Frozen out Eisfabrik: The abandoned ice factory

Filed 11/20/2011 | Updated 8/3/2014
An abandoned ice factory sounds cool but I’m sorry to say it’s not. It’s not, because no factory making ice should ever be frozen out, especially if the damned thing is of historical importance, under Denkmalschutz as a protected or listed building. Now they want to destroy it altogether!
The Eisfabrik on Köpenicker Straße had been churning out ice for the inhabitants of this morally-challenged city since 1896 but its chilling activities were halted 99 years later, and it’s been simply chilling since then.
One of the oldest in Germany, it began under the stewardship of Carl Bolle – known affectionately as “Bimmel-Bolle“ (Bell-Bolle) because of the little bells on his dairy trucks – who founded the Norddeutsche Eiswerke (North German Ice-works) in September 1872. He acquired Köpenicker Straße 40-41 in 1893 and began producing ice here three years later.
The Norddeutsche Eiswerke became Germany’s biggest natural ice producers, and Herr Bolle had a larger factory and residential housing built here in 1909/10. More works between 1913 and 1922 saw the building of the boiler house, engine room and three cooling houses, which were insulated with 15cm of cork between the walls.
A great big ice machine from Linde AG was installed in 1914 to make blocks of ice 1.5 metres long. In times without fridges, these were delivered all over Berlin to breweries, pubs, households, fishmongers et cetera, apparently until the late 1970s at least.
After “The Emergency” (as we Irish like to trivialize the war) and subsequent partitioning of Germany (which should never to be trivialized), the factory continued in GDR times as the VEB Kühlbetrieb before being heartlessly abandoned by the Berliner Kühlhaus GmbH in 1995. I guess most people had fridges then.
One of the residential buildings had been destroyed by bombs at the end of the war, but the rest somehow survived the various bombs and several fires – until 2010 that is, when under its “protection” the old cooling houses were ripped down by the Treuhand Liegenschaftsgesellschaft.
The original Treuhand was the state company responsible for the privatization of East German enterprises once the Wall came down, generally responsible for the closing of factories, loss of jobs and selling of assets.
The Eisfabrik is now caught in the web of the huge Mediaspree project which wants to allow corporate greed corrupt Berlin’s riversides with apartments, office spaces and gold mines for investors. I guess this is how they can demolish a listed building...
According to those who want to save Berlin’s Eisfabrik and Wikipedia, the cool houses torn down in 2010 were Europe’s oldest. The rest of the factory is also to be destroyed, except for the apartments currently undergoing modernisation (no doubt before the inhabitants are paid to leave so they can be sold at wildly inflated prices). The ice factory will be replaced by a building made of glass. Berlin is going to the dogs. Not cool.

What
Berliner Eisfabrik. Abandoned ice factory, one of Germany’s oldest, which managed to survive two world wars, several fires and countless parties but is about to meet its fate at the hands of developers despite being a protected building. There's a nice view of the river and my beloved Fernsehturm from the roof, and it’s also home to some fine street art.

Where
Köpenicker Straße 40/41, 10179 Berlin, Germany.

How to get there
It’s very central so shouldn’t be a problem. Berlin Ostbahnhof is a two minute walk away. Here’s a map to make it even easier.

Getting in
No longer possible. The security is back and all the bottom windows and entrances are bricked up. I mean, maybe it is possible, at night, with a grappling hook and/or a sledgehammer but you’ll either kill yourself or make an almighty racket so it’s probably best just to go to the pub. It used to be a case of simply strolling in past the offices to the left of the factory, ignoring any busybodies on the way, and past the loose fence at the back, but I’m sorry to say that’s no longer the case.

When to go
Nothing stopping you from going any time you want. It used to be a good place for parties – maybe too good. That’s probably why the authorities cracked down and ordered the place closed.

Difficulty rating
10/10. See the latest update below.

Who to bring
It used to that you should bring all your friends and have a party! Or your boyfriend/girlfriend/hermaphrodite-friend for the view from the roof. But now I’m not so sure. You could still have a few drinks beside the river I suppose…

What to bring
Dynamite, bribes for guards, or so much dynamite that you won’t need to bribe them – though that might attract the Polizei’s attention. Use your own discretion.

Dangers
Guards, bricks, Polizei. Otherwise, if you somehow get in, you have the usual ones that come with wandrin’ around a deserted, decaying, crumbling building. Best not to be too averse to the smell of piss. There used to be an abundant supply of lunatics and casual screamers here, though I suspect they’re elsewhere now.

UPDATE: Thursday, October 3, 2013 – Pictures on this post have been replaced with what I hope are better ones. They’re as good as you’re likely to see from me anyway. The historical information hasn’t changed in the meantime. I did write an update of sorts in the summer. Eisfabrik fanatics can read that one here.

UPDATE: Sunday, November 3, 2013 – Another post on why the Eisfabrik may be losing its cool and why perhaps more care is needed than before.

UPDATE: Monday, December 30, 2013 – Der Tagespiegel reports tonight that there is security in place at the Eisfabrik as of today (Monday) and that 50 squatters have been evicted. Of these, 20 Bulgarians with nowhere else to go are to be housed in a hostel in Kreuzberg until January 6. I’m not sure what happens to them after January 6 but apparently the city is working on “a speedy and non-bureaucratic solution.”
The owner of the property, Bochum company Telamon GmbH, is paying the cost of security. Tagespiegel didn’t say whether security was 24 hours or not, but obviously part-time security would be cheaper for Telemon, which was loath to pay for security before…
I suspect all this unwanted attention is a result of the attack on the 20 youths (age 15 to 23) on October 7 last, when they were confronted by two women and two men, one of whom wielded an iron bar. The victims were dragged onto the roof where they were struck by the guy with the iron bar, while the others merely kicked and punched the youths. The perpetrators were not squatters, apparently.
Seven youths were injured, two needed hospital treatment, three of the assailants were arrested, the guy with the iron bar got away, and suddenly the city was aware of the old abandoned ice factory.
There will, of course, be further developments…



UPDATE: Saturday, March 8, 2014 – The Eisfabrik is dead, long live the Eisfabrik. I popped down there last Friday, only to have my worst fears confirmed – the Eisfabrik is all bricked up and patrolled by security inside a wire fence. The wire fence is not a problem but the bricks and security are. I’ve updated the guide points above.
There were non-German people still living in tents and teepees beside it – whether they were former evictees who returned is a question I cannot answer – but they were friendly, telling their dog to stop barking at me and beckoning me to proceed.
The security was friendly too. I suppose I was just taking pictures and they didn’t see me as a threat. I asked your wan what the story was. She said security’s been there since Dec. 27, and I guess the brickwork started then too. She pointed out the whole thing was under Denkmalschutz, not that that means anything, and that it was very dangerous – bits of the wall could collapse on your head at any moment, so really, it’s all for my/your own good.
She added there were plans afoot to convert it into a conference/exposition center. Plans tend to be lured astray into lucrative apartments in Berlin, and I’d be surprised if the Eisfabrik didn’t end the same way.
She didn’t know what had happened the former squatters, where they ended up. I thanked her for her time and moved on.
I’d say the rats can’t believe their luck. A whole former ice factory all to themselves, nicely secured and patrolled by security so they’re not bothered by anyone. They’ll get a shock when the investors move in.
street art 6781467752273865705

45 comments

Did I misread, that this was under DDR purview? How is that, exactly, when it's in Kreuzberg, on the south side of the Spree, and therefore within former West Berlin? Unless I don't know my Berlin geography as well as I think. Please clarify. Cool building (no pun intended. ok, sorta).

It is just me or does that Tiger in the stylish cap have laser eyes?! Perhaps this is why the building must be demolished - to forever bury the secret of the DDR's feline optical laser ray technology.

Thanks for the post. Saw this when I visited Berlin about two years ago, but didn't know what it was, which leads to another question. On the other side of Koepenicker Strasse from the Eisfabrik there were a couple derelict buildings with a commune of people living in them (& various campers, cars & vans parked around the compound). Power seemed to be supplied from extension cords spliced from other buildings. Do you know what the story of that place is?

Well observed Bill! Turns out this part of Kreuzberg was under GDR jurisdiction. The Berlin Wall went up all along the Spree from the east (on the north side where the East Side Gallery is now despite the all the river being considered East German territory to the other side), then over the bridge leading onto what is today Engeldamm and Bethaniendamm (which used to be the Landwehrkanal) and on down to Michaelkirchplatz. There was a border crossing at Henrich-Heine-Straße. Checkpoint Charlie's also in Kreuzberg.

The Landwehrkanal was the canal from where Herr Bolle first landed his ice. I should have included that in the main piece.

That was where Maria am Ostbahnhof was once found, before she was banished to make way for a hotel or some other shit after Berlin sold its soul to the devil. I'm surprised it still had a soul to sell. Mediaspree is taking over! More I cannot tell you for now, but it might be worth a visit.

Yes, that tiger is pretty intense. Laser aye.

awesome :) went here in 2007 and apart from the weed farm on the roof the other buildings weren't all that!

Very interesting! Didn't know the GDR had any rights south of the Spree. Learn something new every day.

I wouldn't say that it is without any dangers. The police comes very often, to bring people down and get them off the area, but this shouldnt be any problem as long as you're not jumping on the roof and attract all the attention of the surrounding buildings.

Actually, it's not in Kreuzberg, but in Mitte: that's why it was part of the GDR. The border with Kreuzberg (aka. Mauerweg) is very close though.

Thanks for the Hinweis! It is indeed in Mitte, but only just...

Hello,

I'm not sure how to reach you, Irish Berliner, but I'm gonna try it this way. I'm a dutch journalism student from Holland and in January (8 - 12 january) I'm coming to Berlin to make a radioshow about the city. For the show we're doing all sorts of topics. I found your blog and I'm truly impressed. For the radioshow it would be so cool if I could go with you with my recorder and make a report about the adventure of discovering abandoned places in Berlin.

I hope you'll read this message and get in contact. Maybe you can e-mail me at merelhurkmans@gmail.com

Regards, Merel

hey there
just went yesterday to Eisfabrik - it is indeed an interesting place to check out. one remark about entering the site: the easiest way is to go through the back of the building along the Spree; the fence can be easily jumped there

thanks man! really cool blog; i've definitely taken advantage of your advice!

You're very welcome. Glad to have been of service!

Just went there today...still intact and no issues getting in. We hopped the fence, but actually there is an easier way, if you go in through the Ararat automobile lot on Kopenicker Str. and walk through the courtyards and past the offices, there is a gap in the fence. Happy exploring!

Yes, I think we've established by now that the easiest way in is through the back.

me and a friend checked it out a couple days ago. its still there and very easy to get in to. when we went there were actually 4 other groups of people. two of them were just relaxing and drinking and the others were spray painting the walls. its a cool place to check out.

We went there yesterday at night. There were quite a lot of people on the roof.
Just confirming what you wrote: the place is fraught with piss and dejection. If you go at night, be careful where you put your feet in, it's quite repelling :S.
Thanks again for your blog, we love it!
Y&L

saw the factory over the weekend, was great craic! funnily enough, there was a weird shouting guy there when we were there too, same guy?... perhaps....cant wait to get back to berlin! saw it at night too which was cool (sorry), finally worked up the courage to go down the steps into complete blackness, got properly spooked! ha

regards, from a fellow irishman!

Occupied by punks now, they even locked most of the doors with chains and locks, totally run down by them. Would not recommend anymore.

Isn't everywhere occupied by punks? This is Berlin. Punks are fine. It's the gobshites you need to look out for. There were plenty of doors locked with chains etc. when I was there, when there was no sign of any punks. Perhaps they moved in afterward, but I doubt they were the ones to barricade all the doors.

I was here a few days ago and it was ridiculously easy to get in. There were no afore-mentioned punks, just a bunch of Spanish-speaking people who (I assume) live there. They generally didn't seem to be bothered by the presence of my friends and I, so we could explore the whole place. Once we reached the roof, we realized how popular the place was, because one after the other, small groups of people (mostly young - there was a group of 50-60 year olds) would come just to sit and drink beer with friends. Overall, it was a good experience and the graffiti really makes the place come alive, adding to the general atmosphere. I would still recommend this place.

Glad to hear you had an enjoyable experience. Sounds like it's become the perfect place to while away a Berlin summer evening...

I had a look through a couple days ago with a tour group. According to the guide the building is being leased by the same group that lease the building across the road for the next ten years so it shouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon and i presume more and more squatters will come. There is already doors locked in there where people have made it 'home'.

Yeah, there are a few squatters there alright. Met them on last visit: http://www.abandonedberlin.com/2013/07/staying-cool-at-eisfabrik.html
Not sure if that lease information is correct though. But either way, its days are numbered.

Pretty cool inside, had to pay a squatter a few coins to get by though. Thanks for that, this site has definitely made my Berlin.

Thanks for the kind words. Sorry to hear you got shaken down by a squatter. I wrote about that dude in the latest post, albeit after you had visited.

Can you please stop calling for having parties in abandoned places? That's super annoying. People leave trash there, they don't treat these places as they should. Be a bit more responsible with Berlin!

Parties are not the Eisfabrik's greatest threat. And as long as people are respectful and take their trash with them, they're not doing any harm.
Your last bit of advice should be directed at Wowereit and Co.

Went down today and unfortunately there was 2 security guards manning the back door entrance. Had a little walk around by chance of another entry but no go. Shattered as it looks quiet amazing from the outside. I'm here until Sunday so hopefully I get another chance. Great site by the way!!

da ziehen ja dann bald sehr sehr reiche menschen ein und freuen sich, dass sie auf nem total coolen gelände wohnen, wo ja auch mal der kater holzig und das kiki blofeld waren.

Sorry to hear that! Not sure if they're there all the time though. Doubt they're paid to be there 24/7, and if they are, I'm sure it won't be for long!

Coming from reddit, I saw your great post (and blog!) about the place. A few years ago I made a movie in the building, it was pretty OK (and empty) back then. I more or less spent 2 weeks in the place and hardly saw anyone.

I thought you might like it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpld87d_fqU
www.darwah-group.com

You're right, I did! Brilliant video, must have taken you ages! Thanks for sharing. I'll give it a blast on the official Twitter channel...

Have you been there lately? All possibilities to actually get inside have been closed using bricks. Couldn't see a possibility to get in besides climbing to the second floor which I didn't do.

Yes, I was there last Friday. It's completely sealed up AND manned by security. I'll update this post as soon as I get a chance. Thanks for letting me know.

Just to confirm: it is completely sealed and being watched after - it's too late for this one :)

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