Text and Photos By Stephen Ashton

Lorenz Adlon was the founder of the most famous hotel and restaurant in Europe that catered to Kaiser Wilhelm, the Tzar of Russia, Edison, Ford, Rockefeller, President Taft and Albert Einstein. Charlie Chaplin was stripped of his trouser-buttons when raucous crowds swarmed him on the Adlon steps after the Berlin premier of City Lights and Marlene Dietrich, discovered at the Adlon, uttered her famous line & I want to be alone.

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Coming from humble French roots (our name was originally Adelón, great grandson Percy Adlon says, before my forefathers settled in Mainz, Germany), Lorenz Adlon started his career life as an apprentice to an amazing builder/designer and in short order became a master carpenter. Adlon became an avid wine aficionado and returned to his family's Medoc region in France to study and refine his palate. He moved to Berlin and soon was known as a fine restaurateur and wine purveyor with millions of bottles cellared in Berlin.

By chance Lorenz Adlon encountered Germany's emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II and proposed an extraordinary new hotel, to be the most progressive hotel in all of Europe. It would be right in front of the Brandenburg Gate, amid the great buildings of state near the venerable Reichestag. The Kaiser was impressed with this self-made man and offered his blessings.

When the Hotel Adlon opened in 1907 it amazed even the most skeptical with its advanced features (like its own electric plant, freezers for foods and advanced communications) and particularly, its beauty: Golden Cloudy Marble from Sienna and Red Marble from Verona for floors and stairs; Wainscotting of Cuban Mahogany, painted Sycamore wood, frescoed stucco ceilings and silk and damask dressed the expansive lobbies and rooms. Paintings and busts, ivory inlays, Louis VI and Queen Anne furniture all drew praise from the Kaiser, himself.

From that day on the Hotel Adlon was an unbridled success & the place to be and the place to be seen. Wilhelm II took refuge in the warmth and excitement of the Hotel to avoid the drafty rooms of the royal palace. Other noble families moved into the Hotel's suites and sold their winter houses and it was the favorite haunt of Enrico Caruso, Mary Pickford and Rudolf Valentino, Richard Strauss and Thomas Mann.

Although the Hotel building managed to survive WWII's devastation of Berlin, most of it burned and only a small part was maintained as a Hotel under socialist rule in the then East Berlin.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of Germany in the 1990's led to truly revolutionary architectural possibilities: futuristic and modern architectural wonders in the no-man's land of Potsdammerplatz and elsewhere in East Berlin; and the construction of a new Adlon Hotel on the very site of the original Adlon not as a new modern expression but in the style of the original Adlon! It would use the finest materials, would keep the exterior just the way it was, and create the atmosphere of the original grand scale. It would pay homage to a time gone by. It would go against common belief that it is impossible to build it like they used to.

What started us on this journey of discovery however is, after all...





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