Zinaida Serebriakova in Kharkov

In the late 19th century, right by the bridge on the Ekaterinoslavskaya street (now the Poltava Way) was erected a small pedestrian footbridge. From it, Kharkovites could get onto the Kontor (or Office) street, so named because on it was located the Bureau for Wine Tax.

Kontor Street, Kharkov

At the start of the street, there used to be a restaurant and hotel ‘Versailles’, which, today, houses the Music Faculty of the Academy of Culture. Next to it, in 1887, a chic private mansion was erected. Today, it is occupied by an undertaker’s office.

Across was the former charitable pharmacy. The building was constructed in the Russian classical style of the early 19th century, and became the first medico-educational institution in Kharkov. The building has survived to this day, but in a rather distorted form. At Number 41 is another medical building. In the early 20th century, Kharkov’s first ‘first aid’ branch was set up her. One of the oldest churches of Kharkov was situated in a little square at the beginning of the street: the Church of the Nativity was later destroyed by the Bolsheviks. Besides this Orthodox church, there also used to be a mosque and an Old Believer’s chapel. The street then approached Karpovsky Gardens – a favourite place of promenade for Kharkovians. It originally belonged to the Karpov merchant family; there was a water spring in it from which was sourced Kharkov’s first water supply.

Zinaida Serebriakova's House, 25 Kontor Street, Kharkov

The house at Number 25 was that of the world-famous artist Zinaida Serebriakova. Her husband Boris brought her, her mother and children to Kharkov, to Kontor street, from their old family estate Neskuchnoye. Here, beds, two desks, chairs, a stove and other things awaited them. At the time, Serebriakova earned some small money by making beautiful little paintings for the regional archaeological museum. The family lived from hand to mouth. From their penury in Kharkov, they fled, first to Petrograd, and then to Paris.

The Faculty of Music, Academy of Culture,

Today, Kontor (or Red October) street is one of the most unique in the city for its architecture. Even at the beginning of the 21st century, the majority of buildings on it date from pre-revolutionary times. The old houses, mainly two-storeyed and modest in their architecture, remain a perfect illustration of the old domestic ways of Kharkov at the end of the 19th century.

[From Walks in Kharkov, by Vlad Rudenko.]

Update: It appears there’s a movement afoot to rename this Krasnooktabrskiy (Red October) street to Serebriakova Street.

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