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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Customs House -Bran

The Customs House, historical and art monument situated at the feet of the castle, in the southern part, next to the Brasov – Câmpulung road, is a building put up in several stages, from stone and bricks, with brick vaults and wooden floors masked by mortar, with a wooden framework covered by sharp scaled tiles. The Customs House is an architectural complex made up of several buildings: a central pavilion having a partial basement, ground floor and one floor (with two houses united by a gangway) and three annexes united by stone and brick walls. At the end of the XIX century the customs buildings and the fortress become property of the Forestry Administration until December 1st 1920, when the authorities of the city of Brasov offer the castle, along with the customs buildings, as a gift to the royal family, becoming property of Queen Maria. At this point, some annexes were added and new floor. Out of the information given by Mr. Soare Constantin, lord of the castle of the royal family, who lived in the central pavilion of the house, in the attic rooms, we learn that, before the arrival of Queen Maria, the customs house had only a ground floor with “an attic as the barns have”, being inhabited by foresters having different things and tree seeds, among them being also “an engineer from Brasov, named Albrich”, who worked several times for Her Majesty the Queen, at the arranging works of the forests from the Bran castle.
The restoration and fitting out works were conducted by the same chief architect of the royal house, Karel Liman, who also worked at the restoration of the castle, the modifications resembling those made at the castle, using the “fachwerk” technique, where the wood is used both as construction material and as decorative element. The époque images confirm the architectural adjustments caused by mansard-roofing the attic, also appearing some Neo-baroque architectural elements. After 1929, col. Eugen Zwiedineck, Queen Maria’s aide, “was appointed responsible with the works taking place at Bran”; he requested the amount of 250.000 lei for the expenses for the year of 1929, in order to continue the works began at the “Suite House – a complete house with 6 rooms”. The fitting out works equipped the Customs House with current water supply gotten by collecting some springs from the Magura Mountain. The electric power was introduced in 1932, the same time the small power station on the Turcu river was brought into operation; the small power station supplied the electric power for the castle, for the other buildings belonging to the royal domain and for a series of other households in the vicinity of the castle, in January 1944 reaching a number of 96 subscribers.
From the memories of the Princess Ileana we learn that, during Queen Maria’s age “the entire building had been the headquarters of the people working for her – the aide, the secretary, the post officer – and accompanying her everywhere. The building also had guest rooms set up for the persons who were not her intimate friends, but to whom she wished to offer a mountain vacation, in fresh air”.
Between January 1st and May 30th 1930 “new works” are registered at the dwelling of the lord of the castle: the administration house, an old terracotta stove, 4 double windows, slats for the floors, isolation works for the walls, repair and painting works at a cooking machine, all these works being executed by Josef Schnell, master bricklayer at the Bran castle, and also works at the direct connection of the water installation with the safety hydrant from the yard of the administration buildings. In the same period a series of other expenses is registered for some maintenance works, executed also by Josef Schnell at the dwellings of the suite: 17 m2 of floors are repaired with new boards, the wet soil is removed and replaced with stone and dry gravel, the walls are plastered up with cement, 51 m2 of doors and windows are painted white, 170 m2 of floors are painted and waxed, three windows are repaired, windows are framed and three iron locks are assembled at the gates of the garages, and in July 1930 a door is built to “Mr. Colonel” – the suite entrance – and modifications are made to the pedestal from the “aquarium” in the castle’s yard , the name used for the decorative water pool, and to the one in front of the bathroom inside the customs house.On April 1st 1941 the staff of “The Administration of the A.S.I. Goods Archduchess Ileana” registered General Zwiedinek, assignee, and other three persons for administration, a list of other 14 men “in active service” at the Poeni Estate, and the bellow mentioned 7 persons for the Bran Castle: Soare Constantin, lord of the castle, Schabel Gheorghe, administrator, Toanci A., coachman, Reit Veta, maid, Mocan Nicolae, gardener, Iorgu Veta, worker, Nan Maria, worker, some of them living in the Customs House. Beginning with 1942 Carol Guttmann is appointed administrator of the Bran Castle, thing which caused a series of other new works, to arrange the dwelling of the administrator, probably in the Customs House. In 1944 the customs building would become the house of the Princess Ileana, for the next four years, “exception making some short periods during the summer”, when they could afford living at the castle. In 1948 the royal family was compelled to go in exile, the estate entering the state patrimony. In April 1944 some expenses were made with the”setting up of the downer apartments (The Customs House), as dwelling for Princess Ileana”, the carpentry and painting works being executed by M. Rucareanu, the works at the electric system were done by Ion Fânaru, the ones at the water systems in the bathroom and at the sewers were made by the Fabricius Company from Brasov. They used this opportunity to install a Schmidt terracotta stove and to clean other three stoves, task accomplished by Gheorghe Stefan.
We find a description of the customs building in the memoirs of Princess Ileana: “In the spring of 1944, since the weather was still cold, I took the youngest children to a pleasant building, at the feet of the hill the castle was built on. This building used to function as a customs point, because Bran was situated at the former border between Romania and Transylvania. There were actually two houses with one floor, connected by a wide gangway, we used as a dinning room. The walls were thick, the ceiling down, and the floors were made of wide and dark colored boards. The interior was painted white, as most of the Romanian houses. The windows had flower pots with nasturtiums; it was generally a very enjoyable place for what we considered at the time to be a temporary dwelling. The two bodied house was continued at each end with high walls. At one end they formed a farm-like yard, where we kept some chickens, gooses and the children’s pets – rabbits, including a white Angora rabbit and an orphan deer cub. At the other end, between the high walls, a garage and the watch room were sheltered because, as the custom may be at any royal residence, we always had a small guard and a sentinel at each door.” The époque inventories of the Customs House interiors specify pieces of different origin, most of them disappearing after 1948, only a small part being present in the museum’s collection. We learn from Mr. Constantin Soare that the rococo furniture was placed in the “first room” of the customs house and, according to the inventory from 1938, the neo-rococo pieces were mentioned in the 1st room (shop). In 1948, most of the pieces belonging to these furniture sets were deposited in the Large House (The A.C.F. Colony), at the Customs House remaining only the sofa and the crystal-boarded table, moved into the dressing room.
The paintings chosen for the decoration of these interiors were mostly paintings with marine themes or family portraits, some of them being kept today in the museum’s collection: the oil painting “Princess Elisabeta” by Lucasievici from the children’s bedroom, two paintings by Dimitrie Stiubei from Stefan’s room, with marine themes “sail ship on a stormy sea”, “agitated sea and flying seagulls”, a painting by Lucasievici “Ileana by the stove” and one by C. Constantinescu representing “a sea corner with three boats”, “Princess Alexandra” by Lucasievici from the dinning room, work painted in 1945 and a landscape from Balcic, painted by C. Constantinescu. The painting “Rider with a red flag” signed by Rouband in 1892, was hanged in the room of Princess Ileana. The colonel’s rooms preferred the war scenes signed by Stoica. From 1922 until the end of 1947, in the southern annex with garage, workshop and telephones operated “The Bran Castle Post Office”. The garages were inside the customs, two cars being specified for the Bran Castle on 29.03.1945, out of the 8 cars belonging to the Archduchess Ileana, a Plymouth Livraison, for luggage and persons and a Farge Camion (a truck), inherited from Queen Maria. After 1948 the customs building becomes property of The Ministry of Forestry, in the main body of the building functioning the offices of the Forestry Administration – at the ground floor – and the protocol rooms – at the 1st floor, the rooms for the staff being also at the 1st floor, in the southern part. In December 1957, the projection theme for the repair, maintenance and arranging works for the “Bran Castle Complex”, suggested, concerning the customs building, setting up a museum presenting the commerce, transportation and customs relations, and, as concerns the building of the Forestry Administration, organizing staff dwellings, administrative offices, warehouses and a documentary department to present the history of the Bran Castle. The restoration in a museum of the medieval customs institution from Bran was realized only in 1987, when the exhibition “The Bran Customs Point” was set up in several rooms from the ground floor of the central pavilion.

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