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Unirii Street / Elisabeth Street (Erzsebet utcza)

One of the oldest and main throughfares of the medieval fortress was St Michael, nowadays called Unirii Street. It still preserves the memory and the bustling atmosphere of the bygone town.

The main street, running from the medieval fortress’ eastern gate, known as St George, to the western gate, St Michael, was named after the latter gate. At the turn of the nineteenth century, when Cserni shot the photo capturing the aura of the bygone age, it was called Elisabeth Street (Erzsebet utcza). In 1918, the street was renamed Inochentie Micu Klein, then it was called Unirii, then Nicolae Iorga, and again Unirii. It was the main axis of the fortress, confined to the northwest by Pharmacy Street (Apotheke Gasse) and the Court Chamber building and to the west by the military hospital’s administrative building.

The Court Chamber (Department of Finances) building was constructed during the first half of the eighteenth century, as soon as the Habsburgs took control of Alba Carolina. It incorporated an older building in order to accommodate the needs of the new administrative staff. The institution was in charge of financial administration and was subordinate to the Treasury. It housed offices of commissars in charge with collecting revenues from mining, salt mines and taxation.

With the construction of the Vauban fortress, the role of St Michael Street diminished. By 1850, it no longer had an official name; it changed into a commercial and administrative street, serving the needs of various social categories ranging from soldiers to priests to townspeople to farmers. The main axis of the fortress became instead the route between the new gates: the street running from the magnificent Charles Gate (Third Gate) to the Bishop’s Gate (Fourth Gate).

The street preserved the memory of the historic air of Alba Carolina fortress, as the old photos reveal. Although there was public illumination, the street was neither paved nor systematized. Today we recognize among the still existing buildings the shops of the Jewish traders. The cabinet of physician A[braham] Mandel was in the building located at north, on the corner of Post Street (Postgasse). In 1928, Abraham Mandel owned a Chrysler car, for which he paid local tax to the city of Alba Iulia. The Mandels were an important family of physicians in Alba Iulia. Among their members, in the first half of twentieth century was Dr. Iacob Mandel and Dr. Paul Mandel: father and son. The building of Martin Ludwig and the shop owned by M. Friedmann are gone. In their place, a complex of new buildings was erected. In the first half of twentieth century, Mihail Ludwig, probably a descendant of Ludwig family, owned a firm registered in Râșnov and a bakery on Unirii Street, where he sold bakery products. M. Friedmann was probably a descendant of Abraham Friedmann, rabbi of the Jewish community of Alba Iulia in 1879. By 1900, M. Friedmann owned a general store in the fortress, which sold food, sweets, garments for civilians and uniforms for military. In the first half of twentieth century, Mauritius Friedmann’s firm was registered in Sălaj County, while in Alba Iulia he had only a commercial agency. On the southern façade of the street was the imposing enceinte wall of the fortress’ commander residence, the former Mikó house (seventeenth century).

We know that in the 1940s, on Unirii Street were the following shops: at No. 1 a bookstore and stationery, at No. 3 a leather shop and watchmaking shop and at No. 7 a workshop for frames and paintings. (L.S.)