Toward the end of the 19th century, Romania became one of the main European grain exporters, in close competition with the producers of Southern Russia (the Black Sea steppe). It was a direct result of the Crimean and the 1877-’78 Russian-Turkish wars that resulted in unencumbered international access to the waterways of the Danube, the Black Sea and the Bosporus straight, which opened again the trade routes of the region for first time since the Ottoman conquest, four centuries before.
The extraordinary demand from the industrialised countries of the Victorian Western Europe for large quantities of grains, made possible an unprecedented economic and cultural flourishing in Romania and from that period dates most of the picturesque French inspired architecture of Bucharest (what I call the “Little Paris” style) and of many other Romanian provincial towns.
The industrial architecture is another chapter of that development, seen today in the old barns that dot the countryside and the peculiar Victorian industrial buildings of the steam engine mills from the grain exporting ports on the Danube.
I found during my fieldwork an excellent example of a surviving 19thcentury barn in a village in Gorj county, south-western Romania.
The barn is still preserving the old the inscriptions above the main doors that show the year when it was built, in 1880, and the monogram the initial owner, “AF”. It has large dimensions and is functional, used by local peasants, despite obvious damages and decay after so many decades of poor maintenance.
The structure is in a satisfactory state, including the under floor natural ventilation system made from a succession of brick arches that allowed the air to circulate freely under and throughout the whole building. That system is, according to the local peasants, much more efficient than the expensive electric ventilation installed in modern grain storage buildings.
The barn, which is now left to deteriorate by the actual owner, would constitute into the right hands, a beautiful conversion project of a wonderful piece of Victorian agricultural-industrial heritage set in the glorious countryside of southern Romania.
This type of barn is typical for large land holding farms that operated on an industrial scale. The peasants, as small holders, had their barns built within the family farmhouse compound and innumerable 19th and early 20th century such examples are found throughout the vast Romanian countryside. The oldest ones, some dating from as early as the 16thcentury, are located in the old Saxon lands of southern Transylvania. (©Valentin Mandache, www.viapontica.wordpress.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)
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