In 1670, the Great Elector Frederick William had forbidden the maintenance of barns within the city walls, so in 1672 he ordered the construction of 72 barns outside the walls and in the immediate vicinity of Alexanderplatz in accordance with the fire protection regulations. At the time, this was also the cattle market; therefore, large quantities of hay and straw were needed.
And so the name Scheunenviertel (Barn District) was born. In 1731, King Frederick William I ordered every Jew in Berlin without a house to move to the Scheunenviertel. Later, many Eastern European Jews moved into this neighbourhood and left a lasting mark on the area.
Umbrella makers, basket weavers, pewterers, goldsmiths, wood carvers, joiners and barrel makers were among the early craftsmen who worked there. Traditional goldsmiths, tailors and shoemakers still feel at home here.
Sophienstrasse received a great deal of attention before the end of the GDR era, and was extensively renovated for the commemoration of Berlin’s 750th anniversary. The neighbourhood was relatively untouched by the war, so that the majority of the magnificent houses from the Gründerzeit period were still standing. Since the imminent demolition of the Scheunenviertel at the end of the 80s was just barely prevented by squatting, massive protests and finally by German reunification, this area was in a structurally poor condition by 1990 but, because of its excellent location, it was set to undergo spectacular development.