Stable doors: Burnt historic building to receive protected status – Bulgaria’s Culture Minister
The historic “King’s Stables” building in central Sofia, the roof of which was destroyed in a large fire this past weekend, will receive the highest status of national cultural protected status, Bulgaria’s Minister of Culture Boil Banov said in television interviews on July 30.
There has been outrage among Bulgarians about the fire at the building. Possible causes of the inferno are being investigated, with arson not ruled out.
Banov said that the ministry would be careful to be procedurally correct in issuing the decree protecting the building, lest it be open to challenge in court.
He said that he was concerned about a court challenge because of the several cases that the owners of the building were conducting among themselves and the lack of clarity about ownership.
Sofia municipality chief architect Zdravko Zdravkov said in a July 30 television interview that according to the cadastral map, the building was owned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, according to the title deed lodged at Oborishte local municipality, the building was owned by the Interior Ministry. It was possible that the discrepancy was a result of a technical error in the inputting of the properties in the cadastral map, he said.
Zdravkov said that a commission appointed by mayor Yordanka Fandukova would assess the damage to the building and order it restored. Should the owner refuse, it was possible that the municipality would seize the building and seek the money to restore it.
Banov said that it remained to be proven whether the fire was arson or an accident. He said that to some extent, this did not matter at the moment. What mattered was for the building to be protected under the Cultural Heritage Act.
He said that it was pointless for an owner to burn such a building, because the law obliged them to restore the building to its original state. Banov, who rejected calls for his resignation, said that he was “furious” about the fire.
The “King’s Stables” building, at the corner of Dondukov and Vassil Levski boulevards in Sofia, has been the subject of controversy in recent years.
In autumn 2017, former Sofia regional governor Vesselin Penev was charged with causing a loss to the state of more than 11 million leva in connection with unfavourable property transactions regarding the building. Property appraiser Yulia Tsekova was charged with making a false assessment of the value of the property. Both deny wrongdoing.
The buildings date from the time of Prince Ferdinand I, monarch of Bulgaria from 1887 to 1918.
The buildings were used, over the years, to store and service various luxury cars and limousines owned by the royal family and other VIPs, including the Mercedes given to Bulgaria’s Boris III by Hitler.
After the buildings were nationalised in 1944, their contents were transferred, first to the film centre in Boyana, and then in the 1950s to the Sofia History Museum.
The buildings were a monument of culture until 1986, when they became immersed in a long-standing dispute over ownership of the property. It was from then on that the buildings became increasingly dilapidated.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)