General Lucius D. Clay Headquarters
Between 1936 and 1938, one of the first monumental Wehrmacht buildings of Nazi Germany arose upon the extensive site at the corner of the former Kronprinzenallee and Saargemünder Strasse. The building complex, which had been constructed according to plans drawn up by Fritz Fuss, housed the District Air Command (Luftgaukommando III) of the German Luftwaffe.
From 1945 onward, the USA first utilized this refurbished building, which had been freed from its Nazi symbols, as the headquarters of the US military government. Here, General Lucius D. Clay had his office. Clay served as the supreme commander of American forces in Europe and as military governor of Germany. He was also a central figure in the Airlift that supplied West Berlin during the Soviet blockade of 1948/49. On June 1, 1949, in recognition of his services, upon a decision by the Berlin Senate and in the presence of mayor Ernst Reuter, Kronprinzenallee was renamed Clayallee – an extraordinary honor for a person who, at this point, was still alive. Starting on May 12, 1979, the 30th anniversary of the end of the Berlin Blockade and just over a year after Clay’s death, the site also took his name and was thenceforth known as General Lucius D. Clay Headquarters.
Following the end of the military government in 1949, various agencies set up offices on the nearly eight hectare site – the most significant of these included the office of the US city commander, the staff of the Berlin Brigade (the name the US Army in Berlin called itself beginning in 1961) as well as the US Mission, which served as the diplomatic representation of the United States in West Berlin and was joined to a consulate. With the end of German division, portions of the headquarters were vacated. Finally, it was abandoned completely in 1994. All that remains of the US installation is merely the embassy’s consular division.
Photographing the guarded and fenced in embassy building is not permitted. However, the grounds of “Metropolitan Gardens” are freely accessible. This facility, which was redeveloped between 2010 and 2017 to contain residential and business suites, now takes up the bulk of the complex, which has been under a preservation order since 1995. The gradually rising drive leads to the main building, which still displays stone eagles from the 1930s on its cornice. It is worth taking a look at the renovated foyer, as well as behind the main building, where additional buildings and green inner courtyards are located.
Across from Clay Headquarters the Truman Hall opened in 1946, a modern and well-equipped canteen providing both a dining room for more than 800 persons and a cafeteria. In the early 1950s, the Americans modernized the canteen building and expanded it into a shopping center with an adjoining parking lot. At its heart stood the so-called Post Exchange, known as the PX for short – a supermarket sponsored by the US Department of Defense that supplied local soldiers. The goods on offer there focused entirely on US tastes and fashions and could also be purchased tax-free. Today, a newly constructed ensemble of buildings along Clayallee provides space for a range of new shops.
Directions 3 > 4
The extensive grounds of the former US Headquarters are bordered to the south by Saargemünder Strasse. By taking a footpath leading between the small villas on the other side of the street to Garystrasse, one can take a look at the Dreipfuhlsiedlung and – continuing along Garystrasse – then reach the Henry Ford Building. Alternatively, one can arrive there by starting from the Metropolitan Gardens and following Saargemünder Strasse to Ihnestrasse and then, after Harnack-Haus, turning left onto Harnackstrasse, which ultimately passes between the university library and the historic Henry Ford Building.