germany as Furstenbahnhofs. Others are the Kaiserbahnhof at Potsdam, at Bad Homburg and at Kierberg.
The history of Halbe station is closely linked with the development of the Prussian railway system after 1838 the first Prussian railroad track had already been opened from Berlin to Potsdam. In the following decade, many further connections to the capital Berlin were developed.
A second rapid development phase of the railway began in the 1860s. In little more than a decade the number of the tracks emanating from Berlin doubled.
The Royal reception building was designed by the renowned Berlin architect, August Orth. The building, probably a gift of the railway company to Kaiser Wilhelm I, served as the starting point for his hunts in the extensive forests surrounding Halbe. The emperor used the Royal reception building, which was administered by a house yard master, on only six occasions. It was from there that he travelled by coach to the hunting lodge: Forsthaus Hammer.
August Orth was one of the most important architects in Berlin in the second half of the 19th Century. Beside numerous churches (e.g. the 1865 Zion Church in Berlin) he was particularly famous as the architect and planner for the rapidly developing railway network. He is regarded as one of the founding fathers of Berlin’s metropolitan railway. From the 1860s he was the preferred architect of the railway tycoon Henry Strousberg Bethel, for which he sketched a splendid palace in 1867/68 which became known as the Palais Strousberg at 70 Wilhelmstrasse and was the British Embassy from 1877 to 1939 and in Berlin’s Wedding district the large cattle and slaughterhouse from 1868. The buildings for the Berlin Görlitz railway, which also developed from his Strousberg connection, are an outstanding example of Orth’s work.
The most important building was the Görlitz railway station (1866–68) in Berlin. This station became famous but was destroyed in World War Two. The site today comprises a small cafe in the remaining building which is open in the summer and a large park. The Royal reception building in Halbe is an important example of architect August Orth’s work.
Having falling into disrepair in the 1990s, the Kaiserbahnhof has now been restored to its 1865 state. The initial works beginning in the summer of 2010 involved removing the 1920 additions which converted the building to three apartments, making the building watertight and connecting water, gas and power, repairing and replacing the roof, repairing and cleaning the brickwork. In 2011, the windows at the first floor level were restored, the external brickwork repointed and the two decorative north towers rebuilt. The 2012 works focused on the restoration of the two south towers, repairs to the exterior brickwork, the garden and preparing for more extensive repairs to the interior, particularly on the ground floor.
The restored Kaiserbahnhof is to include a small cafe and museum. The restoration was the subject of a front page story in the Märkische Allgemeine newspaper of 12 June 2010 under the title: The neue Kaiser. and in the same newspaper on 10 August 2011 under a similar title: Mister Macky ist der neue Kaiser. It has also been the subject of a story in the New Zealand Herald’s Viva Magazine of 29 April 2011 under the title: At Home: The Station Master. There has also been an article by expat New Zealander Andre Gifkins on 4 September 2012 in Slow Berlin.
During 2013 further restoration works were undertaken being primarily incorporating a damp course barrier, laying concrete floors in the ground floor and laying drainage pipes for surface and ground water to a collection pit built in the garden to the south of the building. The ground floor windows and doors were restored in 2015. The interior restoration of the King’s Room, the Salon for the Attendants and the Vestibule commenced in May 2015 and was completed in 2016. These works had been the subject of much debate as to the methodology.
Whether to do a partial restoration, adopting techniques successfully applied to Berlin’s Neues Museum, to leave the interior largely ‘as is’ or to undertake a complete restoration, so that the interiors will look much like they did when the building was completed in 1865. After much discussion the decision was made to undertake a complete restoration.
The remaining works to complete the restoration were progressed between 2016 and 2019. In addition, a new building, known as the ‘Neubau’ was built to the north of the Kaiserbahnhof. This new building houses the kitchen, lavatories and ‘back of house’ for the cafe.
A major feature of the restoration was the garden, which is now fully restored, based on the 1865 plan. Also restored, were the two flagpoles which grace the building’s north and south gable. They were an important feature of August Orth’s 1865 design, were removed some time ago and have now been rebuilt.