Alberta ielaRiga's Jugendstil Treasure
Alberta iela (Albert Street) first appeared on the Riga scene in 1900, named after the historical founder of Riga, Bishop Albert. Shortly thereafter there began a building program which brought to life some of the grandest houses ever built in the German Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil, style of the day.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Riga had attained a status as a cultural and mercantile center on par with its rivals in Western Europe. These houses reflected not only Riga's vibrancy and ambition, but the force of its architectural personalities: Mihail Eisenstein (father of famous director Sergei Eisenstein), and others.
Many of the greatest examples of Jugendstil architecture fell in the wholesale destruction of Germany's cities in World War II. Latvia's treasures, still intact, now stood behind the Iron Curtain, to be forgotten in the West.
Alberta iela, too, was wiped from Riga's consciousness. In 1941, the Soviets renamed it Friča Gaiļa iela for a communist activist. The Soviet encyclopediae (Latvijas PSR Maza Enciklopedia and Encyclopedia Riga) claim Fricis was thrown out a fourth floor window of No.13 Alberta iela at the behest of Latvia's bourgeousie government in a staged "apparent suicide." As occupiers are wont to do, the Germans then renamed it Hollanderu iela, from 1942 to 1944. Friča Gaiļa iela made its comeback with the Soviet reoccupation, and so Alberta iela was lost in obscurity. In 1990, a year before independence, Alberta iela was restored—perhaps as a harbinger—or at least the first step in the hope that it could rekindle its glory days after half a century of neglect.
For all the historic buildings lost in Riga, some destroyed simply to satisfy Soviet spite, many more survived. While still mere infants in the life of Riga, which boasts residences dating back to the 15th century, the houses of Alberta iela, and those throughout Riga like them, may be the single largest, and perhaps greatest, surviving architectural legacy of the German Art Nouveau movement. For this reason, and for the preservation of medieval architecture in Old Riga, the "Historic Centre of Riga" has been declared a UNESCO Site of Cultural and Natural Heritage.
To find Alberta iela on a Riga map, look for it (one block long) just northeast of Kronvalda Parks.
Click on the number to see pictures of each house or use the menu on top.
History of the names of Alberta iela taken from "Rigas ielu, laukumu, parku, un tiltu nosaukumu raditajs", Anda Zalite senior editor, published in 2001 and copyrighted by the Latvian National Library and the Riga History and Maritime Museum. That information is reproduced with their express permission only for use herein, and no other use is authorized.
Updated: August, 2016