Schloss Bellevue has been the official residence of the President of Germany since 1994. The palace in the central Tiergarten district of Berlin is situated on the northern edge of the Großer Tiergarten park, on the banks of the Spree river, near the Berlin Victory Column. Its name ("beautiful view" in French) derives from the scenic prospect over the river course. Designed by architect Michael Philipp Boumann, Schloss Bellevue was erected in 1786 as a summer residence for Prince Augustus Ferdinand of Prussia, Herrenmeister ("Master of the Knights") of the Johanniterorden ("Order of Saint John") and younger brother of King Frederick II of Prussia, on the site of a manor house which Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff had built in 1743.
Bellevue was the first Neoclassical building in Germany, characterized by its Corinthian pilasters, with wings on either side ("Ladies' wing" and "[River] Spree wing"). The upper floor holds a ballroom designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans. The palace is surrounded by a park covering about 20 hectares. In 1843, King Frederick William IV of Prussia acquired Bellevue, which in 1865 became the residence of his niece Princess Alexandrine after her marriage with William of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. It served the royal and imperial princes of the Hohenzollern dynasty until the German Revolution of 1918–19. A property of the Free State of Prussia from 1928, the palace in the mid-1930s was used as a museum of ethnography before being renovated as a guest house for the Nazi government in 1938.
During World War II, it was severely damaged by strategic bombing and in the 1945 Battle of Berlin. The palace was substantially refurbished in the 1950s. Inaugurated by President Theodor Heuss in 1959, it served as the secondary residence of the West German president, a pied à terre in West Berlin to supplement his primary residence at the Hammerschmidt Villa in Bonn. The palace was refurbished again in 1986-87, and after German reunification President Richard von Weizsäcker moved his primary residence to it in 1994. A modern annex to the southern wing was built in 1998 to house the offices of the affiliated Bundespräsidialamt ("Office of the Federal President"), a federal agency. Roman Herzog, president from 1994-1999, remains the only officeholder who actually lived at Bellevue during his incumbency. The palace was reconstructed again in 2004 and 2005 to remedy defects in earlier renovations; President Horst Köhler used nearby Charlottenburg Palace for representative purposes during this period. Bellevue became the president's primary official seat again in January, 2006, but since this reconstruction has not included living quarters. The Federal President therefore lives in a government-owned villa in the suburban Dahlem district of southwestern Berlin. Contrary to popular belief, the presidential standard is flown on top of the palace even on many days when the President is not in Berlin. It is lowered only when the President takes up official residence elsewhere - e.g. on the occasion of a state visit, when the standard is raised over his temporary residence abroad, or when he uses his second residence at Villa Hammerschmidt. If he is just on vacation, Schloss Bellevue remains his official residence and the standard is flown over it.