Located on the banks of Spree river, near the Berlin Victory Column, Bellevue Palace (German: Schloss Bellevue) has been the official residence of the President of Germany since 1994. Its name comes from French and means “beautiful view” – derives from its scenic prospect over the Spree’s course.
Bellevue Palace was erected as a summer residence for Prince Augustus Ferdinand of Prussia, Herrenmeister (Master of the Knights) of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg of the Order of Saint John in 1876 by the architect Michael Philipp Boumann on the site of a manor house which Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff had built in 1743. Bellevue has 20 hectares park around and was the first Neoclassical building in Germany. The Palace is characterized by its Corinthian pilasters, with wings on either side (“Ladies’ wing” and “River] Spree wing”). The upper floor holds a ballroom designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans.
In 1865 The Palace become the residence of Princess Alexandrine – the niece of King Frederick William IV of Prussia after her marriage to Duke William of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
From 1844 to 1865 Schloss Bellevue housed the first museum of contemporary art in Prussia known as the Vaterländische Galerie. Contemporary Prussian works were exhibited in the rooms on the ground floor. At that time King Friedrich-Wilhelm IV allowed the public access to the palace gardens. 21 years later, the artworks moved out again and the palace was used by the Prussian imperial court, housing royal gardeners, maids, cooks, grooms, valets, gamekeepers and saddlers. The palace survived the first world war unscathed and passed into the possession of the Weimar government. From 1935 onwards, the palace housed the Museum of German Folk History before being renovated as a guest house for the Nazi government in 1938. In 1941, firebombs almost entirely destroyed Schloss Bellevue.
Strategic bombing severely damaged the Palace during the World War II and in 1945 Battle of Berlin, before being substantially refurbished in the 1950s.
Theodor Heuss was the President who inaugurated the Palace in 1959 to serve as a secondary residence of the West German president, who until then had only resided at the Villa Hammerschmidt in Bonn. In a slightly late response to Germany’s reunification, the Bundespräsident moved to the capital permanently in 1994. Since then, the Villa Hammerschmidt has been the secondary official residence of the Federal President. The Palace was reconstructed also in 2004 and 2005.