||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the German Wikipedia. (March 2009)|
Wilhelmplatz was a square in the Mitte district of Berlin, Germany at the corner of Wilhelmstrasse and Voßstraße. The square also gave its name to a Berlin U-Bahn station which has since been renamed Mohrenstraße. A number of notable buildings were constructed around the square, including the old Reich Chancellery (former Palais Schulenburg), the building of the Ministry of Finance and the Kaiserhof grand hotel built in 1875.
The square was originally laid out from 1721 in the course of the Friedrichstadt extension and obtained the name Wilhelmplatz in 1749, after King Frederick William I of Prussia. The first building erected was the Ordenspalais from 1737, situated at the northern side, serving as the seat of the Order of Saint John (Johanniterorden). Across the Wilhelmstraße on the western side the Palais Schulenburg was built in 1739. After the end of the Seven Years' War the square from 1769 was furnished with marble statues of the commanders Kurt Christoph Graf von Schwerin, Hans Karl von Winterfeldt, Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz (by Jean-Pierre-Antoine Tassaert, 1781), James Francis Edward Keith and Hans Joachim von Zieten (by Johann Gottfried Schadow). In 1857 the statues were replaced with bronze copies made by August Kiss, the originals can be seen at the Bode Museum.
In 1796 Prince Antoni Radziwiłł had acquired the Palais Schulenburg, it was seized by troops of the French Empire in 1806 and temporarily served as the seat of Napoleon's townmajor. Radziwiłł held a famous salon here and, as a passionate admirer of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, on May 24, 1820 made his home the site of one of the first performances of Faust I. After their wedding in 1811 Achim and Bettina von Arnim until 1814 lived at the neighbouring Palais Voss. From 1826 the Wilhelmplatz was redesigned by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who also added Schadow's statue of Prince Leopold I of Anhalt-Dessau, while the Ordenspalais was rebuilt in a Neoclassical style by Friedrich August Stüler as the residence of Prince Charles of Prussia.
In 1869 the Kingdom of Prussia purchased Prince Radziwiłł's palais on initiative of Otto von Bismarck. The building was refinanced with the war reparations paid by the French Third Republic after the Franco-Prussian War and inaugurated as the chancellery of the new German Empire with the 1878 Berlin Congress.
During the Nazi era, the Ordenspalais became the seat of the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda and Adolf Hitler commissioned Albert Speer to construct the new Reich Chancellery across the square. Buildings around the square were all heavily damaged by bombings in World War II and were destroyed. On 18 August 1950 Wilhelmplatz was renamed by East Berlin authorities as Thälmannplatz, for Ernst Thälmann. In the 1980s, apartment complexes were built over the square.
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