Khreshchatyk is one of the shortest (1.23 kilometres) and widest (130 metres) central streets in the world.
There are different versions as to the origin of its name. One of them is connected with Khreshchata (meaning “crossed”) Valley which stretched here back in the times of Kyivan Rus and was crossed by ravines.
The forming and building of Khreshchatyk began in the late 18th century on the spot where now is Evropeyska (European) Square. The houses were made of timber. In 1804-1806 the city’s first Municipal Theatre was built at the start of Khreshchatyk which was then called Teatralna Street. In 1851 the wooden structure of the theatre was torn down, and in its place a three-storeyed Evropeyska Hotel was erected to the design by A.Beretti.
The first stone building on Khreshchatyk Street was the landowner Holowinski’s private residence where up to 1849 was quartered the province post-office with compartment for mail-coaches.
Khreshchatyk was the first street in Kyiv where gas lighting, water-supply and sewerage appeared. Later here appeared electric lighting, and first trams (1891) and trolleybuses (1935) started running. In the middle of the 19th century, a decorative garden on Volodymyrska Hill was laid at the start of the street. In the 1870-1880s, on Khreshchatyk there were mostly three-storeyed houses, hotels, shops and administrative buildings with premises for offices, banks, cinemas, restaurants, etc. Thus it assumed significance of the central street of Kyiv. In 1904 its road surfacing was covered with granite cubes. Now it is paved with asphalt. During WWII Khreshchatyk was ruined, but the Kyivites did their best to restore their favourite street. After the reconstruction it was widened to 100 metres and acquired its present appearance.
Оn Khreshchatyk Street, there are three buildings from the early 20th century, that survived WWII. The building at #6 (1911, architects J.Zektzer and D.Torov) is of special interest because on its facade (in the pediment) is a copy of a raised decoration, The Industry, by Belgian sculptor C.Meunier. The building at #8 (1914-16, architects L.Benois and P.Andreev), and the building at #10 (1915-16, architect P.Andreev) are typical office structures erected especially for banks.
One more bank has survived in Khreshchatyk Street. It is the building at #32, that was erected by architect F.Lidval in 1911-13 for the Kyiv branch of the Russian Foreign Commerce Bank. Being built in the art nouveau style, the building reproduces the forms of the Italian Renaissance; two female statues symbolising Trade and Seafaring are mounted over its cornice . Over the windows on the ground floor are mascarons representing female heads, but two of them became shapeless because of the fire in 1941… At present the facade of this building is a kind of monument to the pre-war Khreshchatyk. The same can be said about the block of buildings, at #40/1 to #52, that have almost wholly survived. It is between B.Khmelnitsky Street and Shevchenko Boulevard. Every house here is also of special interest. Thus, the building at #40/1 (1873-74, architect V.Nikolaev) was initially a private Hotel Canet where once the well-known painter M.Vrubel stayed.
Building at #42 (1894, architect O.Kryvosheev) belonged to the wife of Kyiv's mayor, Olga Diakova. Her husband got it as inheritance from his grandfather, G.Eisman, who previously also was the mayor. The building at #44 (1899, architect A.Krauss), buiding at #46 (1873, architect O.Shile), buiding at #48 (1880), and buiding at #50 (1881, architect O.Khoinatsky) are of interest as architectural monuments from the late 19th century. As for the building at #52, it is of interest also as a monument of history: from 1922 it housed the M.Lysenko Musical Drama Institute, the genuine cradle of the Ukrainian dramatic, musical, and vocal art. Among its students were vocalists Z.Gaidai and O.Petrusenko, orchestra conductor N.Rakhlin, variety actors Yuri Tymoshenko and Yukhim Berezin (Tarapun’ka and Shtepsel), to name but a few.