On September 13th 1913 Fritz Bühler opened the dance hall „Bühlers Ballhaus“ (Bühler’s Ballroom) in the back of Auguststrasse 24/25. It became known as Clärchens Ballhaus after Bühler was killed in WWI and his widow, Clara, took over the business. When exactly the fabled buildings were erected no one knows – official records were lost during WWII. It could be that they were commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II’s butler. But hat might be just one of the many legends that surround the house, ist inhabitants, and ist patrons. Clärchens Ballhaus is, as it were, a kind of story machine, a site of conjecture.

And there are a veritable host of stories and anecdotes to recount: In his 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alfred Döblin had his hero Franz Biberkopf come here for a drink with his friend Meck in between adventures (he has just been restored to health after loosing an arm): „They wander down to the Alex in their same old jogtrot, then a short way through the Gipsstrasse, where Franz takes him to the Alte Ballhaus. ‚It’s all done over, you kin watch me dance here or else take a look at me at the bar.’ Meck is agog. ‚What’s happen to you all of a sudden, say?’ ‚Righto. I’m starting over again, like in the old days. Well, why not? Any objections? Come in and look at me dance with one arm.’“

The German illustrator and photographer Heinrich Zille had his regular place at the bar, where he used to sit and draw. And Otto Dix painted the poster (1931), which is still used today.

 
Spiegelsaal Berlin Geschichte
Spiegelsaal Berlin Geschichte

Until the 1940th there were two halls: While the crowds swayed along to the popular ballads of the time in the great ballroom on the ground floor, the dignified ladies and gentlemen of the Spandauer Vorstadt would dance with aristocratic pomp in the mirrored ballroom upstairs. There was also a bowling alley in the cellar.

After WWII, the mirrored ballroom remained closed, and the bowling alley was used to store coal. The front building was so badly damaged by bombing that it had to be torm down. This made the entrance to the Ballhaus visible from the street - and it looks much the same today.

 

The dancing started up again in the ground floor ballroom – Clärchens defined nightlife on Auguststrasse for nearly 100 years. In January 2005 the previously low rent was raised to meet Berlin Mitte standards, and the Ballhaus changed hands. The new operators, David Regehr and Christian Schulz, have left ist interior largely untouched. In 2005 the mirrored ballroom opened for the public for the first time since WWII: For parties, concerts, literary soirées and special events.
Spiegelsaal Berlin Geschichte