Kharkiv - Sumska Street (Part 1)

Kharkiv Travel Blog

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The bird’s eye view of Sumska Street
This so-called upper part of the city has a central location on the hill between the rivers Kharkiv and Lopan. On both sides it is flanked with picturesque slopes: Zhuravlivski in the east and Klochkivski - in the west. The bottomlands stretch along the foot of the slopes.

The upper district was developing gradually. The development began in the late 17th century on the strip of land between Constitution Square and Theatre Square. At the end of the 18th - beginning of the 18th century the construction spread to today’s Ivanova Street, and at the end of the 19th - beginning of the 20th - to Mayakovskoho Street.

Longitudinal streets to the east of Sumska Street (Chernyshevskoho, Artema, Pushkinska streets) were formed during the 19th-20th centuries.
Sumska Street
The territory to the west of Sumska Street (Rymarska and Klochkivska streets) had been developed since the beginning of the 17th century. Transversal streets divide the area into relatively small blocks.

The historical layout is mainly the same today. The improvements include paving, planting trees and getting rid of dead ends.

The historical layout is mainly the same today. The improvements include paving, planting trees and getting rid of dead ends.

In the upper part of the city there are numerous administrative buildings, research and design institutes, secondary and higher educational establishments, theatres, cinemas, culture clubs, dwelling houses, gardens and parks.

Kharkovitiers like to appoint the meets by the thermometre handing on the wall of the building of the former Russian-Asian Bank, and not far from this place one can buy some suveniers
The ensemble of the territory close to the central part of the city is formed by the buildings whose designs demonstrate the variety of styles typical for the end of the 19th - beginning of the 20th century.

Sumska Street is one of the city’s main streets. It connects Constitution Square with Svoboda Square and stretches as far as Belhorod highway.

The street emerged simultaneously with the Kharkiv fortress as a road to the town of Sumy. An intensive building on the street began in the early 19th century with the construction of the main road between Kharkiv and Kursk and establishing along it a mail-and-passenger coach service to Moscow.

House in 6, Sumska street — another example of the Modern style
The early picture of our countryman H. Semyradskyi «At the station» is one of the picturesque illustrations of this road.

The street, like the whole Kharkiv of the first part of the 19th century, preserved the features of the rural way of life of its people - there were mainly thatched wooden and wattle-and-daub houses. Probably this scene wasn’t oppressive - the vividness of the way of life, the constant delight of foreigners with Ukrainian white huts, all that is recorded in many travel notes and memoirs. But the status of the principal town of the province was binding, and when in 1831 A Plan of Kharkiv, the Principal Town of the Province, with its Outskirts was drawn up, the further construction on Sumska Street, as well as on other central streets, started to be regulated.

Building of Shevchenko Ukrainian Drama Theatre
Only brick buildings by so called «model» design, approved by the special construction committee, were allowed to be built.

The architectural look of the street changed in the second part of the 19th century, owing to the growth of Kharkiv as a major financial and industrial center, which was mentioned while describing buildings in Constitution Square.

In Sumska Street and in the central part of the city there turned up high-rises, respectable buildings of different companies, commercial establishments, mansions of officials, merchants, scientific community of the city. The architectural look of the street, which reflects the 150-year change of styles, is characteristic of the single scale of high building density area, in which buildings, built much later, fitted nicely.

A fragment of the monument to A. Pushkin

The west side of Sumska Street is opened by a massive building of the former Russian-Asian bank (architects O. Munts, A. Shpihel, 1910), designed by Saint-Petersburg architects in Modernist style. Its facade is decorated with two figures, designed by sculptor V. Kuznetsov. The interesting fact about this building is that in addition to the bank, situated on the lower floors (you may still find the former bank operation hall with octahedral pillars decorated with stone), there were other organizations not engaged in financial activity here. For example, there were Higher Nurses Training Courses on the upper floors. An extra storey was successfully added to the four-storied building in 1925-1926. After the revolution the building used to house the People’s Commissariat (Ministry) of Finance, then to the Medical University and from 1956 to VNDI Chormet (All-Union Ferrous Metals Research Institute).
A City Garden in Teatralna Square
At present there are various institutions and organizations here.

A three-storied corner building at 2 Sumska Street (built, presumably, by architect B. Mikhailovskyi in the late 19th century) is notable for the abundance of small divisions and flowing architectural details in the style of French Renaissance of the 16th-17th centuries: the floors are divided by fraction bars, the walls are decorated with rustic, lucarnes raise above the eaves. The Puzata Khata (Ukrainian Fast Food Restaurant) is situated on the ground floor.

Number 5 Sumska Street can be a good example of combining an apartment house with a cinema - it is a former rental house with the once fashionable Ampir Cinema (architect A. Horokhov, 1913).

The facade of this six-storied house is decorated with big embrasures and four women figures on each side of the windows on the first floor.

A fragment of the monument to M. Gogol
This house was built at the expenses of a great cinema lover Kharitonov, who opened the first film-rental office in Kharkiv in 1907.

The Ampir Cinema is worth a special notice - it had become the best of the 20 Kharkiv cinemas by 1917. After the revolution it was renamed into The First Komsomolkyi, and this name has remained up to now. The main cinema hall occupies the ground floor. The foyer above it was transformed into the second cinema hall in 1954, and at about the same time an apartment house of the Serp i Molot plant was attached to the right flank of the building.

The buildings numbers 4 and 6 are situated on the opposite side of the street. Designed by B. Pokrovskyi in the tradition of the historical method of Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque, they were erected in the late 19th century.
Building of the State Bank is still used as it was designed
Later the building number 6 underwent major repairs under B. Kornienko’s plan, which gave it typical features of Modernist style.

New buildings are planned to be built on the corner lot instead of the buildings numbers 8 and 10, which were pulled down.

The building of the State T. Shevchenko Ukrainian Drama Theatre (at 9 Sumska Street) is an adornment of this part of the street. It was built in 1841 by the first Kharkiv City Architect A. Ton, and was considered to be one of the best theatre buildings in provincial Russia. In 1883 it underwent major repairs by architect B. Mykhailovskyi, who added some French Renaissance features to the facade.

The history of the theatre should be told in more detail.

Inner yard of the former tenants’ building of the «Salamandra» insurance company

The first theatrical performances, given by an amateur troupe in Kharkiv, can be traced to the year 1770, and a permanent city Drama Theatre was founded in 1812. Its first director has been already mentioned - the prominent Ukrainian dramatist and writer H. Kvitka-Osnovyanenko.

It was he who invited Mykhailo Shchepkin to Kharkiv from Kursk province. At that time he was a young serf actor. M. Shchepkin worked in Kharkiv for five years with interruptions (from 1816 to 1821), later on, being already famous, he participated in Kharkiv performances many times, and his last visit to Kharkiv happened in 1850. In 1860 playwright A. Ostrovsky came to see the performance of his play Poverty is no Disgrace.

The former rental apartment block of the Salamander Insurance Company

Such luminaries of the Ukrainian theatre as N. Sadovskyi, P. Saksahanskyi, M. Zankovetska also starred on the stage of this theatre. The famous Ukrainian playwright, actor and director M. Kropyvnytskyi worked here from 1900 to 1910 and lived in Zatyshok country estate. World famous actors came on tour to Kharkiv from abroad. Among them were Sarah Bernhard (1892), Eleanora Duse (1891), E. Rossi (1890) and a famous actor Ira Oldridge, whose characteristic appearance is well known due to the portrait by his friend Taras Shevchenko. Moscow theatres also were on tours here, a famous director V. Meyerkhold’s troupe, as well as Kyiv M. Mardzhanov’s Theatre.

Kharkiv theatre-goers admired the performance of M.

At this stretch of Sumska street multistoried tenants’ buildings alternate with relatively low private buildings and offices
 Yermolaeva (1893), A. Martynov, the stars of Alexandrine Theatre and the idols of Saint Petersburg M. Savina and P. Strepetova (1892). A prominent actor and impresario N. Sinelnykov worked in the theatre from 1910 to 1926 and staged plays of modern and classical repertoire.

The milk of Ukrainian culture grouped around the theatre - poets and writers P. Tychyna, Yu. Yanovskyi, M. Kulish, Yu. Smolych, theater avantgarde painters V. Meller, A. Petrytskyi and other prominent artists living at that time in Kharkiv, the capital of the country.

There is a commemorial plaque to an outstanding director and innovator Les Kurbas on the facade of the building. In 1922, in Kyiv, he founded the Berezil Ukrainian Drama Theatre (in 1926 it moved to Kharkiv) and had directed it until 1933. The name of the theatre originates from the

old-Russ word «berezol» which means green birch. It was Les Kurbas’ creative find.

The troupe included such remarkable actors as A. Buchma, V. Chystyakov, N. Uzhviy, I. Hyrnyak and others.

Another commemorial plaque is devoted to a prominent present-time actor and a favorite of millions film-viewers Leonid Bykov, who graduated from Kharkiv University of Art and used to work at this theatre.

Vladimir Mayakovskiy, Henri Barbusse, Theodore Dreiser, Anna Seghers appeared on the stage of the theatre in 1920s-1930s.

Now Kharkiv State T. Shevchenko Ukrainian Drama Theatre is one of the best in Ukraine, its performances enjoy success at prestigious international festivals and theatre forums.

Theatre Square starts across from the theatre itself. It appeared at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries on the site of the former defense earthworks. The square acquired its name in the early 19th century, when the city drama theatre was opened, and a public garden was laid here in 1876. Its eastern edge faces Poetry Square, where in 1904 the first-in-Ukraine monument to Pushkin was unveiled, and five years later a monument to M. Gogol turned up on the opposite side of the public garden (both monuments were created by sculptor B. Edwards).

A monumental building of the State Bank constructed in style of Florentine Renaissance is an architectural landmark at the corner of Theatre Square. Designed by Saint-Petersburg architect R. Holenyshchev in 1897-1900, it had originally two stories.

In 1932 extra stories were added to the building (designers - Academician O. Beketov and architect V. Peti), without changing its period features. The addition process was based on an innovative method of raising walls under the roof, which itself was being raised with lifting jacks as the blockwork proceeded.

The building, which was built specifically for the State Bank, has continued maintaining its functional purpose up till now.

In this part of Sumska Street rental

high-rises alternate with low buildings. The printing plant of the Yuzhnyi Krai newspaper used to be located at # 13 Sumska Street. # 15 was built in the late 19th century and is abundantly decorated with molding in the French Renaissance style. And further down the street there is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city - the former rental house of the Salamander Insurance Company.

Designed by a famous Saint-Petersburg architect N. Vyeriovkin, the rental house was built in 1914-1915 for the Salamander Insurance Company. The company itself was founded in Saint-Petersburg and owned rental houses in several cities of Russia. The Kharkiv branch of the company was dealing with fire insurance. The symbol of the company was a salamander, a small lizard, which according to a medieval legend, had a capacity for surviving in the fire, and its sculptural image was placed on the angle part of the building.

The facades are notable for their clear-cut system of divisions, perfection of proportions and flowing lines of architectural decorations, made in antique patterns, as the main customer’s demand was «mellow and solid facades without Modernist and Decadence features».

The main courtyard - cour d’honour - has a similar axis as the opposite building (# 20 Sumska Street). The building was fitted with modern kinds of engineering equipment: lifts, refuse chats, inner water drains.

Shortly after the revolution the institutions subordinated to the Supreme Council of the National Economy of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic were housed here, and the building was called The Trust Building. One thousand and five hundred office employees had worked in this building until they were transferred to Derzhprom.

The facade of three-storied building at 19 Sumska Street (the former rental house of the Zhyzn’ Life Insurance Company) is decorated with a «set of various Renaissances» - such were art historians’ skeptical comments on the eclecticism, i.e. merging of different styles and periods. Here you may find the Renaissance lion masks, stern men in helmets, flirtatious women heads.

Just across from this edifice, there is a building at ## 18-20. It was built to house the Board of the Southern Russia Mine-Owners’ Congress (architect B. Mykhailovskyi, 1902; architects S. Zahoskin, I. Zahoskin, 1907). On both sides of the front door there are oval sculpted medallions containing a representation of mining tools indicating the function of the building.

The sophisticated look of the building, gussied up in the French Renaissance style of the 16th and 17th centuries, is complete with sculptural elements - cartouches and wreaths. Stylized woman figures - caryatids - frame the vaulted apertures of the windows on the first floor.

In 1911 the Aeronautic Department of the Russian Technological Society (Kharkiv branch) held the first-in-Ukraine exhibition of airborne vehicles in this building. Aircraft of various systems, including those built by Kharkiv aircraft designer S. Hryzodubov, were displayed there.

From 1936 the building had housed the Industrial Academy, and in the post-war period - the Aviation Technological University. Nowadays the building is occupied by the Radio Engineering Technical School.

Due the originality of its architectural solution, the former rental house at 26 Sumska Street stands out against the background of other buildings in this block, constructed at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Designed in the Modernist style by A. Ginsburg, it was built in 1910. It is notable for the soft and flowing outlines, the use of original decorative elements: oval outlines of protruded windows and straight arches over the groups of narrow window apertures and ledges crowned with spirals of volutes. The same stylistic search was expressed to a variable degree in the architecture of many other Kharkiv building built at that time in Sumska Street.

Two other Kharkiv streets, which run parallel to Sumska Street, are of our certain interest. These are Rymarska and Gogol Streets. To get there we should turn left behind a small building (architect I. Hinsh, late 19th century) at number 21, which used to locate a popular Varenychna Dumplings House that has been recently replaced by a modern Konyky fast food, and an apartment block of the early 20th century with a chemist’s shop at the corner. Thus we will get back to Constitution Square, having a look at Rymarska, and later at Gogol, streets, both of which are quite interesting.

polvandenwirre says:
Wow IMPRESSED!!! Where does this story end? I think I have to visit Kharkiv once...
Posted on: Mar 18, 2008
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The bird’s eye view of Sumska St…
The bird’s eye view of Sumska S…
Sumska Street
Sumska Street
Kharkovitiers like to appoint the …
Kharkovitiers like to appoint the…
House in 6, Sumska street — anot…
House in 6, Sumska street — ano…
Building of Shevchenko Ukrainian D…
Building of Shevchenko Ukrainian …
A fragment of the monument to A. P…
A fragment of the monument to A. …
A City Garden in Teatralna Square
A City Garden in Teatralna Square
A fragment of the monument to M. G…
A fragment of the monument to M. …
Building of the State Bank is stil…
Building of the State Bank is sti…
Inner yard of the former tenants…
Inner yard of the former tenants…
The former rental apartment block …
The former rental apartment block…
At this stretch of Sumska street m…
At this stretch of Sumska street …
photo by: viktosha