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Gas works


After Berlin's famous boulevard Unter den Linden acquired the new invention of gas lights in 1826, the city of Potsdam was scheduled to acquire gas lights as well for street lighting. On October 1, 1856, the Freundsche Gas Works started operations on the former dock of the shipyard. 110,000 cubic meters of gas were produced in the first year, and 386 gas lamps now illuminated the streets. In the following years, the number of street lamps increased as well as a rising demand for heating and lightning within households and business, which led to a constant extension of the gas works. Potsdam had 39,391 inhabitants at that time, 7,126 of whom were members of the military forces. In 1866 the German Continental Gas Association took over, and finally the city of Potsdam bought the entire complex in 1916 for a price of 3,804,287.89 marks. The cardboard factory was also bought and integrated in 1908/09. After World War I, overloads made another expansion and modernization necessary. At Lake Tiefer See, a coal depot and an unloading bridge were built, and new ovens and cleaning and cooling facilities followed, as well as four large gasometers and numerous chimneys. In 1929, the operation manager resided in the Chicory Mill (Zichorienmühle). By the end of the 1930s, a 110-kilometer network of gas pipes could be found all over Potsdam. In the mid fifties, the city bought the electric works, a state-owned company since 1951, and empty estates which were the result of war rubble. Ovens, a gas generator hall, and a sulphur purifier were constructed on these estates, as well as the coke separator, according to Karl Gottfried Pust’s” plans in 1953-55 (see the following entry). Byproducts of the gas generation are - beside coke - raw tar, naphthalene, ammoniac, ammonia, and benzol. All of it was used in industry. With regard to the production of consumer goods, 8,000 – 14,000 sacks of wood coal left the factory every year. After several rebuildings and changes in ownership, the gas works was closed as the VEB Energy Combine in 1990. This did not only happen because of new technologies, such as district heating and natural gas, but also because the last black coal gas works in central Europe had become unprofitable. It contaminated the earth and the groundwater over the years, as the facilities were completely run-down and experienced one damage after the other.

Until July 1, 1990 – that is, for more than 134 years-- the gas works continuously produced gas for the illumination and heating of Potsdam as one of the first industrial facilities in the city. The demolition began in 2001. The clean-up operations started in the same year, which included earth, groundwater and lake sediments. The most distinctive building remained - the coke separator. The ferroconcrete construction with clinker bricks on the outside is 35 metres high and was gutted and rebuilt completely so that the facade could be preserved. Today it is an office building, one of the residences of the software company Oracle. One of the gasometers, today a building under historical preservation, remained as well. It was integrated as an access yard into the newly-built Hans Otto Theater.

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