The Square of Kopchetata, or as we revealed in one of our previous articles - the place where the circus tent was erected many years ago, is one of the liveliest places in the city under the hills and is the least known by its official name - Stefan Stambolov. This space, locked between Battenberg, Gurko, Patriarch Evtimii and Laveleye streets, has a long and rich history.
In the 1930s, the remains of the ancient Roman baths were discovered under today's Balkan Bingo. These baths of Philippopolis are the oldest building we have information about in the area of Stefan Stambolov Square. In fact, archaeologists have discovered two buildings built on top of each other - the older one was built in the I or II century, and probably after it was destroyed a new one was built in the IV century. The baths had cold and warm rooms and impressive mosaics - both on the floor and on the walls. They were located in the very center of the city - as we can see today, the Forum is a few meters away.
During the Ottoman period, the most impressive building there was the so-called Aladzha Mosque (translated as "colorful mosque"). It occupied approximately the space of today's fountain and the large plane trees on Alexander Battenberg Street. It was probably built in the 15th century, after which it underwent reconstruction. It was not large, but inside it was extremely interesting - the whole was lined with multicolored tiles, typical of Ottoman architecture (hence its name). Unfortunately, the mosque was demolished in the 1920s. The space was cleared only in the early 60's.
After the Liberation, the space was formed as a neighborhood with many hotels. First, the Targovski Hotel appeared, which also housed several of Plovdiv's first photographic studios (the building diagonally from today's Balkan Bingo). Twenty years later, in 1908, the Molle Hotel opened. The building, designed by the Italian architect Mariano Pernigoni (who also built the currently reconstructed building of the Central Railway Station), is known as extremely modern for its time and the first with an elevator in Plovdiv. In these years, in general, the whole ensemble on the side of Knyaz Alexander Battenberg was formed.
In 1912 the construction of the present building of the Municipality of Plovdiv began. It was originally designed for the District Administration. The project was implemented after a competition (107 years have passed since then) by architect Nikola Neshov. Second in the competition remained one of the most impressive Bulgarian architects - Anton Tornyov (designed the Sofia church St. Paraskeva). The building was not built according to its overall plan - in fact it was supposed to reach the Main Street, but this wing of the building was not realized. Much later, the free-standing building to the right of the municipality was built. It is one of the most beautiful buildings of arch. Boyan Chinkov and was raised in the mid-30s for Dr. Krushev. The municipal administration was there for some time, and today there is a gallery on the ground floor.
Also before the Balkan Wars, the appearance of the square on the side of Laveleye Street began to take shape. The building on the corner of Laveleye and Naiden Gerov was built first. This building was also built for a hotel of the Protohristov family - Hotel Palace. There was also a project for the neighboring building in the direction of Tsar Simeon's Garden by the architectural duo Stoykov-Gradinarov from 1923, which also didn’t completely coincide with the realized building. One of the most beautiful, but also the most underestimated buildings is the last one built on this side of Stambolov Square - the house of Elena Samooglu and Kleoniki Protohristova. The project is from 1936 and again by Stoyko Stoykov and Boris Gradinarov, but in a completely different from their typical style. To this day, the building is perfectly protected by its owners and is an exclusive example of modern architecture from the 30s.
Later, the appearance of the last, northern "side" of the square was formed. The first building was erected in 1922 - the building on the corner of Patriarch Evtimii and Naiden Gerov. Again, the architects are Stoykov-Gradinarov. Curious is the history of the next building built - Hotel Astoria, started in 1923. The designer is the little-known Haskovo engineer Zafir Georgiev, who was building on his own family land. Although not one of the popular architects, the building that now houses the Rafi restaurant is original and very attractive. The building has been under construction for many years, and until the mid-1930s there were disputes with the municipal administration over its condition and ownership. Some time after the start of construction, engineer Zafir Georgiev and his wife Mara Georgieva divorced, leaving the building to the wife.
At the end of the 1930s, today's bingo was built - originally Balkan cinema. The elegant building is very interesting, with a huge terrace on the top floor, which terrace, however, was closed and upgraded during socialism. The architect is Konstantin Panayotov from Sofia.
During all this time there was still no square. The area closed by the four streets - the Main Street, Patriarch Evtimii, Emil de Laveleye and Gurko was built up with low-rise buildings with various commercial areas – a market and others. One of the buildings was a cinema, some of the houses were unfinished, and the remains of the demolished Aladzha mosque in the early 20th century were visible. It was not until the 1960s that the neighborhood was cleared and the present-day square with the pelican fountain, the garden and the pedestrian space was finally formed.