Bucharest enjoyed a remarkable capitalistic property boom during La Belle Époque period (late Victorian, followed by the Edwardian era), which was the first of the four building booms that the city and the country have witnessed to date. The first building boom was in many aspects similar with that of a frontier city from the mid-c19th American west or that of the new towns that sprang up in the same period in Russia’s Black Sea prairie or in Siberia. Romania’s capital was then in the process of a rapid development from a small Ottoman market town to an aspirational European capital city, which today is the sixth largest metropolis of the European Union.
That rapid development had to accommodate a large influx of people who came from its bucolic outskirts, outlying villages or small provincial towns and were used to a rural, medieval-like way of life. There was a real need to initiate and educate the new city dwellers, who were building or buying houses on a massive scale, in the ‘secrets’ of a modern European way of life. That is the era when the picturesque Little Paris architecture, one of the hallmarks of its built heritage, emerged. The brochure presented here is part of that more unusual educational effort.
The brochure is just three pages in length, published in 1911 by “Societatea L.E.”, probably a local charity, and is brimful with practical advice. Although its recommendations sound trivial for our twenty first century ears, they would have resonated quite powerfully in those of the La Belle Époque people. Among the most amusing instructions are those referring to the use of the toilet, like “climbing with your feet over the toilet seat should be forbidden!” or “do not block the toilet drains with too large pieces of paper or cotton wool”. Another very telling advice is about the painting and decorating of the room walls, lecturing the Bucharest people, notorious for their perennial propensity to paint and decorate their houses in strident, garish colours, to keep the scheme as simple as possible: “you should leave the walls whitewashed and if colour is desired for decoration, then use just one light lime-wash shade with a simple decorative frieze above”.
[brochure form Mr. Ion Rogojanu’s collection]