The hotel was part of an architectural complex that offered tourists from the beginning of the 20th century all of the comforts of a memorable vacation: hotel, restaurant, café, tub baths and steam baths.
In 1891, the Oradea architect Kálmán Rimanóczy, Sr. commenced the construction of a modern hotel on the shore of Crișul Repede (the Rapid Criș), which would feature tub baths and steam baths. The walls of the first floor were erected in June, and in September, the roof was also finished. The interiors were laid out in the next phase, similarly to the exteriors, in the eclectic style.
The Architecture and the Architect
The architect of this complex was Rimanóczy Kálmán, Sr. He lived between 1840 and 1908, so the peak of his creation coincided with the final quarter of the 19th century, when the architectural representation style, which featured visual effects that could not fail, was the eclectic style. The majority of the public easily fell under the spell of this style that evoked times past, although it had already been surpassed by the new approaches of modernity. Its broad stylistic frame was where the nobility of neoclassical rhythms, which were calm and clear, and the grace of Renaissance-inspired Putti mixed well, these being stylistic unions that were well-harmonized due to the ebullient, gleeful neo-rococo-derived decoration. However, aside from the exuberant diversity of the graphic motifs that compose the eclectic style, the architect’s care in keeping the classic rhythm and the compositional rigor of the façades is readily noticeable. This is most evident in the case of the first wing’s façade, which is directed towards Crişul Repede, and erected between 1890 and 1892. Extended across three levels, the hotel had 30 rooms, a restaurant and a café.
The wing facing the river had a unitary composition in what concerns the façades: both, the one facing the Criș and the one facing Ferdinand Square, which flanked the terrace of the former café “La Regele Ungariei” (“The Hungarian King’s Café”), have a central axis marked by a jutty. It centers and unifies the alert rhythm of the plenitudes and voids through ample composite designs. The subject of the main relief is a group of two Putti roughhousing in the corolla of a giant seashell. Two robust Atlanteans, of Baroque inspiration, keep watch over the scene. The entire ornamentation is modeled after late Renaissance elements with Baroque inflections, specific to an architecture that aimed to be emblematic for the city of Oradea (which it also managed to do). But it is not just the stucco work that creates elegant visual effects. Skilled craftsmen also offer the visual spectacle of a high-class ironwork. The semicircular balcony resembles the bow of a gondola floating on imaginary waters.
The Steam and Tub Baths
The main attraction of this hotel was the steam baths, which made it unique, but also gave it a view, full of an intimist charm, towards the river bank. The guest was, at the same time, at the core of the city, and could also enjoy the silence of contemplating, shaded as they were by the willows, the beauty of the town.
The spacious basin, suggesting the Roman baths, was separated from the other basins, which were covered with seashell-shaped roofs, with a corridor which was encased in ogival arcades. Aside from the basins, showers and a sauna were also built. The tub baths were on the first floor, while the second was meant for the guest rooms. The bath and the rooms were opened to the public on October 1, 1891. The inscription RIMANÓCZY GŐZFÜRDŐ (The Rimanóczy Steam Bath) was initially on the façade facing Ferdinand Square, on the ridge of the roof.
A new staircase was built in 1904, while the hallway facing Ferdinand Square of the old wing was transformed into a restaurant, and the tub baths were moved to the ground floor, being replaced by comfortable guest rooms. A brewery was also installed in front of the façade facing the Criș, next to the baths.
After 1989, the former steam bath was completely transformed at the initiative of Ţiriac Bank.
The Royal Café
The second stage in the construction of the hotel conceived by K. Rimanoczy, Sr. began in 1900, when the northern wing was erected over the land of the café “La regele Ungariei.” The building had the same function as its southern forebear: a hotel and a café. The rooms offered a unique, panoramic view on Piața Teatrului (the Theater Square), and the Royal Café became the main point of attraction for the recreation of the people of Oradea. The new 25-room construction and the luxurious Royal Café from the ground floor were opened on October 15, 1900. Before the café, which resembled the New York café in Budapest, a beer garden was also installed by the lessee.
The elegant decoration of the interiors of the Royal Café can still be admired today in the Butoiul de Aur (Golden Barrel) Restaurant. Neo-Baroque elements predominate among the rich ornamentation of the suite of rooms. These are separated by decorative arches, enriched at the corners with perforated and gilded rocailles. The short sides of the two performance halls are closed off with tripartite mirrors. The ornamentation of the borders of the mirrors, featuring rocailles, volutes and foliage motifs are derived from the Baroque style, with the three parts being tied together by naked female busts. The ceiling is covered in stucco work representing leaves, stalks, golden rocailles, and red and yellow roses. Among the figurative representations of the ceiling, we have winged archer putti, representing Cupid, and putti represented in various images related to gambling. Thus, we have putti playing chess or the lyre, putti that are groggy, leaning on tables, and, among the rocailles in the corners, there are elements such as the glass, the bottle, dominoes, chess, playing cards, the violin, all referencing parties and other aspects of social life. The square room, in between the two performance halls, is covered with an elegant metal overhead light well. The structure is comprised of a square grate, supported by two transversal metal bars, decorated with delicate geometrical and foliage motifs cast in forged iron.
Even if its purpose has been shifted, the spectacular hall of the former Royal Café still is one of the most beautiful performance halls of the time due to the exuberance of its decoration.