M. and P. Fon-Desh appartment house
21 Gogolya Street
The Fon-Desh apartment house is an example of one of the most prominent Odessa architects, Vikentiy Ivanovich Prohaska. The building, built in 1909, became a real adornment of Gogol Street.
Type of building: apartment house
Style: Art Nouveau, modernized Neo-Renaissance
Architect: V. I. Prohaska
Contractor: F. O. Gaydukov
Date of construction: 1908-1909
Status: local architectural monument
Second address: 5/7 Sabaneev Bridge
General view of the building
Facade at Gogolya Street
During the 1900s the site owners at the corner of Gogolya Street and Sabaneev Bridge were listed M. and P. Fon-Desh (the initials are indicated in compliance with the landlords reference books “All Odessa” for 1900-1910). This is also another masterpiece of Italian Renaissance that was created by V. I. Prohaska, In the reference book for 1910, P., B. and A. Fon-Desh are stated as the building owners.
Since the late 1890s, “Siemens & Halske” (the office of the Joint Stock Company of the electrical engineering enterprise) was located here. This is where Iosif Borisovich Fon-Desh worked. By 1907 the office moved to a nearby site at 5, Sabaneev Bridge to give way to a new construction on the same site.
A newly built apartment house at that place became a real adornment of Gogol Street (it was called Nadezdinskay Street at that time). In 1909 apart from the apartment house of Fon-Desh, the architect Prohaska erected one of the most beautiful mansions of Odessa for E. Y. Medelevich at 28 Marazlievskaya Street.
In the edition “Directory of monuments and sights in Odessa” (A. S. Fridman), it is mentioned that Fon-Desh gave this house to his daughter as a dowry. The owner himself was known for throwing quite extravagant banquets devoted to his dog’s birthdays. Guests were invited to parties together with their dogs, where waiters served pets and diamond jewelleries were presented to guests.
Facade from the Saboneev Bridge
The house was only briefly owned by the Fon-Deshes. After 1910 its owner changed. Pyotr Ivanovich Kuсhta was stated as the house proprietor in the reference book “All commercial and industrial Odessa” for 1913. He was one of the members of the Kotlyarevsky’s Manufacture Trade Company. Nevertheless the information differs in a variety of reference editions.
In the reference book “All Odessa” (edition “Odessa news”), the site from the side of the Saboneev Bridge appeared to belong to Fon-Desh. Although any record of the owners’ last name is missing in the alphabetical index. The only house proprietor in 1911 was Iosif Borisovich Fon-Desh, and later the property was registered on P. I. Kuchta. Despite the confusion, the house did not belong to the Fon-Deshes in 1912.
During the First World War the reference books of the house owners stopped being published, therefore it is almost impossible to track the changes of the house proprietors (if there was any). Later, there was a consulate of France who lived in the ex-house of Fon-Desh. V. G. Stratz, who owed his own house in Otrada, lived there too.
It is worth mentioning a few famous people who resided in the house during the Soviet times such as a conductor T. I. Gurtovoy (1919 — 1940), a surgeon and a chief doctor of the Odessa military hospital — V. L. Pokotilo (1920 — 1931).
The apartment house of Fon-Desh was erected in one of the most prestigious areas of the city center. A palace, art gallery, the Tolstoys’ apartment house, Pomer and Manuk-Bey’s mansions, luxurious apartment houses of the Zabludovskys and the Falz-Feins and a building of the Credit Society are in close proximity.
The house did not stand out with its splendor of decoration among all these buildings. It is a remarkable and significant landmark from the town-planning point of view in spite of the fact that the Zabludovskys’ richly decorated house is in a key location at the intersection of Gogolya Street and Sabaneev Bridge. Continuing the theme of Italian (including Florentine) palazzo, foundations were laid in the design of the Ksid’s apartment house at 12 Evreyskaya Street. Also, the house of Fon-Desh is distinguished with its elegant proportions and noble appearance.
The site development consists of a gamma-typed front wing and a rectangular outbuilding in the yard. The width of the front facades at Gogolya Street and Sabaneev Bridge is virtually identical, and it counts 9 window axes excluding the corner avant-corps. The house itself is a three-storied building with a semi-basement, and from the side of Sabaneev Bridge, it transforms into a full floor due to the declining ground level at the foot of Gogolya Street towards the sea.
A massive tower-like avant-corps accentuates the corner of the building. The creation was realized earlier by Prohaska in the project at the corner of Bunina and Lech Kaczynski Streets Ломбарда. The avant-corps of the Fon-Desh house is designed in a more restrained manner and its edges contain large solid piers. The single window axis is central for its two facade planes. A semi-basement floor is trimmed with a simple imitated rustic layer with a superficial structure. The rustic-work of the first floor is noticeably deeper and more expressive.
Ground floor decoration
The expressive semicircular window framings with elements of rustication quote directly from the canonical Italian Renaissance. A simple and rigorous cornice encircles the house between the ground and the first floors. The cornice is absent between the first and second floors. The wall planes on the first and second floors are barely covered with outlined rustic work.
The windows on the first floor are decorated expressively. Each window is edged with a massive rustic frame and they are topped with a triangular classical pediment. A window cornice rests on the powerful Art Nouveau consoles, between which a simple geometrical panel is allocated.
First floor decoration
The design of the windows on the second floor is close to the Art Nouveau style. The upper crossbars of the windows have a semi-elliptical shape with the keystones above.
Decoration of the second floor
The building has six balconies, two of which are located in the corner avant-corps at Gogolya Street. The balconies rest on the solid consoles and have railings in the form of stone balustrades. Decoration of the balustrades and consoles differs depending on the storey.
The corner avant-corps is crowned with a low mezzanine storey illuminated through the horizontally stretched elliptical window openings. On the sides of the windows, Prohaska allocated bar-reliefs in the form of pompous garlands, and each of them is held by two Putti.
Right on the corner at the level of the second floor, a heraldic shield is placed with the completion date of the building construction. It is symbolically attached to the facade with the elegant stucco ribbons.
The only entrance is located at the side of Gogolya Street and it is aligned with the balconies in the center of the facade. The preserved entrance door, which is a real decorative masterpiece of Art-Nouveau, is made of metal with the usage of vegetative motifs and patterns, and it contains large glass openings. The new-implemented bars of the semi-basement stylistically have something in common, however, their quality is significantly lower.
gogolya-21_43. 21 Gogolya Street. Apartment house of M. and P. Fon-Desh. Architecture of Odessa. History of Odessa. Tourism in Odessa. Architecture in Ukraine. One of the new-implemented window bars of the semi-basement from the side of Sabaneev Bridge
gogolya-21_56. 21 Gogolya Street. Apartment house of M. and P. Fon-Desh. Architecture of Odessa. History of Odessa. Tourism in Odessa. Architecture in Ukraine. Original flag holder.
The staircase gateway is ascetically designed, however, the fact that it was decorated can’t be ignored. Also, the door, leading from the gateway to the stairwell, is preserved. Its decoration is significantly more modest than the external part of the entrance door, although, it is quite interesting in itself.
The door leading from the gateway to the stairwell
The communal stairwell is highly presentable: marble steps, glazed landings and unique railings (Prohaska rarely replicated railings creating unique variations for almost every house).
The railings of the Fon-Desh house were built with sections and each of them unites two mirror-like segments of the vegetative and floral motif.
The entrance interior is successfully complemented with light windows of the living quarters that stopped serving their functions, but preserved the original frames. The vestibule of the apartment on the first floor is also equipped with two narrow, vertically stretched windows adjoining the entrance door.
Light windows of the living quarters in the entrance
The passage archway to the courtyard is located on the outermost axis at the turn of the adjoining building at Sabaneev Bridge. Having an Art-Nouveau archway from the side of the street, the passage is covered with simple flat arches. The inner side of the arch is purely functional and devoid of any decoration. The same may be said about the courtyard facades of the house.
Within the framework of V. I. Prohaska’s creativity, the Fon-Desh house perfectly illustrates a distinctive and original style of a master who could work out a means of harmoniously combining seemingly incompatible things.
Solidity and elegancy, plasticity and austerity, romanticism and functionality. The Fon-Desh apartment house has a number of advantages non-conflicting with each other. In addition, the house takes a well-deserved place next to the much more richly decorated constructions due to excellent elaboration of even the smallest details.
References and archives
- “Architects of Odessa». V. Pilyavsky
- “Buildings, constructions, monuments of Odessa and their Architects”. V. Pilyavsky
- Landlords reference books “All Odessa” for 1900, 1901, 1902, 1907, 1909, 1910, 1913, 1914.
- An article about the house in the Antique blog (Attribution, historical and regional information)
- User Brassl’s photo archive
- “Directory of monuments and sights in Odessa”. A. S. Fridman, I. V. Arutyunova, N. N. Motiryova.