Around 1860, the bankers and merchants of Bucharest would gather at Hanul cu Tei („The Linden Inn”), where they traded coins and other valuables.
A couple of years later, the „Românul” („The Romanian”) newspaper published this ad: „D.E. Farchy, Lipscani Street, Hanu cu Tei 25, buys and sells bonds and rural interest coupons and other government securities”.
One might say this ad was the first documented proof of exchange operations on Romanian territory. It would take some time before Romania eventually had its own organized and thoroughly regulated capital market.
Only in 1881, the Bucharest Chamber of Commerce and Industry initiated, drafted and sent to the Senate an Exchange Act, eventually passed as the Exchanges, Trading Means and Merchandise Brokers Act.
Later, in January 1882, the Trade Exchange of Iasi was inaugurated, and in December of that year, the „Trade Exchange under the Commerce Chamber of the 5th Precinct, with head offices in Bucharest”.
Over the next years, the exchanger laws and regulations were permanently amended, tested and refined, and in 1904, a new, much heftier Exchange Act was passed, which later saw only minor adjustments.
„The Exchange Act of 1904 managed to include items of practical utility, which would attract the merchant circles to organized activity, giving up most of the uncertainty generated by trading on the street or in cafes”, write N. Murgu, C. Lazar and Mugur Isarescu in their book „Within the Clamor of Exchange”.
In 1904, with the enactment of the law for the Exchange, building premises for it became an issue.
It would take some time to realize this project. In 1906, it was stipulated by law that the state will donate land to the Chamber of Commerce for building the Exchange House. The minister of agriculture, commerce and land, Ioan N. Lahovary, signed the donation the same year.
„The plot at the crossing of Doamnei Street and Vestei Street (now Ion Ghica Street) left empty after the demolition of the former building of pantler Barcanescu, where the country’s Senate used to reside, with a surface area of 2215 square meter, is donated to the Chamber for building its own Palace” was the wording used in the donation act.
In 1907, a competition held for the building project was won by architect Stefan Burcus.
The cornerstone was laid on May 11, 1908, by Ruling Prince Ferdinand and Princess Maria. The building auction, based on an initial estimate of 800,000 gold lei, was won by contractors Costa and Luigi Forabasco, who bid a 3.83% rebate, and architect Toma Dobrescu was appointed as works supervisor.
Architect Stefan Burcus was assisted by architect I.G. Mayer for works supervision. Eventually, the building cost 1,300,000 gold lei, and the fittings 50,000 gold lei.
In 1911, the Exchange House opened officially in a solemn ceremony attended by King Carol I.
The continuation is known. After the establishment of Communism, the exchange operations ceased, and the Exchange Palace became the National Library.
A couple of years ago, the building was recovered by the Chamber of Commerce. Not by chance, perhaps, in 2011 – exactly 100 years after the inauguration of the former Exchange House on Ghica and Doamnei Street – upon the launch of architect Cristina Turlea’s book „The Historic Finance and Banking Center of Bucharest”, National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu expressed his hope that some of the Old Downtown of Bucharest will return to financial organizations.
„I think that it is still possible to bring back some financial institutions to the Old Downtown. The Exchange could be an example, and it should return to the National Library building. The Chamber of Commerce redeemed the building, where the exchange floor still exists. The Exchange symbol, the floor, if restored, would show that this country has a tradition. To preserve the history and to bring it into the present is a duty of this generation”, said Isarescu.
Besides the advisable recovery of tradition, the restoration – at least partial – of Bucharest’s financial district around the National Bank of Romania would be all the more natural as the contemporary financial markets tend more and more to integrate, and the macro stability and crisis management are actual concepts.
And because there’s no present without a past, let us evoke a very interested past moment shared by the Exchange and the National Bank, related in the aforementioned work, ‘Within the Clamor of Exchange’. In 1914, when political uncertainty was growing across Europe, inducing panic bounces on the domestic capital market, Eugeniu Carada, interested in the Exchange fluctuation – a barometer of mood among the financial chaos across the continent – called an experienced broker he trusted and asked him to try with other colleagues to stop by all means the downtrend of the Exchange.
The broker was expecting Carada to order massive buys of stocks, to shock the other buyers; the order never came.
He was leaving, lost in thought, when several curious brokers surrounded him at the exit, wishing to know why he was summoned to the National Bank.
Upon their insistence, he answered that he was ordered a huge buy of stocks. The ensuing rush temporarily boosted the quotations.