New market halls were opened in Berlin in the 1880s

New market halls were opened in Berlin in the 1880s

The trend toward covered markets for food distribution in Berlin, already underway beginning in the 1860s, gained serious momentum after the city published a master plan calling for 14 market halls to be built throughout the city. 

This was just around the time that our ancestor Schija Ringel arrived in Berlin's bustling Scheunenviertal (barn district) from Krakow and points east. Until a few days ago, I believed Schija worked in the garment trade, but now we have reason to believe that he sold fish. 

Until the construction of the market halls, food purveyors of all kinds sold their wares in weekly markets, going from one temporary location to another every day to reach their customers. The market halls were to be permanent structures with sanitary facilities, loading docks and modern amenities. Vendors could rent a stall in a market hall and set up shop in a permanent location. 

In 1886, the first of the planned 14 market halls, the Central Markthalle. opened on Neue Friedrichstraße in today's Alexanderplatz. If Schija Ringel really was a fish monger in the Scheunenviertal in the 1880s, the development of market halls must have been a game changer for him. 

I don't know if he could easily afford the hefty stall rentals. Maybe he was not the first to change his business model and continued to sell at traditional markets. Or maybe he was far-sighted and imagined a future where food shopping could become an entertainment in itself. 

If he wasn't the first in at Markethalle I, more such emporiums rolled out across the city over the next 15 years. One of them, Markethalle XIII in the Jewish districts of Prenzlauer Berg, was right in the neighborhood. And who knows, maybe the rents were a little better. 

As I start to imagine more of what Schija's life may have been like, I think I'll latch on to Markethalle XIII as the locale for his fish shop. He would have carried all kinds of preserved, smoked and canned fish. Maybe other delicacies as well. I'm thinking he didn't sell fresh fish because he would not have had the necessary ice. 

The slideshow starts to set the scene.