The Los Angeles Times, November 13, 1892, p.14:|
MODERN BERLIN.The Best Managed City in the World.
It Grows Faster Than Chicago and Makes a Million Dollars a Year.
Something About Building in Berlin and Berlin Houses.
How the Germans Clean Their Streets--Obnoxious Policemen--
How the Kaiser Runs Berlin--Something About Servants.
Special Correspondence of The Times.
BERLIN, Nov. 1, 1892.-- Berlin is enlarging its boundaries, and suburban towns are to be taken into the city within a short time which will give it a population of more than 3,000,000. This will make it the second city in the world, for Paris has less than 2,500,000 and New York and Brooklyn together counted up by the last census only 2,250,000.
Berlin has grown like a green bay tree since the Franco-Prussian war, and there is no city in the United States which has increased so fast in population. In 1860 she had less than 500,000 people, and before she went to war with France she had only 750,000. After the war the people flocked in from all parts of Germany, new houses were built everywhere, and, on the basis of the $1,000,000,000 which Germany was to receive from France, the capital had a great boom. It had a panic in 1873, but it recovered from this and it has been growing steadily from that time to this.
It now covers the area of twenty-five 640-acre farms, and the Spree Valley, upon which it is built, is a flat as a floor. It is built on a sort of a sandy plain, and the Spree River runs through it, and there are canals and arms in this which cut up the city and which are covered with beautiful bridges.
There is no place in the world where you will find such a uniformity of good buildings. The houses are of vast size, and you can drive for miles and miles through broad, well-paved streets which are walled with three, four and five-story houses, all substantially built and all looking clean and new.
The most of these houses are brick, covered with stucco, and it is only in the old parts of the city that you find any monstrosities in architecture.
THE BEST-MANAGED CITY IN THE WORLD.
Berlin is the best-managed city in the world, and its city fathers regulate the style of the buildings which shall be put up. You can't build a dog kennel without showing a design of it at the city hall, and no man can put up a signboard on his own house until he has shown a diagram and has gotten the permission of the government. You can't put down a pavement in front of your house without a permit, and the government watches your building and insists that you make your walls just so thick, and the ceilings must be of a given height, and the fronts must be of a uniform pattern.
In building the house you are not allowed to litter the street with your bricks and mortar, and all the materials for building must be kept inside of the lot. You have to fence off the street while the building is on, and when your house has reached the height of the second story you must build a roof over the sidewalk to prevent the bricks or mortar falling on those passing below.
The building is done much better than with us, and much more economically. Nearly all the mortar is mixed in one place, and there is a mortar company here which sells the mortar ready mixed to the builders, and which carries it about in iron wagons and delivers it just where it is needed. There is no reason why such a company might not make money in the cities of the United States. This Berlin establishment is paying dividends of 25 per cent. on its capital, and it sells its mortar like coal, at so much per wagon load or per ton.
HOW BERLIN MAKES A MILLION A YEAR.
I don't know how much New York runs behind every year, but there is scarcely a city in the United States which is not steadily increasing its debt. Consul-General Edwards tells me that Berlin makes a profit of 5,000,000 marks every year over all of her expenses, or of $1,250,000.
The city here owns two-thirds of the gas stock, and it sees that the people have good light. There are gas lamps on the corners of every street, and the posts are of a tasteful pattern. Each post has four burners, and the lamps are so aided by reflectors from above that their power is doubled. The posts are higher than ours, and I note that some of them have Argand burners.
This gas stock is very valuable, and the gas company furnishes private houses as well as the city.
It is the same with fire insurance. The city insures its own buildings, and it is against the law for another insurance company to give out policies on buildings. The city, in the first place, sees that the buildings are properly put up, and that the protection against fire is of the best character, and it then makes every man take out an insurance policy to prevent loss in case of fire. The insurance stock is good, and the city, of course, makes money by it...
MILLIONS FOR CLEAN STREETS.
The streets are well kept. Berlin is fast becoming a city of asphalt, and you can drop your handkerchief almost anywhere and pick it up without soiling it. The city takes care of its own sewers, and it has a number of farms on its outskirts over which these street sweepings are scattered by paupers of the city. The sewage is pumped out of the sewers on to the farms, and through this the lands has become the most fertile in Germany.
A large part of the cleaning of the streets is done by boys, who get something like 25 cents a day and who are at work on every block gathering up the dirt as it falls, and on a wet day scrubbing off the street with rubber brooms or a sort of rubber hose. These boys sometimes work in gangs, and a half-dozen of them will take up a street and push the dirt on to the sewers, leaving the road as clean as though it were scrubbed.
If this scrubbing is done at night, clean sand is scattered over the streets to prevent the horses or men from falling... It costs more than 2,000,000 marks a year to keep the streets clean, and there are 700 street-cleaners. The civil service rules obtain even as to these boys, and their wages are raised after they have been working on the streets for three years.
The buildings are kept as clean as the streets, and every man has to wash down his house about so often, and it is against the law to put up bill boards or to paste posters on the houses.
When Buffalo Bill was here he was almost crazy because he could not get any place to plaster up his big posters of his "Wild West" show, and the only arrangement by which posters can be put up is in connection with round sheet iron tubes, which are on the corners of the streets, and which are about fifteen feet high and of the diameter of a hogshead. They are especially for the pasting of bills. They are not unsightly, and on them you can find the theater advertisements and business posters.
Within the past few months the Urania Company have been putting up advertising pillars all over the city after a plan which forms perhaps the best advertising scheme in existence. These pillars are about fifteen feet high, and they are by no means unornamental. They are as big around as a flour barrel, and are octagonal in shape, and they are the most valuable guide that any city can have.
They are connected with the observatory of the city, and there is a clock on each of them that always gives the correct time. Above the clock there is a star showing the points of the compass, so that you can tell the direction from any place you may happen to be. Below this star there is a globe which moves by machinery, and which tells you the positions of the stars from day to day. Besides this stands the clock, which has four round disks in different sides of the pillar. One of these gives the time in Berlin. Another gives the world time and a third shows how the earth stands in the solar system from day to day.
Below this, with shades throwing an electric light upon them at night, are places for advertisements, which are in frames under glass. These revolve every minute, and mixed up with the advertisements are tables of information about the city. In one of the plates below them there is the time of trains leaving the city by all the roads, and another plate shows you the condition of the barometer, the thermometer and of the humidity of the air from hour to hour and keeps a record of it.
Upon these pillars you can always find the nearest police station and the nearest branch post office, and there is a little plan of the section of the city in which the pillar stands, with the streets plainly marked, so that by going to one of these you can always find just what you want without asking questions.
I do not know the cost of these advertising pillars, but as new ones are being rapidly put up I judge they must be profitable. Such other street advertising as is done is with the sandwich men or by dodgers. You find men distributing bills everywhere, and there are plenty of grotesquely-dressed figures carrying bill boards. The people advertise very well in the newspapers, and, altogether, they make their wants known without defacing the buildings.
THE GERMAN POLICE.
Speaking of the German police, they put on more airs and are far more obnoxious to strangers than the policemen of St. Petersburg. The Berlinese are said to have been very modest and unassuming before they whipped the French, but since then their conceit has grown immeasurably, and a German soldier or a German policeman struts around with more airs than a village drum major.
He has a high idea of his authority and he meddles with all kinds of business quite as much as do the policemen in Russia. It is the boast of the government here that it knows every night just where every one of its subjects sleeps, and the moment you arrive at a hotel you are asked for your name, your place of residence, your profession, and this is forwarded by the hotel keeper to the police. If you take a lodging in the city outside of a hotel you are asked for your passport, and if you stay any time, an investigation will be begun of your antecedents, and your biography thus gathered will be filed away here.
I have a friend in Berlin who left Germany about twenty-five years ago and went to America, where he became an American citizen... He concluded to keep house here...
Said he: "I was surprised... to find how much they did know. After I had lived in my house three months, I got a notice to come and pay my taxes, and I went to the tax office. I was asked what my name was and where I lived, and they found me in a moment, and one of the clerks pulled out a book and said: 'Yes, Mr. Blank, you came to Berlin August 1, and you registered at the Central Hotel. You stayed there a week; when you went to a pension on Frederichs strasse and stayed there two weeks. Then you went back to the Hotel Central, and it was just three months ago that you took your present rooms, paying 150 marks for them.'
"I was thunderstruck at what the man knew, but he had everything right and he had gotten the amount of my rent from the landlord, which had been turned in according to law. They tax you here on your income, and they get at your income by looking at your style of living. It is generally estimated that a man spends one-third of his income for house rent, and as I paid 150 marks for rent they estimated that I made 450 marks a month...