Berlin’s Pan Am Lounge: Cold War relic and aviation souvenir

Lean Into Aviation (3)As time capsules go, Berlin’s Pan Am Lounge is a charmer. And a Cold War relic.

Located on the 10th floor penthouse of the Eden Haus apartment building overlooking the Berlin Zoological Garden and what is now a very upscale neighborhood, the lounge once served as a private gathering spot for flight attendants and pilots who worked for Pan American World Airways, which established offices in a building nearby in the mid-1960s.

natascha Bonnermann09-021

Natascha Bonnermann, Pan Am Lounge owner

During the Cold War, which stretched from 1945 to 1990, no German airlines were allowed to use the Berlin air corridors and West Berlin was served by Pan Am, British Airways and Air France, airlines representing the Western allies.

“The rooftop lounge was furnished for the amusement and distraction of pilots and stewardesses, many of whom also had apartments below,” said Natascha Bonnermann, the actress who resurrected the lounge as an exclusive event and party venue after finding it abandoned in 2005.

“The Cold War ended, Pan Am went out of business and the lounge was forgotten because the employees went home,” said Bonnermann during a recent tour of the lounge. “It was used so seldom that the rest of the world didn’t think of it anymore. It was simply forgotten.”

Well, not quite. A former Pan Am flight attendant held an annual party in the lounge and a former DJ from Armed Forces Radio had his own key to the lounge and would go up there to play cards with his buddies.

Bonnermann learned about the lounge through a chance meeting with the DJ and discovered that the retreat, decorated in what’s been described as a “James Bond and Aspen-chic aesthetic,” was still intact and that, over the years, the panorama view from the outdoor terrace, had gotten even better.

“Inside it was exactly as you see it now,” Bonnerman said on our tour, “The bar, the dance floor and all the original furniture, everything was still here. Even the ashtrays.”

Pan Am Lounge_Seating Area2_Blue_photo by Ross Reynolds

Credit: Ross Reynolds

Bonnermann set aside her acting career to revive the lounge as retro-swank event venue where guests are greeted and served by wait staff wearing uniforms based on those worn by Pan Am crew in 1964.

The wood on the tiny dance floor has been refinished, the mural depicting the Boston Tea Party has been cleaned, specialists have restored the leather on the chairs and a few technical improvements have been made to the sound system, but strict attention has been paid to keeping the lounge exactly as it was.

“It’s a proof of the time and that era and you can’t mess around with it,” said Bonnermann. “I don’t want to adjust it to our tastes now.”

Pilots, flight attendants and guests who frequented the lounge back in the day are “are overwhelmed with emotions and the flood of memories” when they return to visit, said Bonnermann. And while they confirm that the lounge looks just as it did before, “they are all extremely discreet about what happened here,” she said.

Pan Am Lounge - view from outdoor terrace _ credit Ross Reynolds

Credit: Ross Reynolds

Pan Am Lounge - with candy credit container Ross Reynolds

Credit: Ross Reynolds

6 Comments

  1. Heike Schilling

    Can I have a contact so that on my next visit to Berlin (which may be Oct/Nov)I may be able to arrange for a visit? I am German, but have lived for 50 years in the USA,, worked for Pan Am from 1964-1982/3 in Sales and Marketing NYC and SFO. I have flown into Berlin a good number of times from Hamburg. On one occasion in the cockpit. I try to take the pulse of Berlin every couple of years. Would appreciate your reply. Heike Schilling (Ms)

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  3. My father, a Captain with Pan Am for over 40 years and my mother (a stewardess with Pan Am before I was born), both lived in the Eden Apartments (8th and 5th flrs) for over 10 years during the 70s. My father flew the IGS route for over 20 years. We moved to Berlin shortly after the razor wire preceding the Wall was set up.
    I have a picture in my photo album (way before digital) of my sister standing on that same balcony with KuDamm in the background. When we came to visit our parents from school, my parents arranged for us to have a separate apartment on the 2nd floor.

  4. Joyce – that is so great to hear that your parents actually lived in that building! Would you share a copy of the photo of you and your sister on the terrace? I’ll add it to the story somewhere…

  5. Tom Stone

    I was hired by PANAM in 1967 after leaving the Navy after serving as a Flight Instructor and my first base was Flughafen Tempelhof. There were a number of PANAM pilots and flight attendants living in the Eden Haus including me. I had an apartment right under the penthouse with beautiful views of the Zoological Gardens and the Europa Center. In the winter it was especially pretty with the Xmas lighting and the snow coming down looking up the KuDamm, Kant Str. etc.. The group living in the Eden Haus would get together every Thursday (Donnerstag) in the Penthouse for cocktails and then some of us would go out to have supper together. We had many party’s there, Xmas, New Years, Private and so on over the years. These pictures bring back many fond memories. Stoney

  6. Taz Coffey

    Is this the “Pigsticker”? My Dad lived here we he first joined the IGS in 1961.