At the center of the latest issue of the special Legends of Voronezh project is the story of one of the most elegant buildings of the central street of the city - the former Central Hotel, which belonged to the merchant Dmitry Samofalov. The building (44 Revolution Avenue) with eclectic shapes, generously decorated with colored tiles with floral patterns, stands between the TsUM (Central Department Store) and the building where the poet Alexei Koltsov used to live. The building served as a place of stay for writers Anton Chekhov and Gleb Uspensky, poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, and in the post-war years – for the family of political prisoner Boris Batuev, a friend of the Voronezh poet and writer Anatoly Zhigulin.
The millionaire merchant Dmitry Samofalov left a mark in the history of Voronezh as a predator capitalist who stopped at nothing. He was the owner of a bell plant and a co-owner of a steam mill of the “Second Partnership of Russian Flour Millers”; he also owned several apartment buildings. In addition, he was a ruthless loan-shark who had made many of the townspeople, unable to pay off their debts, go bankrupt.
– Writer Vladimir Korablinov called him a “world-eater”, i.e. an exploiter. He was not notable for great charitable deeds, although he was a member of charitable organizations and made occasional donations, but not more than 1 thousand rubles. What is 1 thousand rubles to him if he was a millionaire, the biggest Voronezh capitalist of the late 19th century? – historian and writer Pavel Popov noted.
In 1878, Samofalov started building a hotel on Bolshaya Dvoryanskaya Street (currently Revolution Avenue), which opened its doors in 1880.
Against the background of one- and two-story buildings, the huge three-story hotel looked like a monster, the sight of which made the same impression on Voronezh residents as its giant neighbor, the Marriott Hotel, does in the 21st century. Although, specified Pavel Popov, the three-story building of the theological seminary (29 Revolution Avenue) had appeared on the city’s central street even earlier. For that time, the hotel had fanciful, even provocative architecture. The facade was made with lavish decor: stone carvings on the ledge, colored ceramic majolica tiles, elegant casing moldings and turrets on the roof.
Initially, the building was not plastered – the old postcards show that it was covered with colored whitewash. According to Pavel Popov, the author of the building was the architect Viktor Pereverzev, who had worked at the Municipal Council of Voronezh for many years. His designs were used in the construction of the Mariinsky Gymnasium (32 Revolution Avenue), the Voronezh Theological School (24 Revolution Avenue), the Trinity Cathedral building (32 Nikitinskaya). He also erected a large complex of buildings in Boguchar - the Municipal Council of Boguchar District.
– Why he? The archive has preserved his project of the Voronezh tobacco factory - very similar to the Central Hotel in terms of composition. The factory has not remained. But the facades of it and of Samofalov's hotel are very similar – it is safe to say that they were duplicated. Viktor Pereverzev died several years after the construction of the hotel, in 1884, during the 54th year of his life, – Pavel Popov said. – Samofalov himself lived not in the hotel but nearby, in the building №46, where poet Alexei Koltsov had lived 40 years ago. The merchant did not wreck the building but rebuilt it instead. He reconstructed the facade in a trendy style, expanded the mezzanine on the second floor, where Alexei Koltsov lived, and added the third floor, where he settled in himself. He leased the two lower stories.
In addition to money, Samofalov had power: he was a member of the City Council and, when another hotel had opened in front of his own, he did everything to ruin his competitors. But the methods of Samofalov did not seem to trouble the majority of wealthy Voronezh residents — they elected him to the city’s self-government bodies to protect their interests.
– The councilors who did not like the merchant did not dare to oppose him – they were afraid that he would ruin them, – Pavel Popov explained.
Laundry vs Samofalov
From 1888 to 1891, Samofalov was the city mayor. He was elected by the City Council, which included conservative capitalists. It took them a long time to persuade Samofalov - it was believed that strong business executives like him strengthened the city budget and did not spend anything extra. Samofalov agreed only when members of the City Duma came to his house. During his rule in Voronezh, they finished designing a horse-drawn railway line from the station on Bolshaya Dvoryanskaya Street to the Novostroyashcheesya Cemetery, which is nowadays replaced by the Circus and Durov Park.
During the First World War, Voronezh society was so opposed to Samofalov that the millionaire ended up in court. There was a laundry located on Bolshaya Devichenskaya Street (currently Sacco and Vanzetti Street) in one of the apartment buildings that belonged to the merchant. The manager of the building, annoyed with the dampness due to constant washing, ordered to turn off the water tap in the laundry room and paralyzed its work. But it was not the manager who went to court for arbitrariness, but the owner of the apartment building. The court even sentenced the merchant to arrest. Whether Samofalov served time in prison is unknown.
In 1917, the merchant was distinguished by a generous act - he handed his estate with the Kievskoe Podvorye (Kiev Compound) Hotel (1, 3, 5 Platonova Street) over to the city.
In 1918, the building of the Central Hotel was captured by anarchists. They took the merchant Samofalov hostage and demanded a ransom of 25 thousand rubles. He gave this sum to extortionists and remained alive.
– For a long time, local historians believed that Samofalov left the city with the royalists, like most merchants and nobles – the Red Army could execute them. But recently, they have found documents showing that the merchant went “under the radar” and continued to live quietly in Voronezh in the 1920s, – added Pavel Popov.
There is a rare document published on the Big Voronezh Forum website - an invoice for a hotel stay in 1915 issued to a certain Mr. Kern. Prices: a carriage - 30 kopecks, laundry - 30 kopecks, a samovar - 20 kopecks, bread - 10 kopecks, butter - 20 kopecks, “eggs” - 30 kopecks, room cost - 5 rubles. There is a stamp on the invoice: "The money is paid".
The Central Hotel Central was in good standing with the guests of the city, so it was chosen by celebrities. In February 1890, writer Gleb Uspensky, who was traveling to Rostov in search of new impressions for his essays on village life, stayed here. But he never reached his final destination - his health let him down and his money ran out. The trip could not be continued, so he had to return to Moscow.
In 1891-1892, there was a famine in the Voronezh province. Due to the hunger, metropolitan guests came in Voronezh - the famous writer and playwright Anton Chekhov and his publisher and patron Alexei Suvorin, who wanted to donate money to the starving peasants. They spent five days in Voronezh. During their stay, they met with the governor, an organization engaged in charity fundraising for starving peasants, went to the Winter Theatre, where they watched a vaudeville based on Chekhov’s play The Bear (the money collected was sent to the starving). Later Suvorin and Chekhov went to Korshevo, Bobrov and the village of Khrenovoe. Local historians suggest that writer Ivan Bunin stayed at the Central Hotel in January 1907. He came to his hometown to participate in a soiree held in favor of the Voronezh fellow-countrymen association. He described his arrival in Voronezh in the short story Natali. The Dvoryanskaya Hotel mentioned in the story is obviously Samofalov's hotel.
“The train came all white, smoking with snow from the blizzard. On the way from the station to the city, while the cab sleigh carried me to the Dvoryanskaya Hotel, the lantern lights flickering through the blizzard were barely visible. But after being in the countryside, this city blizzard and city lights were exciting, promising the close pleasure of entering a warm, even too warm room of an old provincial hotel, asking for a samovar and starting to change your clothes, to prepare for a long ball night and drinking until dawn.”
From Ivan Bunin’s short story Natali
Poet Vladimir Mayakovsky stayed at the hotel on November 22, 1926, having arrived in Voronezh for the poetic evening My "Discovery of America" held at the city’s Winter Theatre. He returned to the hotel room in the morning, after a night tea at the house of the Voronezh doctor Mikhail Rappoport, where he was invited by fans from the Chernozнem literary group. Rappoport’s house was located at 7 Vaytsekhovsky Street, but is now destroyed.
In 1918, the First House of Soviets, the main headquarters of the Bolsheviks, was located in building № 46. The Bolsheviks also occupied the former hotel.
After the end of the Civil War, the Central Hotel was reopened in Samofalov’s house. The building remained under this sign almost until the Great Patriotic War. By the way, in the wartime, it served as the canteen of a factory and plant education (FPO) school for children. On the day of the bombing of the Garden of Pioneers (between Revolution Avenue and May 11th Street, which is currently Teatralnaya Street) – on June 13, 1942 - they will also become victims of a Nazi massacre.
That day was a pioneer holiday, where several hundred children had gathered. Suddenly, a rumble was heard from the left bank - it was a Nazi plane that dropped several bombs on the center of Voronezh. The first ones fell into the Garden of Pioneers, right into the midst of the children. The Nazis dropped other bombs on the building of the former printing house of the Kommuna newspaper, the Officers’ House (at the time, the House of the Red Army), the menagerie behind the assembly school and a zoo across the road from the Kommuna printing house, behind the Central Hotel. Here, just as in the Garden of Pioneers, it was children - students of the FPO school located behind the hotel and near the zoo - who had suffered: 11 were killed, another 11 were injured. This data was cited by Pavel Popov referring to a document from the State Archive of the Socio-Political History of the Voronezh Region. He noted that the bombing took the lives of about 30 Voronezh children. The total number of people injured in the city was 247. According to eyewitnesses, about 100 adults and children had been buried.
– On the monument standing on the site of the tragedy, it says that 300 children died in the Garden of Pioneers that day. But this number is exaggerated by ten times, – Pavel Popov stressed.
The hotel building itself suffered little during the war. But there is a photograph of Revolution Avenue where it can be seen that its roof and ceilings had burned. That is why after the war the appearance of the house had changed.
Nowadays, the building with a festive facade resembles a decorated terem. It combines the elements of Russian and Western European medieval architecture. Among the interesting elements are the protruding parts of the building – the pilaster sides ending with gables with elegant turrets. The highlight of the building’s facade decor is the beautiful panels with tiled floral patterns. And these are also the pearls that have remained from the end of the 19th century. According to local historian Olga Rudeva, this tile was not produced in Voronezh.
– After the war, Voronezh was not as badly damaged as we imagine. On the attic of the hotel roof, there is still the original ornamented grill. As for the majolica panel that adorns the facade, such tiles in the 19th century were most likely made either at the factory of the Kuznetsov Partnership, where there was a famous porcelain production plant, or in Abramtsevo near Moscow, at the ceramic and art workshop created by philanthropist Savva Mamontov in his estate, – Olga Rudeva told.
– The only way to know where the tile was made is by looking at the manufacturer’s stamps on its reverse side. But so far this is not possible. Therefore, the place of its production is unknown, -– Pavel Popov stressed.
In the building’s attic, there are old brick pillars and triple-arched windows. Also, there is an almost “secret” door that leads to the adjacent building where Koltsov and later Samofalov had lived.
– During one of the overhauls, it turned out that someone had taken the building materials into the courtyard of the neighboring house. It was most probably done through this door, – said the building’s resident Galina Barabash.
After the war, the former Central Hotel became a residential building. The hotel’s address is typically indicated as 42/44 Revolution Avenue. But this is incorrect.
– The building № 42 no longer exists. It was an old outbuilding that stood in the courtyard of the merchant's estate. It was demolished during the construction of the Marriott Hotel, – the historian explained.
The former hotel currently has two entrances. One of them is almost completely occupied by offices.
The Qualitas Institute of Public Opinion is located on the third floor. Its executive director Alexander Romanovich complained that the roof of the old building is a disaster: in thawing weather, water streams and even “waterfalls” flow from the office ceiling. In order not to flood the neighbor below, the water is "caught" into basins. Recently, Alexander Romanovich had to make a dropped ceiling. But the management company, which he has repeatedly contacted, is in no hurry to fix the roof’s imperfections.
– The roof is made so that during the thaw, the water from melted snow flows down the inner wall of the building. It is terrifying. We have turned everywhere for help, even to the prosecutor’s office. Nothing helps, – Alexander Romanovich noted.
He said that after the construction of the Marriott Hotel next door, cracks began to break through the partitions of the former Samofalov’ hotel rebuilt from cinder blocks after the war. In addition, Alexander Romanovich claims that a part of the courtyard was taken from the residents of the building and fenced.
– They turned it into a garbage dump, although initially they were supposed to build a parking lot here. It is astonishing: this is a historical courtyard, they make tours here, but when people come they people see a legalized dump. You won’t see this on Stary Arbat in Moscow: walk into any courtyard – there are flower beds and benches where you can relax, –Alexander Romanovich noted.
Also, according to him, the fence interferes with the passage of fire trucks and ambulances: they cannot get from Revolution Avenue into the courtyard through the narrow and low arch.
The fate of the residents of the festive house
Since 1951, the only residential apartment of the entrance has been occupied by a candidate of biological sciences, associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine and Biology of the Voronezh State University Galina Barabash.
In her living room, there are books and leather sofa from the Stalin times decorated with miniature elephants. Galina Ilyinichna’s father – professor and doctor of biological sciences Ilya Barabash-Nikiforov - was a famous Russian zoologist, ecologist, researcher of the fauna of the Commander Islands. He founded the Department of Ecology and Systematics of Invertebrates at the Voronezh State University. Before the war, the family lived in an old university building on Mira Street.
– In 1942, when the Germans were approaching Voronezh, my father was still teaching at the university. They had endless sessions at the department. And since there was bombing every night and I didn’t sleep, my father took us to the Voronezh Natural Reserve, to Grafskaya Station, where we were given a room. When the Germans almost approached Voronezh, the transport did not run anymore. Father, leaning on a cane, went across Chernavsky Bridge on foot. There he experienced coronary symptoms. Along the way, he met a man in uniform, also with a cane. It turned out that this soldier was also going to Grafskaya Station - he fled from the hospital thinking that they would not have time to evacuate the wounded. They still managed to stop a car – they showed the driver a bottle of alcohol father used to disinfect his hands. He brought them to Grafskaya, –Galina Barabash told.
Despite being 82, she still teaches at the Voronezh State University at the former Faculty of Biology and Soil (now the Faculty of Medicine and Biology). Her specialty is biology and botany. The teacher recalled that after the war, the building was occupied by science and art intelligentsia: professors, musicians, conductors, doctors, even party figures. For example, a famous Voronezh scientist, doctor of geographical sciences, economist, geographer, and statistician Klavdy Mirotoretsev lived in a nearby apartment section.
– Upstairs there lived a family of musicians. My neighbor’s wife told me: “I’ll teach you how to play the piano” (we never had musical instruments). It all ended with me learning to play the Georgian song Suliko sung by Leonid Utyosov. Then the musicians moved. The Kleiner family of doctors also lived here, – Galina Barabash recalled.
On the third floor of the same apartment section lived the Batuev family. The father - Victor Pavlovich - was the Second Secretary of the Voronezh Regional Party Committee. His son Boris Batuev was a friend of the Voronezh poet and writer Anatoly Zhigulin and a character in his autobiographical book Black Stones. Back in the ninth grade, having studied the history of the Revolution, Boris came to the conclusion that Stalin had perverted Leninism. In 1947, Boris, together with two classmates from his male high school, created an underground youth organization to spread genuine Marxist-Leninist teachings. In 1948, the young poet Anatoly Zhigulin entered it. In June 1950, when he was a freshman at the Voronezh State University of Forestry, he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in strict-security camps. He was sent there together with 22 comrades among which was Boris Batuev, a freshman at Voronezh State University.
Anatoly Zhigulin ended up in the Taishet Camp in Kolyma. In 1954, he was released under an amnesty, returned to his home city Voronezh and was rehabilitated in 1956. Boris Batuev was rehabilitated in 1950. After his release, he became a worker of a heavy mechanical press plant. While working at the plant, the young man completed an extramural course at the Voronezh State University and got a job as an editor on Voronezh television. In the early 1960s, he became the Chief Editor of the Voronezh Committee on Broadcasting and Television. And in January 1970, the car in which the television crew was driving to a district fell from an icy bridge into a river ravine - Boris died, the rest had survived.
“The death was caused by freezing! Yes, he swallowed some water. But the driver with two broken hands pulled him out of the water. They should have done artificial respiration or at least shake his head face down. They should not have left him in the snow. Boris (the examination indicated this too) started to breathe on his own while lying on the snow, and he kept breathing until he froze. The driver got exhausted - it turned out that his leg was broken too... And the rest went to look for a passing car and left Borka wet in the snow. (...) And it was really cold. He froze to death.
From Anatoly Zhigulin’s book Black Stones
Now, says Galina Barabash, the house is warm: thick walls, the radiators are working at full capacity.
The ceiling in Galina Ilyinichna’s apartment is also leaking. Despite this, the daughter of a famous professor does not want to move from here - she has already become linked to the building.