История дома Беньяминов
Historical house of the legendary Benjamin family was fully restored to become luxury EUROPA ROYALE RIGA hotel.
We are pleased to introduce and guide you through the history of BENJAMINS HOUSE.
The history of BENJAMINS HOUSE started in 1876 with the wealthy merchant’s family called Pfab. The house was designed in the eclecticism style by the architects V. Beckman (1832 – 1902) and H. Ende (1829 – 1907) who were invited from Berlin and took their inspiration from the Italian Renaissance in Florence. The grandiose brick house with its beautiful terrace and extensive garden was unique for its day and clearly visible from the entire surroundings. For northern Latvia, each ray of sun is worth its weight in gold. And the German architects knew how to use the excellent location of the site to make the sunlight enter the interior of the house and to play with the sumptuous ceiling decorations, the ornamental friezes and to sparkle in the stained glass and chandeliers. The morning and evening rays of the sun mark out the beautiful architectural lines and the chiaroscuro enlivens the adornments, reliefs and sculptures. The young sculptor A. Volk (1851 – 1926) was also invited from Germany and it is his art that does not allow us to forget the first owners of the building. Two allegoric girls gracefully adorn the arch above the entrance; one holds a flame but by the other girl there is a flax spinning wheel – the base of the Pfab family’s wealth. On the balcony two shield bearing lions demonstrate the proud self-assurance of the family. The Vestal virgin in the niche of the wall – a terracotta copy of the antique statue – is the protector of the home. In the 1920s the Pfabs lost the profitable Russian market and their prosperity began to decline, the large house intended for presentations ruined the health of the owner. Having lived there for 52 years, the family was compelled to part with their magnificent mansion.
There has never been a crowned royal couple in Latvia, however the uncrowned one was certainly EMILIJA and ANTONS BENJAMINS. In 1928 they bought the Pfab palace and so began the most legendary page in the history of this house. In 1911 the couple founded the most popular daily newspaper “Jaunākās Ziņas”. Their rapid advance towards millions continued with the publication of the family magazine “Atpūta” in 1924. This magazine even nowadays can be considered as outstanding, interesting and unsurpassed as to the content. And so the new press magnates of Latvia in their splendid house established what was to be undoubtedly the most influential salon in Riga. Its sumptuous doors were opened only for the select – diplomats, ministers, deputies and other celebrities.
The editors of the newspaper were able to cause crises of the ministers’ cabinet, to choose new ministers and distribute influential directorial posts. The State President was unmarried and so there was no “first lady” in the country. This vacant place was occupied by Mrs. Benjamiņa self-assuredly and without any timidity. There was an unwritten rule in Riga, that every new artist who wanted to rise in his career had to perform the first concert at the Benjamins salon.
The host and hostess of this building carried out alterations of the interior of the house built in the Neo-Renaissance style. They engaged the most outstanding Latvian architects, stained-glass artists and painters of the 20ies and 30ies who imparted to the building the characteristic features of their epoch. They installed the most magnificent treasure of the house, the largest Venetian chandelier in the entire Baltic States. There was silk wallpaper, the finest grand piano in Riga, tapestries, crystal, silver, roses in winter … here everything had to be unsurpassable.
In 1940 the BENJAMINS HOUSE was nationalised and in 1945 it became the home of the Writers, Composers and Artists’ Union. Initially the creative unions were strongly subjected to Stalinist ideology but a silent opposition to the regime was forming in them. In 1965 the Writers’ Union established a new tradition - the Poetry Days. The dissemination of literature among the people started, the influence of art in the society reach its highest apex, creative persons were honoured and loved, books were printed and read in large numbers. There were literary parties, concerts and exhibitions. In 1987 this was the place where the heads of the People’s Fronts of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia came together, the singing revolution had started. The barricade days of 1991 became a special testimony to the love and faith of the people and creative unions. One farmer had brought a slaughtered pig, which was carved and served on the terrace, women writers cooked soup and fed the defenders of Latvia. The doors of the building were open day and night for the guards of Riga.
In 2006 the BENJAMINS HOUSE opened its doors as EUROPA ROYALE RIGA hotel. Considerable construction work and renovation has been carried out in order to transform this mansion with its special history and unique layout into a functional, comfortable hotel with 60 bedrooms. Not only the building itself but also seven of its rooms have been declared cultural monuments of national importance and therefore the external appearance of the building and the group of representational rooms of the BENJAMINS HOUSE where the restaurant and bar is located, were retained without changes.
The majestic premises in the city centre are still a favourite meeting place of state presidents, ambassadors, ministers and deputies. Historical heredity in the magnificent mansion goes on. The building has an active and attractive public life with corporate parties, pre-Midsummer Day festivities for hotel guests, jazz concerts on the summer terrace, weddings and, birthday celebrations, Christmas art fairs. The frequently heard sentence “I’m here for the first time” is true, because till now only specially invited guests visited this house but now EUROPA ROYALE RIGA hotel welcomes everyone, giving visitors the chance to breathe in the air of history.