The Baneasa Hippodrome

the baneasa hippodrome Horse-racing in northern Bucharest in the early 20th century

The Baneasa Hippodrome 21.11.2020

Welcome. I am Eugen Nasta

France was Romania's model regarding modernization. It is from that country the Romanian elites borrowed almost everything. The concept of loisir was one of the ideas favoring the development of Romanian towns and Romanian economy, as well as the reshaping of the collective mindset. One of the great attractions of Bucharest aristocracy before 1945 was the hippodrome in northern Bucharest, known as the Baneasa hippodrome. A very familiar landmark of Bucharest's daily life, the hippodrome in Baneasa, almost forgotten today, for more than four decades used to be the most important venue for equine events.

The Romanian Jockey Club was established in Bucharest in 1875, in a bid to improve the English purebred horse. It was the world's third such club, after those in England and France. A Jockey Club had been established in Iasi in 1862, and it joined the Jockey Club in Bucharest in 1875. Its stated aim was the improvement of horse breeds, but also the staging of horserace competitions, in order to test the quality of the horses. The first horse race was held in 1875, the year when the Club was established. The club's honorary president was Romania's future sovereign, Carol I, he was the one who inaugurated the club, and after him, all Kings of Romania would be holders of the title. But the one whose contribution was the most significant was conservative politician Alexandru Marghiloman, dubbed as the father of Romanian horse racing. The breeding and improvement of the quality of the horses as well as the staging of races, favored the emergence of a new sports discipline, horse racing, which needed a venue so that it could be properly practiced. The first hippodrome in the northern part of Bucharest was built in 1881. Two decades later, on the same premises, the old hippodrome was demolished, and the new one began to take shape. It was one of Bucharest's most beautiful buildings, proudly standing on a par with other such hippodromes in Europe.

The historian Cezar Buiumaci specializes in the history of Bucharest. Hie expertise is remarkable as regards the history of successive transformations of Romania's capital city in the last two hundred years.

Cezar Buiumaci:

"The hippodrome in Baneasa was built by the Jockey Club, works took off in 1902 and lasted 7 years all told. The one who signed the building contract for this edifice was the vice president of the club, politician Alexandru Marghiloman, while Leopold Schindl was the entrepreneur. Joining Alexandru Marghiloman as initiators were George Moruzi and the then mayor of the capital city, Nicolae Fleva, the one who would donate his own plot of land for the construction of the hippodrome. The architect of the Baneasa hippodrome was Ion D. Berindei and the edifice was designed in the style of the ones in Longchamp and Chantilly. About this hippodrome, Mircea Berindei, architect Berindei's nephew, said the overhanging of the stands was actually an overhanging platform, therefore there were no supporting pillars, including a second stand overlapping the first one lying at ground level. "

The testing of the resistance of the overhanging platform was made, according to accounts, by loading a regiment of soldiers onto it, headed by the designing engineer himself, architect I. D. Berindei.

Horse races were very popular, just as the media of that time reflects it. However, the hippodrome was the place were lay persons met not only for the sports reasons. 

Cezar Buiumaci:

"The hippodrome had a seating capacity of 5,000 people, yet more often than not three or four times as many people would be on the premises. The hippodrome was inaugurated with great pomp, with the Royal family and special guests attending the event. Here flat and harness races were organized, the flat races being staged on Thursdays and Sundays, while the harness races were held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The hippodrome was frequented by the Bucharest aristocracy, being located in the city's promenade area. It was built at the farther end of the Kiseleff Avenue, an area that will subsequently develop along the loisir component, since the National Park, today's Herastrau, will be set up here in the 4th decade of the 20th century. The park was built by Carol II, on the occasion of the second edition of the Month of Bucharest. The celebration will have beneficial consequences on the area, since the Triumphant Arch would be refurbished, while the rearrangement of the market at the entrance in the new park thus created a pleasant atmosphere. The entire area became a favorite one for leisure. Yet the fame the hippodrome acquired was one that attracted people from all walks of life, as here the curios ones came from outside Bucharest, with all horse and horserace lovers. Here bookmakers were held. Events were also held, which do not fall into the category of horse racing, such as the 1909 flight demonstration of French pilot Louis Blériot. The demonstration was held by the grass court of the hippodrome."

Rated as bourgeois activities, incompatible with the proletarian way of life promoted by the communist regime beginning 1945, the horseraces were disbanded and the hippodrome demolished.

Cezar Buiumaci:

"During the communist regime, the hippodrome in Baneasa was demolished, the Casa Scanteii Polygraphic Compound, today's House of the Free Press, being first built on the premises, initially it was designed somewhere on Chitila Road, while subsequently the Exhibition Park was built here, dedicated to the achievements of national economy. The edifice of Casa Scânteii is a representative edifice for the Soviet-inspired realist-socialist architecture, which embodied the momentum of the submissiveness of the regime in Bucharest. As for the exhibition compound, it was meant to display the achievements of a new type of centralized and planned economy, also taking up on the Soviet model."

Re-established after the December 1989 evolution, the Romanian Jockey Club stages horseraces even to this day. But the hippodrome playinh host to the races is in Ploiesti, 60 kilometers from Bucharest.

(Translation by Eugen Nasta)
Publicat: 2020-11-21 14:00:00
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