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Iosefin - Elisabetin Tour

The historic districts south of the Cetate house thousands of heritage buildings. You can wander numerous streets with historical architecture.

The historic districts of Iosefin and Elisabetin emerged south of the fortress, on the site of former gardens under a lease (“maier”). The first buildings emerge in Elisabetin, but only Iosefin succeeds in becoming since the eighteenth century a district with more than a few isolated houses. The second half of the nineteenth century, when steam power in locomotion is introduced, brings a dramatic development to the two districts, because here were the city’s railway station and port. Between 1860 and 1916, dozens of streets are built with thousands of new beautiful houses – some are true 1900s architecture jewels.

08_Timisoara_traseuIosefin_smallWe start our walk in the Iosefin district at  1  Bridge Trajan – (1911-1916) designed by engineer Károly Lád and and architect Elemér Wachtel. Its simple forms already announced the Art Deco that will impose itself after the war. From here on, the border between the districts Iosefin and Elisabetin is 16 Decembrie 1989 Bd. On the left there is the Elisabetin and on the right Iosefin – a district drawn in 1744 and originally developed (with a rural look) around nowadays Dragalina, Bolintineanu - Văcărescu and Pop Băseşti - Maniu streets. Since 1773 it is named Iosefin in honor of Joseph II, son of Maria Theresa, who visited Timişoara several times.

Beyond the bridge we have the image of a large European city – continuous fronts of old buildings, which seem to go on forever. On the right – i.e. in Iosefin, we have  2   the Timiş-Bega Hydro-Improvement Society Palace. The building, in 1900s architecture style, is decorated (among others) with representations of fish. On the other side (i.e. on the “Elisabetin” one) we have an eclectic Art Nouveau building with neo-Gothic elements: 3  Marschall Palace (architect Martin Gemeinhardt); the tree of life, stylized butterflies, floral elements typically Gothic – all are treated according to the Art Nouveau movement.

We continue to the left of the bridge on T. Vladimirescu St.; we are now in Elisabetin. After the German Consulate headquarters, a historic building renovated and whitewashed in shades of green, we turn right on General H. Berthelot St., formerly known as Caraiman St. We soon reach the Plevnei Square. We are in the midst of a very valuable “Architecture reserve of the 1900s” – basically almost all buildings (1900-1910) deserve a detailed description. At no. 2 we can see  4  “The House with the Beautiful Gate” – truly a gate with special iron work, a symphony in metal. It is probably the most elegant Art Nouveau iron work in Timişoara. The architect was the famous László Székely and the owner was Emil Szilárd, at that time the city’s chief engineer.

Also spectacularly decorated are 5 the  “House with peacocks and owls” or Johann Hartlauer house, situated in Plevnei Square, at nr.7) and 6  the “House with peacocks” (or Nicolin house, at no. 4). The intricate blending of floral and animal elements is surprising. Both are the works of architect Martin Gemeinhardt’s plastic language. At Hartlauer House still preserves some remnants of painting in vivid colors, with repetitive motives, that once decorated the stairwell (vases with flowers on pedestals).

On the other side of the street, at no. 5, there is  7  Jakob Klein Palace. The façade facing Caraiman St. has a two-level jutty, the reliefs between the 1st and 2nd floors (a young woman with a violin) being unique in Timişoara. Maybe you have the opportunity to see the entrance hall: the walls are overburden by reliefs of 1900s style, the upper register containing representations of women dancing.

From Caraiman St. we go on  Gheorghe Doja St. to the right; we can soon see St. Maria Square. A local legend says that on this site served his death sentence in terrible agony Gheorghe Doja, head of the peasant uprising of 1514. To the monks who sang religious hymns near the dying man appeared Virgin Mary’s face. The moment is commemorated by the  8  St. Maria Monument, carved in Carrara marble and placed under a neo-Roman canopy. The monument was erected in 1906 today (sculptor Kiss György), and is accompanied by an inscription in Hungarian. In close vicinity of the monument of St. Maria is  9  the Reformed Community’s Palace (1901-1902) which houses the parish house and the church (the tall windows of the church face T. Cipariu St., the church is built into the building). The building has neo-Gothic architecture.

On this site, a group of Christians protesting against the imminent evacuation of Pastor Tőkes László Tokes turned on December 15, 1989, into a mass movement that the following day was spread throughout the city. Basically here started the anticommunist revolution in Romania in 1989.

Now we can understand why the boulevard on which we are is called December 16, 1989. Continuing our walking we soon reach  10  the Romanian Orthodox Church in Iosefin (called for some time the “Old Cathedral”), built between 1931 and 1936 (architect Professor Victor Vlad). It is part of the string of churches built after 1918, which marked the rupture with Baroque architecture practiced by the Orthodox during the Habsburg monarchy, seeking inspiration in Byzantine forms (seen as “real” Orthodox). It was build having as a model (at a more reduced scale, of course) the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Constantinople.

We are now in the Mocioni Square or Küttl Square, how people in Timişoara also call it. On the left, masked by the church building, are the  11  Fiatska houses (tenement houses) – three adjoined Secession houses that stretch to the corner with I. H. Radulescu St.

If we drift away from A. Mocioni Square to the right on  Ady Endre Street we reach  12   the Iron Bridge; a local legend (erroneous) states that the bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel. Today it is used as a walkway, although it was designed for vehicles and stayed for several years on the place where Traian Bridge is now.

We return to Mocioni Square, and we see that it is dominated by  13  the “City’s Tenement House” in Iosefin (1895-1897), massive, which closes the south-west front. It is one of the impressive examples of historicist eclectic architecture in Timişoara, and the first that was built in the area (after the ban prohibiting building at less than 950 meters from the fortress was lifted). On 1 Ion Ghica St. (at the intersection with R. Carol Bd., towards which the main façade is facing) we find another floral Secession building, almost “flamboyant” by architect Gemeinhardt: 14  The General Savings Bank (the bank) in Iosefin. The next building, contrasting strongly, is  15  Hochstrasser Palace (1912-1914, building P+3), an evolved Secession, strongly geometrized (10 Regele Carol Bd.), which appears to obstinately refuse any curves.

We turn left on I. Ghica St. – at the intersection with 16 Decembrie 1989 Bd. Across the street there is the former  16  Rudolf Menczer House (1894-1895), neo-Baroque eclectic historicist style, today a hospital. The famous pharmacy that you can still see on the ground floor today belonged to Skribanek Kolomán. The original furniture is partially preserved. On the same boulevard 16 Decembrie 1989 Bd. stands out  17  Thomas Ede Palace, a typical Secession building, with the usual play roof volumes. A little further along the same street is also  18  Iosefin Firemen Barracks, with a corner tower, in 1900s style - one of the creations of architect László Székely.

The right side of the Boulevard General Dragalina is occupied by  19  the former "Sisters of Notre Dame" complex. The various buildings were built between 1881 and 1894, the main element of the complex being the school for girls. Its construction significantly marked Iosefin district’s development and its change in appearance from rural to urban life. Most of the works were funded by the Catholic Bishop Alexander Bonaz who, following serious disputes with his superiors in the Vatican, decided to use his personal wealth for charity. The complex includes a church with two towers, with the neo-Roman elements. Here service is celebrated also in Bulgarian for the Bulgarian community in the Banat. The most successful element of the ensemble is the old body, secluded fron the street, making way to a court of honor. Today is hosted here Dositei Obradovici School, with instruction in Serbian.

On the left there is  20  the Catholic Parochial Church of Iosefin district (1774-1775), Baroque with rococo elements. It is witness to the beginning of Iosefin, at the time when this neighborhood did not differ to much from German villages of the Banat plain. In 1889 the tower was raised, so the church has an unusual elongated shape for a Baroque building. In the churchyard is the oldest monument of art preserved in the city: the statue of St. Nepomuk, who was originally placed in the Cetate, in Libertăţii Square. The statue was made of low resistance sandstone, which strongly affected it by during the time passed.

Savings Bank Palace in Iosefin is across the street, on the corner, decorated with the ever present bee hive motif. We are going to end Carol I Bd., at the intersection with Iuliu Maniu St. From a distance, you can see the beautiful view offered by   22  Albert Schott Palace (1911-1913), the first building with three levels in Iosefin. On 1 Preyer Street there is  23  Albert Hain House (1892, from the neo-Baroque architecture one can notice that it is older than other buildings in the area), named after its owner that opened a pharmacy downstairs. At 2 Preyer Street (with a front on Iuliu Maniu Street, too) is  24  Alexandru Pisică Palace (1911-1912), with a wavy attic made in the manner of Budapest architect Ödön Lechner. Also in the intersection with Iuliu Maniu St. we can now see  25  Miksa Brück Palace (1911-1912), which can be recognized after its polygonal fronton, almost semicircular, on the corner. Next we can see  26  the Iosefin Synagogue, the only remaining synagogue still servicing in Timisoara. Beyond the bridge over Bega canal is an old industrial area with the  27  former Cigarette Factory and the   28  Iosefin Water Tower. This was the pair of the one in Fabric district, at the other end of the water network.

We go back at the intersection of Carol I and General Dragalina boulevards, passing by  29  Iosefin market. It is the largest food market in town.

At junction we turn left on General Dragalina Boulevard, besides a number of old buildings, most with one floor (some with interesting details, e.g. the one at no. 19). Before reaching the bridge, on the other side we can see  30  Ancora Palace (1901-1902; owner  Aladar Kudelich ). On the upstairs wall you can still see today an anchor.

On the side we are on now, there is   31  the former Royal Hotel (Karl Weisz Palace; 1909-1910). Over the bridge there is another hotel: 32  Splendid Hotel (1911-1912), another creation of Martin Gemeinhardt, who was also owner of the building. In the background we can distinguish the figure of the North Station. It is the main railway station in Timisoara, long known as “Iosefin station”. The initial building was bombed in the Second World War.

This ends the Iosefin district tour. You can return to the city center either on foot, on the banks of Bega, or by means of transport, or you can continue to Elisabetin District. To reach the Elisabetin, the simplest way is to take the no. 8 tram from the intersection of General Dragalina Bd. with Carol I Bd. and get off at the 4th station.

You can reach Bălcescu Square on foot, walking on the banks of Bega, passing again by the Iron Bridge and Maria Square, and continuing on Gheorghe Doja St.

The Elisabetin district, besides what we already have seen, is a typical residential area with many houses and few shops. The omnipresent bustle of Iosefin is missing, instead you can walk for hours on quiet streets with old houses. The district’s center is Nicolae Bălcescu  Square, dominated by the elongated neo-Gothic silhouette of the   33  Catholic Church in Elisabetin. Built between 1912 and 1919 (with an interruption due to war) according to Karl Salkovits’ plans, the church quickly became a symbol of the district. The western façade has two towers with a height of 57 meters. The five altars are created by the Stuflesser workshop in Tyrol.

Bypassing the church on the left, on Protopop George Dragomir St. we arrive at  34  the Orthodox Church in Elisabetin, built in 1784 and renovated in 1894, the tower having Baroque reminiscences. Nearby, at 2 E. Celebi St. is  35  the “Turkish House”. A local legend claims that it is the oldest house in the city, being here since Turkish times, but when restored it was with certainty established that it is built with Austrian bricks. It belonged to engineer Dissel, who worked at the Catholic Cathedral in Unirii Square. Another legend said that a tunnel started here and ended in front of Belgrade. As a result, many people feverishly sought the tunnel during communism.

We go back to the Center (Cetate district) on Mihai Viteazul Boulevard. The buildings here almost exclusively emerged during the interwar period. We note the emergence of Neo-Romanian architecture with sophisticated decorations of Byzantine or Brâncoveanu origin. Especially   36  the old Polytechnic building – Faculty of Mechanics (on the right, secluded from the street; 1923; architect Duiliu Marcu) is part of this style. Founded in 1921 by royal decree, the higher education institution was the first building in the area. In the back, along the Bega Canal, until after the Second World War, there were still gardens and even corn fields.

We cross  37   Mitropolit Andrei Şaguna Bridge, after the last rename. It was built in 1913 and was called “the Episcopal Bridge”. On the four pedestals visible today busts of some Catholic bishops of the Banat had to be placed. They were never placed (but people in Timişoara continued to call it the “bishops’ bridge”).

On the other side is the Cetate District, Victoriei Square being only minutes away.  

 

 

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