Checkpoint Charlie. (Photo: Norbert Aepli on Wikipedia)
June 22, 2015 marks 25 years since the official closure of Checkpoint Charlie, the best-known crossing point of the Berlin Wall. During the Cold War, this gateway was the only place where non-German tourists and diplomats could cross between Allied-administered West Berlin and Soviet-controlled East Berlin. Over the decades, Checkpoint Charlie witnessed much East-West tension, a 1961 stand-off between American and Soviet tanks, and occasional outbursts of violence—in 1962, 18-year-old East Berlin resident Peter Fechter was gunned down by border guards near the checkpoint while attempting to cross to the west.
Visit the site now, located in Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse, and you’ll find a replica guard house manned by actors in military uniforms who, for a Euro or two, will gladly pose for a photo with you. Take-out eateries such as Snackpoint Charlie peddle “Allied hot dogs” and “checkpoint curry sausage.” Souvenir shops and street stands sell matchbox-sized chunks of colored concrete that they claim are absolutely, definitely, 100 percent real bits of the Berlin Wall.
The authenticity of such concrete chunks may be dubious, but the idea of owning a piece of history is enticing. And at 96.3 miles long, the Berlin Wall was, and is, a colossal souvenir, able to be divided up and dispatched to memorial spots around the world. The United States scored some prime segments, many of which sit in public places. Here are a few of the locations you can see a section of the wall that divided Germany for almost 30 years.
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California
(Photo: mcflygoes88mph on Flickr)
It was only fitting that Ronald “Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Reagan should get to keep a section of that very wall at his presidential library. The butterfly-enhanced segment has been sitting in its al fresco exhibit spot since 1990.
George Bush Presidential Library, College Station, Texas
(Photo: FlickReviewR on Wikipedia)
Not to be outdone, George Bush, who was president at the time the Berlin Wall fell, has a hefty wall section at his own presidential library. The six broken wall segments have been incorporated into a sculpture in which five mighty horses bolt for freedom. The symbolism is clear.
Midtown Manhattan, New York
(Photo: Michael on Flickr)
Paley Park, located at East 53rd Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, doesn’t have any grass, and its few, thin trees are surrounded by concrete. The austere aesthetics may be stark, but they make ideal surroundings for a five-panel section of the wall, which sat in the courtyard from 1990. In September 2014, the wall had to be whisked away for restoration, having sustained damage from the waterfall behind it. Beginning in the summer of 2015, the restored wall section will live in the lobby of 520 Madison Avenue.
5900 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California
(Photo: Eden, Janine, and Jim on Flickr)
In front of the 30-story office building at 5900 Wilshire Boulevard is a 10-segment section of wall—the longest piece outside Germany. Los Angeles’ Wende Museum, which is dedicated to preserving Cold War history, installed the section in 2009 as part of a public art initiative to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the wall being torn down. Five of the segments have original graffiti from when they sat in divided Berlin, while the other five were painted in 2009 by artists Kent Twitchell, Farrah Karapetian, Marie Astrid González, and Berlin-based Thierry Noir, who also painted on the wall during the 1980s.
Hilton Anatole Hotel, Dallas, Texas
(Photo: Danleo on Flickr)
The art collection at this swanky Hilton in Dallas includes a two-segment wall section covered in graffiti by Jürgen Grosse, also known as Indiano. Grosse, a former West Berlin resident, painted great swathes of the wall in 1989.
(Photo: Ambernectar 13 on Flickr)
A triptych of wall segments sits at Long Wharf, right opposite DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant, in Portland, Maine.
Western L Station, Chicago, Illinois
(Photo: Matthew Ginger on Wikipedia)
This slab of wall, located in Chicago’s Western Brown Line L station, was a 2008 gift from Berlin in recognition of the United States’ contribution to German reunification.
Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, Miami, Florida
(Photo: Phillip Pessar on Flickr)
On November 9, 2014, a crowd of 1,500 ate bratwurst and waved German flags as this wall segment was unveiled on Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus.