What is both, near Berlin and right in the middle of it? The answer is Rüdersdorf because the limestone dug out there is part of many of the capital's iconic buildings like the Brandenburg Gate. And that's only one of the many stories told by the Museum and Park Rüdersdorf where visitors walk through 750 years of limestone mining and processing. Most impressive is the pit furnace system consisting of 18 frontloading kilns constantly in use for calcination since 1877. Their predecessors, built in the early 19th century, are still in place as well. About the same time the striking portals of the Bülow and Heinitz Canals took shape, connecting the industrial site with the network of regional waterways. A building that looks like a city gate at first sight turns out to be a so called 'Seilscheibenpfeiler' (a rope sheave holding construction). Once the abutment of a steam-driven inclined lift it assisted railway wagons to circulate around the limestone quarry. This open cast mining is right next to the Museum and Park Rüdersdorf and still in operation. Visitors can explore it on a guided four wheel drive tour. Those who love fossils should join a geological tour which includes the permanent exhibition in the 'House of Stones'.
Geologically Rüdersdorf is of particular interest, being the only place in northern Germany where Muschelkalk (shell limestone), normally hidden several hundred meters below ground, hits the surface. That's why fossils are frequent here, and it also explains the pivotal role of limestone for the community.
Historically the local deposit makes its first appearance in 1254 when the Dominican monastery at nearby Strausberg was built. In those days people worked the limestone with nothing else but crowbars, iron wedges and hammers. Innovations were driven by the expansion of the waterways network at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. Tunnels masterly connected the canals with the limestone quarry, a technical feat under the auspices of the minister of mining Anton von Heinitz. Furthermore, from 1802 to 1804, the first Rumford kilns were introduced. Named after their inventor Benjamin Thompson Rumford, they established a completely new type of pit furnaces with separate chambers for fuels and limestone that could be run continuously and fired either by coal or peat. The non-stop operation paved the way for the industrialization of lime processing. Indeed the demand for construction materials was high which is particularly true for Berlin and its expansion as royal seat and capital. In response, Rüdersdorf provided additional production capacity by the construction of a double row of pit furnaces in 1871-77. The site's growing significance is also reflected by the works of famous architects like Schinkel, Tieck and Schlaetzer. This is echoed in the neo-classical 'Kulturhaus' (cultural centre) that is firmly anchored in the community's cultural life since its completion in 1956.
The pit furnace system was in operation until 1967. Today the Museum and Park Rüdersdorf, bordering a still active open cast limestone mining, covers 17 hectares and boasts a unique and scenically located architectural heritage to be explored on foot, by bike or in canoes.
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