Hamburg’s Oldest Warehouse Structure Saved from Decay
I moved my collection from my home by the Elbe into the Kaispeicher B, which is the oldest remaining warehouse of the city. Built in 1878, it was originally a grain silo, but storeys were installed as early as 1884. On two sides the ten story brick building is surrounded by water. Ships and barges flowed along the Elbe into the Magdeburger Port and unloaded their cargo. From the Brooktorhafen small boats transported the wares further. The storefront of the warehouse, with its gables, cornices and pointed arches was an early indication of the neo-Gothic style of the “Hanoverian School”, that was to become typical of the warehouse district. It was therefore the ideal location for the International Maritime Museum.
That is how a private collection became a public museum. As the largest cultural institution in the HafenCity (Harbour City) it not only shares local history with its visitors but also offers a global view. As maritime history is world history, where better to tell it than by the harbour, Hamburg’s gate to the world.
Visitors who’s GPS devices are rendered useless by the extensive construction works going on here often ask me how I feel among all these cranes and trucks. I tell them, good and a little proud. Good, because our museum is a part of a visionary project and I am able to experience every day how something new is growing from the historical foundations of our city. Proud, because my colleagues and I have saved Hamburg’s oldest warehouse from decay. Restoring the now heritage listed building was a delicate task. It meant for example that fifty thousand bricks had to be removed, checked and returned by hand.
The Port of Hamburg was always the economical heart of the hanseatic city and took top priority. It was here that Hamburg and Hanse history was written. The HafenCity is the largest city construction project in Europe, which not only changes one’s personal view of the city but will also heighten perception of the city on an international level.
Prof. Peter Tamm