In 1825, the Prussian military purchased a large portion of today’s Mauerpark to use as parade and exercise grounds. Because of a single poplar tree that grew there, in today’s Topsstraße, it was popularly known as the “Lonely Poplar Parade Grounds.” The site gained notoriety during the revolutions sweeping through Europe in 1848. On March, 26, 1848, 20,000 workers – an enormous crowd for the time – demonstrated there and placed demands on the Prussian king: regulated, shorter working days, higher wages, Sundays and public holidays as days off of work, and the introduction of compulsory education. After German Unification, the use of this land as parade grounds for the imperial army dwindled into 20th century. The park was increasingly used for scholastic and club activities, since the heavily populated area lacked sufficient green spaces. With the growing popularity of football among the working classes, a match took place there on April 18, 1892, with Berlin facing a team from Dresden; the visitors won 3-0. In the same year, the Hertha BSC football club was also founded; for many years, the Lonely Poplar Grounds served as its home field.
By 1900 the area around the parade grounds was already heavily populated, and the residents of the largely working-class neighborhood often used the area for recreation, but the land was in poor condition. More and more often, residents complained about the unacceptable conditions on the site. The military’s plan, to enclose the parade grounds with a wall, failed, as the city did not want to assume the cost of its construction. Facing continued complaints, the War Department agreed in 1910 to sell part of the space. Two parties had interest in the property: first, the Prussian state railway, which wanted to expand the site of the old Nordbahnhof (North Train Station); second, the Protestant church, which wanted to expand the Erich Frommel Welfare House to the west of Schönhauser Allee. However, after approval by the City Council in June 1911, the eastern part of the parade grounds was purchased by the Berlin municipal authorities in 1912 for 6.5 million marks to create a recreational and sport park. The contract for the planning went to the influential Berlin garden director Albert Brodersen. Use of the site as a sport and recreational venue was now permanent; only during the two World Wars did the area temporarily serve military purposes. After the First World War, small barracks were erected, which marked the appearance of the area until after World War II.