Yerevan: Abovian Street

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Yerevan Walking Tour: Abovian Street: Republic Square to Arami Street

Yerevan Walking Tour:
Abovian Street: Republic Square to Arami Street

Modern Abovian Street (24) stretches from Republic Square to the hillside district of Kanaker. Throughout its history, the street has been the pulse of Yerevan. Abovian is the busiest street in Yerevan, night and day, a place where friends meet to stroll under shade trees or sip coffee at sidewalk cafés, where shops vie for customers, and where a tattered old man once walked among the crowds handing out flowers to young girls.

In 1869 the street was named Astafian in honor of Yerevan governor, Major-General Astafiev, and became a grand promenade with (now demolished) St. Poghos-Petros (Peter-Paul) and St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Virgin Katoghikeh) churches dominating in the plan. The most wealthy and influential citizens in Yerevan lived along this prospect and its adjoining side streets. It boasted several European shops, including Aram Ter-Avatikian's 'profit house' and Yegor Khanzatian's “Saxon” fabric and fancies store. It was renamed “Abovian” in 1920 for the 19th century Armenian writer Khachatur Abovian.

What remains of that world, an "Armenian Belle Époque" (late 19th-early 20th cc.) are a handful of buildings. The 1856 city plan envisaged the architectural redevelopment of the city. Those who could afford it commissioned architects Vasilii Mirzorian and Boris Mehrabian to construct ever more impressive mansions.

One of the buildings designed by Mirzoian (together with architects Vasiliev and Simonson) is the Boy's Gymnasium (25) now housing the Babajanian Philharmonic Hall at No. 2, Abovian (1916, 1953-1977). Originally a large rectangular complex with a courtyard, the only surviving feature from the original design is the black tufa facade overlooking Abovian street. Since 1920 the building has served different purposes: a girls orphanage during the genocide, State Public Library, for the Writers' Union of Armenia and as the Yerevan Culture House. From 1932 the reception hall of the gymnasium has been the Armenian Philharmonic Hall.

No. 1, Abovian Str. (26), across the street from the Boy's Gymnasium, is the Aram Ter-Avetikian “profit house”, built in 1914. It once housed a medical clinic, a thriving trade business and family residences. The two-storey building had double and single rows of rooms and a courtyard. Combining red and black tufa, the buildings have flourishes of Art Nouveau details in the doorway and windows. During World War I, Ter-Avetikian gave the building to the Red Cross to use as a clinic. In the spring of 1921 the prominent Armenian poet Hovhannes Tumanian lived here with his daughter.

Original text edited by the International Council on Monuments and Sites-Armenian National Committee (ICOMOS/Armenia).