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Prohaska V. I.

A huge monumental structure, built in 1905 for Odessa private pawnshop, can be called one of the most striking constructions in Odessa citing Italian Renaissance. An architect Vikentiy Ivanovich Prohaska, raising largely exquisite apartment buildings and mansions, however, coped perfectly with an unconventional challenge— the design of the building of administrative and public function.

Type of building: administrative
Style: modernized Neo-Renaissance

A. A. Digbi (building, the 1820-s)
A. N. Kolovich (rebuilding, 1851)
V. I. Prohaska (rebuilding, reconstruction, replanning, raising of the second storey, new design of facades and interiors)

Date of construction: 1904—1905
Status: local architectural monument
Second address: 12, Lecha Kaczynskogo Street (former Polskaya Street)
Previous building of the site: house of Sikard, old building of Joint-Stock Company of Odessa private pawnshop


General view of the building General view of the building Facade on Bunina Street A fragment of the facade on Bunina Street General view of the building Facade on Bunina Street Facade on Lecha Kaczynskogo Street( Polskaya Street)
House of Sikard, later the  pawnshop, before the rebuilding

House of Sikard, later the pawnshop, before the rebuilding
Odessa from the first years of its existence was, first of all, a city of trade and usury. Loaning was started in 1800, as, however, and pawn operations, when the city was sent 25,000 rubles at the supreme injunction for construction work that took place in the port. The use of money occurred under the percentage that was usually charged from the total amount taken, and the expense was on parts. If a money lender became aware of the unreliability of the merchant, he could at any time request a refund the amount back. However, the owners of pawnshops did not abuse such right: they valued their reputation, and for a termination of the contract a suspicion of bankruptcy had to be significant.


At the beginning of the XIX century Committee for the fulfillment of works in the port was formed. The president of Commerce College was actually a prince Gagarin, who later gave permission for the issuance of money in a pledge of valuables and goods. It is known that the first loan was given an Italian whose name did not come up to our days, but following loans were issued Odessa businessmen of that time: bills, showing the issuance of a number of loans for 1000 rubles in a pledge of 1000 pounds of fuel sulfur several loans of 1000 rubles and 500 rubles in a pledge of 80 and 40 pounds of wax, oil drums, fur goods, houses were preserved in the archives. For paying majority of debts deferments were widely practiced.

Life in debt, it can be said, was perhaps the custom, quite well-known people took loans as well. Among them there are two obligations from December 17, 1800 from Felix Deribas, who took 1,000 rubles in a pledge of silver jewels, and his wife, Octavia, taken 1,200 rubles in a pledge of ladies' powder set, a large silver tub, two trays, spoons and more.

At the end of 1886 in Odessa the first private pawnshop was opened (chairman and manager— V. Kirchner), it was not even partially owned by the state, and had a capital of 500 thousand rubles. Later, with the growth of the firm prosperity, the capital was increased to 700,000. Being a very respectable office, the pawnshop had as many as seven offices throughout the city, the most important of which was located on 12, Policeiskaya Street, in a large two-storey house of Sicard, probably erected as early as the 1820's (architect A. Digbi). Originally, this house was built as a grain warehouse («magazeyn») with habitable rooms, in 1851, the building was subjected to reconstruction (architect — A. N. Kolovich) significantly modified its look and layout. Since its foundation, the pawnshop rented this house, and in 1891 finally bought it.

Advertisement of Joint-Stock Company of Odessa private pawnshop

As already mentioned, the pawnshop departments were scattered throughout the city. In addition to  the head office of the pawnshop situated on Policeiskaya Street, there were seven more of its branches, four of them — of general purpose (in 26, Tiraspolskaya Street, 62, Richelievskaya Street, 16, Preobrazhenskaya Street, 44, Stepovaya Street,) and three specialized ones— on 22, Uspenskaya with large warehouses for  furniture storage; on 29, Mikhailovskaya Street, where it was possible to pawn a car, a carriage, a bicycle, a foot sewing machine and other bulky items, and on 14,Deribasovskaya Street, they took as a pledge gold, silver, precious stones and watches, and, right up to nine pm, as a person could always urgently need money. A loan is usually issued for a period of up to three months, after which one could still ask for a two-month delay its return, but then all unredeemed things, were sold by auction at the main office of the pawnshop on certain days of the week: jewelry — Mondays, furniture — Wednesdays, fur and clothing — Thursdays, bicycles — on Fridays. Besides, the pawnshop without issuing a loan, but for a certain fee, took different things in storage for one year, and some housewives preferred to leave fur coats and other expensive furs for the summer without any risk of damage by the moth, which was quite possibly in the home conditions. Very thrifty or staying in reduced circumstances citizens, before moving to the country even refused from the apartment and the furniture and other property gave to the pawnshop, where it was safely stored until the autumn return of their hosts in the city and rent them new or old accommodation.

By the end of the XIX century, the firm started to experience a strong lack of storage space for unredeemed and stored property, among which, of course, there were many very bulky items that required a large exhibition space. Besides, for implementation of auctions and bank operations required specially equipped rooms. The old building on Policeiskaya Street no longer met the needs of the company in the first place owing to the lack of space. In 1904, a construction work on the «adaptation» of the house to the needs of the pawnshop started. The project was made by a well-known by that time architect V. I. Prohaska, who, beginning with the reconstruction of the original building, raised in fact a new one.

Pawnshop building before the end of construction works, still without a wing on Polskaya Street

By 1905, all construction work had been completed, but an interior finishing still took a while. At the corner of Policeiskaya (Bunina) Street and the Polskaya Street a magnificent building arose, the style of which was made ​​in the best traditions of the Italian Renaissance with some elements borrowed from Art Nouveau. The new building of the pawnshop was carrying out in two stages: firstly a wing on Policeiskaya Street was raised, as evidenced by the photo of the end of 1904, and the following year a wing on Polskaya Street appeared. In fact, the previous building was entered in the volume of currently existing one, the first and second storeys kept the shape of windows and the width of piers. A passage arch location to the courtyard also had no changes. The third storey and a mezzanine were already overbuilt by Prohaska. The second floor housed the auction and operating rooms, and from Policeiskaya Street side, on the first floor, extensive areas for the storage of the pawnshop clients’ property were equipped.

Photograph of the building of the Soviet times

Photograph before 1965 Photograph of the end of the 1950-s Fragments of the building facade in the photograph of Vladimir Georgievich Nikitenko, the 70-s

The building is located on a corner site and is L-shaped in plan. The wing on Policeiskaya Street is more extensive than the wing on Polskaya Street (17 to 13 window axes, respectively), and occupies most of the block. A large scale structure is emphasizes not only by chiaroscuro of large forms with refined profiles and moldings, but by a general proportional order as well.

An extreme window axis, adjacent to the neighboring hotel «Bristol», is singled out by a massive risalit. The corner part of the building is accentuated by wide risalit of three window axes on every street side.


Corner risalit, a view upward Extreme risalit at the junction with the building of the hotel

Having met, they form a volume similar to the square in plan tower. Similarly the corner part of a later house Von-Desh at the corner of Gogolya Street and Sabaneyev bridge is accentuated. «The Tower» and the extreme risalit have a mezzanine, through which the level of the roof here is much higher. Between risalits on Policeiskaya Street rhythmic series of identically decorated third-storey windows stretch. The composition formed by the decoration details of each of them is remarkable for harmony and well found proportions. Under the window there is a balustrade, serving as a basis for two pilasters with Corinthian capitals, flanking window openings and supporting a triangular fascia. Each pilaster is decorated with moulded wreath of a modernized style at the base. A window of the third storey in the risalit, that adjacent to the neighboring hotel, is decorated in a similar manner.

Decoration of the second floor windows

Composition of the windows rhythm Composition of the windows rhythm Windows in the central risalit on Bunina Street General view of the framing of one of the windows

Decoration of one of the windows in the courtyard of Doges Palace in Venice — the most likely source of inspiration for the architect V.I. Prohaska.

Pilaster capital Pilaster capital Decoration at the base of the pilaster

At the level of the first and second storeys risalits have a trapezoidal shape, with a pronounced inclination of the edges, and at the third storey level the edges are perpendicular to the horizon line. Such a move significantly strengthened the monumentality of the building and weighted its lower part, in contrast to which the upper looks much lighter and refined. The central part of the facade plane on Policeiskaya Street is marked by another risalit, less deep, but having the same shape as the others. Its width is two window axes, on the second floor there is a balcony with a stone balustrade, and on the ground — two-column portal in the vein of classicism.

Central risalit on Bunina Street

General view Portal Portico of the portal

Another portal is closer to Polskaya Street. Compared with the previous one, it is put forward much further as regards the plane of the facade and is treated as a small porch. Here there is an entrance to the staircase, and from the ground floor landing a passageway into the courtyard is made.

Portico of the main entrance

General view General view General view

The corner part of the building is decorated with the greatest magnificence. A second-floor window is flanked by pilasters, and a massive fascia, the central, is based on two columns that, like the pilasters, are crowned with Corinthian capitals. From the side of each street there are balconies with balustrades. Balconies of the corner part and the central risalit on Policeiskaya Street are supported by large consoles made ​​in Art Nouveau style. Over extreme windows of the corner risalit from Polskaya Street side there are preserved dates of the pawnshop foundation and the building construction (1886, 1905 respectively). Over similar windows from Policeiskaya Street side, originally an inscription: «Odessa pawnshop» was placed, eventually destroyed. A strip of meander, framing windows from Policeiskaya Street side as well, is stretched along the piers of the corner part.
The similar meander adorns under windows cornices of the first floor. On the corner part of the building there is a marble advertising plate of the architect: «Built by architect. V. I. Prohaska. 1905». A similar one can be seen on the facade of Prokudin’s house.

Decoration of the corner part of the building

General view of the windows composition from Lecha Kaczynskogo Street side Date of the pawnshop foundation, symmetrically there is the construction date Column capital Decoration at the base of a column Consoles, supporting the balcony Decoration detail of one of the consoles

Gap for the flag holder

Rustic stone of the corner

Advertising plate of the architect

The facade from Polskaya Street side is compositionally different. For example, second-floor windows are grouped in threes and the central one is devoid of any kind of framing.

Windows of the second floor from Lecha Kaczynskogo Street side Windows of the second floor from Lecha Kaczynskogo Street side

Console (from Lecha Kaczynskogo Street)

A semicircular passage arch is enclosed in the volume of trapezoid portal of two-storey height.


General view Frequently occurring  lion mask has been preserved to the left of the passage arch

Building facades are processed with rustic stone that on the ground and first floors is rather deep and expressive, and on the second — conditional.

Finishing of the ground and first floors

Windows of the ground and first floors in the corner part of the building Rustic stone of the ground floor(on  Lecha Kaczynskogo Street side) Rustic stone of the ground floor (on Bunina Street) Windows of the ground floor(on Bunina Street) Window of the ground floor Under window cornice ( on Bunina Street) Under window cornice ( on Bunina Street) Windows of an exhibition or trade room ( on Bunina Street)

The facade plane of the second floor is separated from the two lower floors by a cornice. Much more massive cornice crowns the building itself and rests upon large dentils traditional for Prohaska.


Between them (outside risalits) there are small gaps, designed to illuminate the garret. Mezzanine windows are much larger and decorated by Art Nouveau wreaths.

Mezzanine windows

Mezzanine windows Mezzanine windows

The facade from Polskaya Street has three storeys, and from Policeiskaya Street goes from three to two that is associated with the descent of the street in the direction of Karantinnaya gully. Hence, to identify number of storeys is quite difficult.

The pawnshop had safely existed within the walls of the building until the revolution, in Soviet times the building housed a clothing factory named after Vorovskiy, which subsequently moved into a new building on Ilfa and Petrova Street. However, much of the interior decoration was irretrievably lost. The staircase (entrance from Policeiskaya Street) has preserved the original railings of unique pattern, which, however, similar to the gate of a merchant Blizhenskiy’s house (authorship of V.I. Prohaska as well). Walls of the staircase are completely devoid of decoration, but on the second floor it can be seen conditional arcades from shallow arch niches. Entrances to operating and auction rooms, which interiors have not been spared by time and lodgers, are located here as well.


General view Railings Railings Railings Railings

Through the passage arch (not used now) and the passage from the landing of the ground floor one can get into the courtyard of the building. The rear facade is decorated modestly, but the second-floor windows as windows of the exterior facade, have a semicircular shape in order to comply with the symmetry of the halls with two-sided lighting.

Courtyard facade

The concisely decorated passage arch is probably remained untouched during the rebuilding of the old building; the details of the house view can be read on the front facades.

Passage arch

In general, despite the highly dilapidated state (with the loss of major details of the decor), the facades of the building survived to the present day in virtually unchanged shape. The building of Joint-Stock Company of Odessa private pawnshop can be called one of the key in early works of V. I. Prochaska, equally with houses of Ksid and Blizhenskiy. These exquisite building, undoubtedly, have one thing in common — a masterly mix of Renaissance and Art Nouveau, which became, later, a real «calling card» of the architect and a detail of his unique style.



References and Archives


The mansion of Mendelevich, masterly combining features of Art Nouveau and Renaissance, strikes with its decoration and design for over 100 years and remains one of the peaks of the creative work of V. I. Prohaska.

Type of building: mansion
Style: modernized Neo—Renaissance
Architect: V. I. Prohaska
Date of construction: 1909
Status: local architectural monument

General view of the facade

The land on Marazlievskaya Street was owned mostly by the aristocracy, that is why the major part of the street’s buildings is performed at the corresponding level and with highly refined interiors. Marazlievskaya Street started being lined with buildings at the turn of ХХ century, but buildings at several lots were erected quite late — this statement also concerns the area of 28.


In 1890s the lot was obtained by M. Asvadurov, and in the period of 1902-1907 years was purchased by a corn trader, Iefim Iakovlevich Mendelevich, «a merchant of the first guild, delegate of the merchants, a member of the bread-controlling commission of Odessa exchange; the guardian of industrial students’ school, founded by I. M. Mendelevich and etc». It is also well known, that he was related to the owner of Passage at Deribasovskaya Street, — Moisei Iakovich Mendelevich (the patronymics of both Mendelevichs coinside and there is a great chance that they were brothers).

Facade from the side of the yard

In 1909 a mansion in simple, but monumental shapes of Florentine Renaissance was built after the project of architect Vikentiy Prohaska. This architect had constructed only several buildings after his projects by that moment, but from the very beginning of his creative activity his houses had been among the finest ones. He was well advertised by a competitive project of the New Exchange and the building of the main department of Odessa private pawnshop society. For the mansion of Mendelevich, the choice of Neo—Renaissance style was not accidental, — majority of own projects by Prohaska were carried out in this very style, with the help of which the architect reached unusual refinement and monumentality. At the same time, the architect approached each project with creativity, though, as it would seem, the houses should be very similar.

A ledge above the pediment of the main facade
The mansion of Mendelevich has two floors and a habitable semi-basement, according to the plan the mansion is almost rectangular, without marked yard wings. V. I. Prohaska didn’t adhere strictly to the canons of Florentine Renaissance, but boldly mixed it with other styles, particularly with Art Nouveau that reigned at that time. The fence of light pockets of the semi-basement, entrance doors, carved wooden banisters of the main staircase were done exactly in this style. The bas-reliefs above the windows of the first floor got the interpretation peculiar to Art Nouveau. The house is crowned with a classical three-cornered pediment with a mascoron of Athena in a tympanum.

Sculpture decoration of the facade

Bas-relief depicturing Athena on the central pediment Bas-relief depicturing Athena on the central pediment General view of the decoration of the central avant-corps, a pediment and a bas-relief.
Sculptural subject on the left from the main bas-relief in the center of the left-side part of the central pediment Sculptural subject on the left from the main bas-relief in the center of the left-side part of the central pediment The main bas-relief in the centre of the left-side part of the central pediment Sculptural subject on the right from the main bas-relief in the centre of the left-side part of the central pediment Sculptural subject on the right from the main bas-relief in the centre of the left-side part of the central pediment Right-side part of the pediment, sculptural portrayal of a tree Sculptural subject on the left from the main bas-relief in the centre of the right-side part of the central pediment Sculptural subject on the left from the main bas-relief in the centre of the right-side part of the central pediment The main bas-relief in the centre of the right-side part of the central pediment Sculptural subject on the right from the main bas-relief in the centre of the right-side part of the central pediment Sculptural subject on the right from the main bas-relief in the centre of the right-side part of the central pediment.

Fragments of the facade of the building at a photo by Vladimir G. Nikitenko, 70s.

The architect almost fully covered the building with rustic stone, although thanks to the skillful usage of projecting key stones, Art Nouveau panels and bas-reliefs, the facade looks rather diverse. The bas-reliefs with images of separate scenes, united by the common theme of upbringing of children are arranged above the windows of the second floor. The stylized images of trees on the edges of the facade surface, amplifying the sculpture scenes, also grab attention.

Fragment of a cornice

Cornices under the ground floor windows

Fencing of the semi-basement

General view of the picture composition Fragment at the junction of sections Ornamental flower

Instead of traditional bas-reliefs that were arranged in panels, Prohaska placed the figures directly on the facade surface, not separating them from the house that appeals to the idea of synthesis of arts, which was one of the aims of Art Nouveau. In other words, bas-reliefs weren’t isolated from other decoration, and interacted with it (something similar was implemented in the building of Kosagonovskaya at Nezhinskaya Street, 66).

In present time, three balconies are disposed at the mansion of Mendelevich. They were installed in the  soviet times instead of the removed because of the decrepitude stone ones (unfortunately there is too little documental evidence left about their external appearance). The railing of the central balcony wasn’t preserved, but, taking into account the character of the facade and taking into account other rusticated buildings of Prohaska, the fencing of the balcony represented a stone balustrade.

Arch of the passage

View from the street Tethering posts on two sides of the arch

Communal flats were formed out of the rooms of Mendelevich’s flat, which occupied the whole first floor. Separate flats with semi-basement rooms were situated on the ground floor in the left and right wings.

Arch of the passage

General view from the inside General view from the inside

The ceilings of the arch of the yard passage are decorated with moulded mascarons that are identical to the mascarons placed on the facade of Gavsevich house (arch. S. S. Galperson, 1903). Possibly, Mendelevich had liked the mascarons of Gavsevich mansion, situated on Lidserovskiy boulevard on the way to Langeron beach.

Mascarons and a fragment of arches One of the mascarons under the cornice One of the mascarons under the cornice Moulded ornament of the cornice Arches, a flower of crosshair (nowadays remaining only in two sections of the arch)

One of the original entrance doors in the arch

Design of the lower part Design of the lower part, a fragment of décor Design of the upper part Decorative grating

Monumentality isn’t inherent in the staircase and the corridor of the first floor. On the contrary, the decoration became fanciful and pretentious because of the fulfillment, synthesizing in itself Baroque and Art nouveau.
Art nouveau stairs made entirely of wood draws special attention. Its peculiarity is the fulfillment of railings not as separate balusters but as profiled planes, covered at the same time with deep but simple by composition carving.


A view of the stairs and the window of the ground floor.


One of the sections One of the sections A fragment of carving A fragment of carving

A view of the second flight of stairs from below.

Another interesting element is a diminutive wooden tambour that preserved an original door, badly damaged by times and alternations.

Ground floor

Tambour A fragment of the tambour’s door, only the lower part was preserved in original.

The space near the entrance is decorated with two caryatids that hold the landing of the first floor. Compositionally they are symmetrical to each other, but with a closer look the difference is revealed — the arm of the caryatid which is free from the holding, is relaxed, lowered and holds the cloth on the waist level; another caryatid’s arm is lifted, and the same cloth is thrown over it, hiding the nudity. With the lost wrist it, possibly, held a lantern or a candlestick. Both sculptures have naked breasts, which emphasizes their antique eroticism.

Foot of the stairs Caryatid and the design of a projection at the first floor Caryatid and a niche Caryatid by the stairs A fragment of niche design A fragment of niche design Ornament framing the niche Caryatid by the tambour

Also there, by the stairs, next to the right-side (if you look from downstairs) caryatid, a richly decorated niche is located, where a lamp, a vase with flowers or a sculpture could have been placed.

General view of the lobby from the side of the window, all the main decorative elements are clearly visible. View at the caryatid and the niche from the stairs.

Two arch apertures lead to the first floor landing, and the space between them is decorated with two columns with slightly modernized capitals.

First floor

Columns Capital of one of the columns

General view of the lobby from the first floor landing


Pilasters design Pilasters design Pilasters design, a fragment Corbel under the cornice Flutes

Capitals of pilasters between the staircase and the landing of the first floor

A pair of putti is located in sopraportas of the doors, like the sculptures on the facade

Sculpture group above one of the doors Sculpture group above one of the doors Sculpture group above one of the doors, a detail Sculpture group above one of the doors, a fragment of a detail A fragment of decoration
Niche between the doorways Decorative detail of a niche on the first floor
Bas-relief in the corridor

The ceiling of the staircase also strikes; it was performed in the form of an oval plafond of plastic shapes. It naturally repeats the planning shape of the staircase part. Its walls, therewith, are decorated with Art Nouveau flute and double pilasters.

General view of the cupola-shaped vault above the staircase

First floor landing, general view

Returning to the first floor landing, it’s worth mentioning the semicircular ledge overhanging directly above the caryatid. It reminds of a small balcony and is decorated with a spectacular asymmetrical sculpture.

Decoration of a ledge Decoration of a ledge

At present the original fencing of the first floor is lost completely and substituted, for safety, with a simple wooden construction. Time and men’s negligence relentlessly destroy the decoration of the unique building, and this is seen by the condition of the preserved elements of decor and lobby design (the only one of its kind in the city, by the way).
A huge Art Nouveau staircase window, preserved the unique sash, lost, however, stained glasses.

Window of the lobby from the side of the yard.

A sad destiny reached the painting of a plafond and decoration of the walls with Venetian putty.

The parquet of the landing remained as a whole, but is in a very decrepit condition.

In the soviet times the former lobby of a luxurious mansion, which became the entrance hall of a dwelling house, was painted with an ordinary blue paint. Today it came off from the walls here and there and revealed the original decoration.

The door of the lobby was dismantled in 2011 and replaced with a simple metal monolithic door without decor; other doors of the arch were more or less preserved. However, none of the inner doors, unfortunately, has lived till the present days.

Among the historic episodes, connected with the building and worthy of a memorial plaque, it should be mentioned that the elder son of the founder of national literary school, writer Itshock (Isaac) Ioel Linetskiy, lived here in one of rented apartments, in 1910s. It was an outstanding architect, Moisei Isakovitch Liteskiy, and a lot of wonderful buildings were made after his projects (mostly in Art Nouveau style) in Odessa, including the ones at Marazlievskaya, № 2 and № 14a.



References and archives