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Chernivtsy City Hall
Chernivtsy City Hall in winter-2010

Old and new traditions of Chernivtsy City Hall

City Hall in Chernivtsy

Translated by Olga Scherbaniuk


European city without this type of building is like a man without diploma of Secondary Education. It is the heart of the city. It`s the place, where officials write laws, welcome guests, and earlier it was the place where criminals were adjudged. This is the building which claims the status of the city and emphasizes its long (or not :o)) history. We talks about City Hall.

Among other buildings of this type in Ukraine Chernivtsy's one is not so old as the City hall in Kamyanets-Podilsky, so exquisite as in Dobromyl, so modern as in Ivano-Frankivsk or so famous for its architects as Town hall in Buchach. But we can`t imagine Chernivtsy without it for more then one hundred and fifty years. So let’s look at it better.


History: summary

It was decided to build some nice facility for magistrates in Chernivtsy in 20 years of XIX century. Firstly they planned to built the city hall in in quite another area of the city, on the outskirts, on a high cliff over the river Prut. But engineer Adolf Marin, German from Kalush, understood that city would develop in the opposite south direction. He had been proving the rightness of his views for 18 years, and won. The decision about the place of construction was made in 1830.


But 11 years past and 14 of March, 1841 Chernivtsy municipality confirmed contract, drawn up between Dr. Christoph Von Petrovich and magistrate on land №298, which belonged to brothers Christoph, Jacob and Peter Petrovich. Land was purchased by magistrates for 8000 florins for the construction of City Hall by decree dated April 24, 1841 (number 7872). The foundation stone of future City Hall was laid 19 of April, 1843. According to tradition, a few gold coins and parchment deed with a message to posterity were put to this stone.

A place for the building was chosen ideally, instead of making typical project of City Hall in Vienna.

The building in the style of late classicism with a high tower and courtyard grew in four years in the center of rapidly developed city. At first it was a two-storey building. The decision about building the third floor appeared in 1847 during construction.


And since then this building was always used for its direct purpose: Chernivtsy city hall saw the Austrian governance, Romanian occupation and Russian officials. Now Ukrainian blue and yellow flag flies over it, and emblem of the city adorn the façade of city hall.

Moments of copper bird`s life

As it is shown on old postcards, the City Hall was decorated with huge gilded double-headed eagle, the symbol of Austro-Hungarian Empire. This “bird”, covered with gold, appeared on the roof immediately after building of City Hall was over and “lived” there until 1914. 1903 the bird was renovated, because gold had been washed away with snows and rains… And then The First World War began, and Russian soldiers took the city three times.


On the 2 of September, 1914 Vice-governor of the Bessarabia province Sergey Yevreyinov ordered to remove enemy’s “bird” (That`s paradox, but Russians also have the similar double-headed nonsense on their emblem). So burgomaster ordered the firemen to remove it. But they sabotaged this order and just cover the “bird” with three-colored flag.

Authorities changed several times, and every times it was the same order to remove “bird” from the city hall. But weather helped lazy firemen. It was really cold, so it was impossible to work.

Russian authority hired architect to remove “the eagle” and take it to the province’s police department as valuable trophy. But Austrian army attacked again and Russians forgot about the “bird” in hurry, and firemen had a chance to steal it and take it to the fire brigade building.

When Austrian authorities again settled in the city, firemen immediately boasted their feat. Recovery of “eagle’s nest” on the roof of the tower was the first decision of new magistrate. Also they ordered to make a wooden copy of “bird”.

Tradition of making “eagles” was born in Vienna. So during military times in Austro-Hungarian Empire people collected additional funds for charity. A man could buy nails for wooden “eagles” to give this money for charity to help orphans and widows.


“Eagle” was solemnly set on the previous place only June 16, 1916. But not for long. Russian army seized the city for the third time and took off the “trophy bird”. And wooden copy of the eagle traveled with Austrian army to the Prague.

Few words about clocks, red flag and useful snow.

There is one more interesting feature of Chernivtsy City Hall – two clocks on the tower.

First clock shows time on the City Hall tower, another one is a gift, made by mayor Antoni Kochanowski (1817-1906), and was put on the front side of building. Dial of the clock glows at night. Mayor ordered the clock in Prague and presented it when he was elected for the second time. Antoni Kochanowski was real “father” of the city since 1866. He was a mayor for 42 years, more than anyone else. It`s unique case in history. There were built a beautiful theatre, power, big building for senate during his management. Also there was launched a new tram line, streets were covered with paving stones. Antoni Kochanowski asked to release him from duties of mayor when he was 88 because of venerable age.

50-meter tower of the City Hall was located on really deep foundations – 6 meters, because City hall is a “visit card” of the city, and it was built for ages. This building served not only representative but also very vital function – it was a fire watchtower. It was really great outlook from the balcony of the City Hall, so fireman could see whole city. And if he saw the fire somewhere, he raised the red flag or lighted a lantern at night at that side where fire was. So people knew where they could run to extinguish the fire.


Once, during a hard frost, fireman, when he was drunk a little, whether fell asleep or just slipped and fell from a high balcony. Fortunately there was a cover of snow on the roof and he survived.


Symbolism of symbols.

It may be said that November 12, 2004 new tradition appeared in Chernivtsy. Exactly at 12 o’clock A.M. trumpeter, dressed in folk Ukrainian costume, plays “Marichka” on all four sides of the world under the clock tower of the City Hall. A huge crowd of citizens and guests can listen to the magnificent melody. That`s quite symbolic thing, because magistrates told people news on three languages exactly on this balcony.


By the way, it was impossible for person to become a policeman in the end of XIX – beginning of the XX century in Chernivtsy if he didn`t know three languages. The capital of the region is situated on the crossroads of East and West and it was always tolerant ant multinational.

Futuristic postcard of Czernowitz
This bird - the hero of the story
The trumpeter dressed in Ukrainian costume plays on the clock tower at noon
New Year eve in 2005
Germans at the City Hall
This time the Romanians at the city hall
Old picture of the City Hall in Chernivtsy
3rd of Febryary 2006. Filming the tv-documentery "Unique Ukraine"
Unusual view of Chernivtsy City Hall
If the fireman slipped and fell now...
View from the clock tower
The trumpeter on the clock tower at noon
City Hall Street. 1915.
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