The next story of the special project is focused on the history of the headquarters building of the South Easters Railway (18, Revolution). The calling card of Voronezh, the centerpiece of the city center has experienced two births. And both of them - thanks to the famous Voronezh architect Nikolai Troitsky, who is called the city’s father: in three decades, he has executed over 70 projects of buildings and structures, and after the war, he led the restoration of the city as the chief architect of the city. To learn about what was the pre-war building of the South Eastern Railway like, why it closed the Voronezh Palace in the Baroque style and what the face of the tower clock looks, read the RIA Voronezh story.
A sample of constructivism
In 1928, Moscow allocated money for the construction of a new building for the directorate of the South Eastern Railway - before that, it was located in several houses scattered throughout the city including the Bristol Hotel. There was no public competition for the project, it was ordered to an established Moscow architect who charged a tidy sum of 5 thousand rubles for this project’s development.
Architect Nikolai Troitsky, a recent graduate of the Leningrad Institute of Civil Engineers, found out about this. By that time, he had managed to become famous in the architectural circles of Voronezh as the author of a complex residential project at the intersection of Karl Marx and Studencheskaya streets called by the townspeople “the accordion” for its unusual shape. Troitsky’s project won the all-Union competition.
Inspired by the victory, the young architect asked the railway authorities to allow him to develop a design for the new building. “Please do, but we don’t have the money to pay for your work,” the chief answered. “In addition, I cannot allow you to work during your office hours.” Work during your spare time.”
“This was an extremely unprofitable offer, but I fell into excitement and I had to strengthen and reveal my architectural skills, so I agreed to all these conditions,” recalled Nikolai Troitsky in his memoir, the book I Am a Voronezh Native.
He began to work at night. He invited Igor Makovetsky, a talented construction technician from his department, who did not have an architectural education, as an assistant.
The headquarters building of the South Eastern Railway was supposed to be one of the centerpieces of Voronezh – according to the project, it would be visible from different points of the city. Troitsky designed the building in the best traditions of constructivism. The control facades were flat, with large glazed surfaces and vertical divisions. At the intersection of Revolution Avenue and Feoktistov Street, a part of the building was rounded. And at the intersection of Feoktistov and Friedrich Engels streets, the architect designed a tower in the form of a parallelepiped with a full-height corner window inside the stairwell. At the top of the tower was a clock.
The project of the young Voronezh architect was more cost-effective than that of the established Moscow one. Ancillary facilities and corridors in it amounted to only 20% (40% in the Moscow architect’s project), which significantly reduced the volume of the building and therefore its cost. He managed to achieve this thanks to an unusual layout – on the blueprint, the building resembled a comb. Its “teeth” were located at right angles to the main building. They contained large halls.
Another advantage of Troitsky’s project was fine illumination of the corridors and workrooms. In the Moscow architect’s project, the corridors were lit only from their ends, which means they were actually dark.
And although the capital’s architect was paid 5 thousand rubles under the contract, the authorities of the South Eastern Railway liked the work of Nikolai Troitsky, for which he received nothing, more. The final decision was made by the People’s Commissariat of Railways, which chose the Voronezh architect’s project - in terms of its layout and constructive solution, it was more cost-efficient and rational. They even recommended making it the standard for other railway directorates.
"Screen" for the palace and the railway
Before proceeding with the construction of the South Eastern Railway headquarters, it was necessary to demolish the office premises of the Voronezh Palace, which faced Friedrich Engels Street. They were used as garages for worn-out trucks left over from the First World War times.
The construction began in 1929. A narrow-gauge railway, which was built along the current Tchaikovsky Street, was extended to transport the building materials. According to local historian Olga Rudeva, the railway line was called The Ninth Way.
“Tchaikovsky Street, which used to be called Sennaya Street (after the name of Sennaya Square, which used to be located on the site of the Trud Stadium), was a dead end and did not have access to Revolution Avenue. During the construction of the building of the South Eastern Railway headquarters, the street was extended and renamed into Ninth Way — after the name of the single-track railway,” explained Olga Rudeva.
At the same time, a whole block of new communal houses was built on Tchaikovsky Street, some of which survived the war. According to the local historian, there are still apartments in them with no bathrooms – their residents have to take baths in the kitchen.
The new building of the South Eastern Railway hid an architectural pearl - the house of Governor Potapov in the Baroque style built in 1779 and known as the Voronezh Palace (currently the building of the Kramskoi Museum).
According to Nikolai Troitsky’s student, constructor Solomon Weizer and the architects were not bothered by this - the baroque building was considered a relic of the past, like all pre-revolutionary buildings in the style of classicism, gothic, renaissance and empire. In the USSR Architecture magazine, the photographs of old buildings were printed with crossed black crosses.
But not all Voronezh residents liked the construction of a large gray box.
“Until 1929, this was an established architectural ensemble - with a city garden, the Voronezh Palace, the building of the district court, and with a monument to Peter I as the centerpiece. Suddenly, they began to build a gray, stern building without decorations. The architectural appearance of a place significant for the city has changed dramatically. For that time, the new building was unusually huge; Voronezh residents were not used to such sizes. For comparison, at that time there were only several four-story buildings in the city,” said Olga Rudeva.
The constructors completed the first phase of the works in 1930. In 1930-1932, another building was added to the building of the South Eastern Railway, also according to Troitsky’s project. In 1932, the four-story building of the South Eastern Railway headquarters, erected on the corner of Feoktistov and Friedrich Engels streets, was commissioned.
During the war, the headquarters buildings of the South Eastern Railway and the Moscow-Donbass Railway (MDZhD) laid in ruins. As Nikolai Troitsky recalled, the buildings were destroyed by air bombs and burned. Olga Rudeva believes that the Germans did not bomb them from the air, but specifically planted bombs in them.
After the liberation of Voronezh, the railway workers returned to the city and were temporarily housed in the building № 36 on Studencheskaya Street.
Since 1943, Nikolai Troitsky became the chief architect of the city and led his restoration until 1957, practically having rebuilt it anew.
In 1947, it was decided to restore the destroyed buildings of the South Eastern and Moscow-Donbass railways. The development of the project was entrusted to Troitsky. The restored buildings had to be merged into one, increase their height by one floor and change the architectural appearance, which was supposed to reflect "the pathos of victory over a cruel enemy". It was decided to rebuild the corner of the house at the intersection of Friedrich Engels and Feoktistov streets with adjoining parts of the building, where there used to be a turret in the constructivism style, into a separate residential building. It was built in 1954 under the project of architect Schmidt.
The restored building was to be built in the same architectural style with the railway station building, the adjacent square, the semicircular houses on Mira Street, which was extended after the war, and the solemn entrance unit of the children's park.
When working on his project, Troitsky was inspired by the best examples of classicism and the Stalinist empire. The “cherry on the cake” in his project was a 70-meter-high tower with a spire.
“After the war, architects under the leadership of architecture academician Lev Rudnev, who led the development of the general plan of Voronezh in 1944, decided to create a single architectural line that was supposed to stretch from the railway station building to the regional committee building (currently the building of the Voronezh Region Government). The harbinger of the large tower of the South Eastern Railway was the small turret on the corner of Friedrich Engels and Feoktistov streets,” Olga Rudeva told.
“And the tower of the South Eastern Railway building now lacks a "companion" - an even higher tower with a spire. It was supposed to appear on the building of the House of Soviets (the regional committee building). According to Lev Rudnev’s project, it was a 14-story high-rise building with a height of 103 m,” the local historian added.
Nikolai Troitsky went to the Ministry of Railways to approve his project. But he was criticized by the academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences, architect Aleksei Schusev, who called his brainchild too modest and tough-looking.
He advised to link it with the architecture of the Voronezh Palace inside the courtyard and create a single whole with it.
That is how the building’s facade of the revised design started to include columns, porticoes, and wide, high three-story arches with a view on the Voronezh Palace.
The restoration works began in April 1951. Over 300 diggers, carpenters, masons, and workers were working at the construction site. The construction of the tower cost 2 million rubles.
“Electric cranes, auto-loaders, dump trucks, tractors, and conveyors are used at the construction site. In January, it is planned to engage two tower cranes. The work is being carried out in three shifts (...) The facade of the building on Revolution Avenue will be five-story, on Universitetskaya Street - four-story.”
From the report in the Vperyod (Forward) newspaper of April 21, 1951
The foundation of the building was lined with rustication - chipped stone used for the construction of particularly significant buildings.
“In Voronezh, it was used to face the building of the NKVD (currently the FSB) and the house of the NKVD workers. Rustication has been used since ancient times. It was used on pre-revolutionary buildings,” Olga Rudeva noted.
The combined building in the style of the Stalinist empire was restored in 1952. And in 1955, Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, arrived in Voronezh. Seeing the 70-meter tower of the building of the South Eastern Railway headquarters, Khrushchev exclaimed: “And what’s this bell tower sticking out here?!”
According to another version, the secretary-general, with his head up, said: “And who here is going to look at such a height?” Be that as it may, Khrushchev was not satisfied with the tower. He demanded to collect all the data on the building of the South Eastern Railway headquarters and left for Moscow.
“And I began to wait for the results and conclusions. And I waited for them for a whole year and a half. As they say, it tired up my nerves to the utmost", Nikolai Troitsky recalled.
Soon after Khrushchev’s visit to Voronezh, the government decree "On Eliminating Excesses in Design and Construction" was issued, which criticized the practice of decorations in architecture - they were declared excesses. The party proclaimed a course on standard design, simplicity, the rigor of forms, and cost-effectiveness of solutions.
“Unjustified towers, numerous decorative colonnades, and porticoes, and other architectural excesses, borrowed from the past, have become a mass phenomenon in the construction of residential and public buildings, as a result of which in recent years, the housing construction sector has outspent funds, which could be used to build more than one million square meters of living space for workers.”
From the decree “ On Eliminating Excesses in Design and Construction”
The resolution also mentioned Nikolai Troitsky as the author of the "malicious" tower and expensive columns on the facade. After that, he lost all the well-deserved awards - the order for the dedicated work on the restoration of Voronezh and the medal from VDNH for creating a green ring around the city.
Due to the fight against excesses in Voronezh, the high-rise building of the House of Soviets (the regional committee) was never built.
In 1956, the tower was equipped with a clock with four faces at a height of 55 m with Roman numerals on each side. They were made specifically for the South Eastern Railway by the Electrosignal Plant. This is the biggest clock in the city. The diameter of the faces is about 2 m.
To get up to the clock tower, we take the elevator to the ninth floor. You look down the flight of stairs – the height takes your breath away.
On the stairs leading to the turret, the ceiling suddenly becomes low, we have to bend down and bend our heads. We find ourselves in a small room two floors high.
Everywhere there are mechanisms: there are rods coming from each clock face and connected to the gears located in a glass cabinet.
But all we see is the secondary clock. The heart of the clock, or primary clock (aka the clock station), is located below. Where exactly - that's secret information. It is a small device that transmits an electrical impulse - 24 Volts.
“This is a reference clock that gives out a temporary signal,” explained Sergei Vyalykh, the head of the Voronezh general technology communications section.
The impulse is fed to the distribution rack and from there along the twelve-hour lines made in Soviet times. These lines used to lead to each office. There were sockets similar to radio points that existed earlier in every Soviet apartment. A clock was inserted into them. Having received an impulse from the outlet, the clockwork moved the hands a minute forward. Previously, there were 400 such clocks in the building.
One of the watch lines leads to the tower clock. From the impulse fed every minute, a relay is activated on the clock mechanism.
It switches and transmits the signal to the electric motor, which begins to rotate. After that, the gear transmission transmits torque - the rods begin to spin and move the clock hands a minute forward.
Now there are almost no secondary office clocks that were inserted into the outlet in the building. But the tower clock works as before.
In 2000, the clock on the tower had a music accompaniment. The melody for the tower clock was composed by Voronezh composers Alexander Ukrainsky and Sergei Volkov. The melody in the clocks rang out of ten speakers and played every 30 minutes. Every 15 minutes, its last fragments were played. But the music didn’t play for long.
“When the contractor began repairing the building in 2000, the tower chime devices had to be dismantled. But now there is a program being developed to modernize the tower clock. It is planned to replace the clock faces, replace the old mechanism with a modern one and add sound accompaniment,” said Sergei Vyalykh.
To clean and repair the clock faces, the gearbox is untwisted, and the mechanism is pulled out by being moved on special rails.
Round windows are temporarily covered with wooden shutters. By the way, the hands on the faces are wooden - they have remained in their original form since 1956.
The mechanism of the tower clock is equipped with a photosensor. With the onset of darkness, he turns on the clock face illumination. At dawn, it turns off.
Even higher than the clockwork, at the height of a 17-story building, there is an observation deck led to by a narrow spiral staircase.
Even higher is an attic access way to the spire of the building, which is crowned with the symbol of the USSR - a star and wheat heads.
While in Soviet years, the control tower of the South Eastern Railway was the first Voronezh skyscraper and the centerpiece of the city center, now the 70-meter-high building is only in the eighth place among the highest buildings in Voronezh.
What else can the classified building surprise with? With narrow semicircular corridors (the interiors are different on each floor).
With Soviet mosaic on the railway theme placed to decorate the walls of the lobby on the ground floor in 1986. Their author is Eduard Plotnikov. His own mosaic adorns the passage at Petrovsky Public Garden.