|lit. Laisvės alėja|
|Former names||Nikolaev avenue|
|Wikimedia Commons Media Files|
Laisves Alley (lit. Laisvės alėja - Liberty Alley) is the main street of Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania.
It is a pedestrian boulevard, passing from west to east, with a length of 1621 meters and a width of 24 - 27 meters. Located in the Naujamestis district (lit. Naujamiestis - New Town). The alley connects two squares (Nepriklausomibes and Venibes) and a square near the city government building. The Church of St. Michael the Archangel divides it into 2 unequal parts (1100 and 340 meters). 577 trees (567 lindens, 6 chestnuts and 4 maples) grow in the alley.
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In 1847, the development plan for the city of Kovno was prepared and approved, which in 1842 became the center of the Coven province. Main street named after Grand Duke Nikolai Alexandrovich Nikolaevsky prospect, was designed as a wide, ceremonial boulevard with two carriageways. It was planned that he would connect the two squares on which the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church would stand. Building land plots were divided by 1849, but they were gradually built up, for a long time the center of public life remained the Old Town (lit. Senamiestis), where the residence of the Coven governor was built, temples of various faiths were located, city trade was concentrated.
In 1879, Kaunas was declared a frontier fortress of the first category, it limited the residence of people of Lithuanian nationality, it was forbidden to build houses above two floors. An exception was made only for the garrison church (modern church of St. Michael the Archangel). In 1887, the Belgian engineer E.O. DuPont received a concession for the construction of a horse tram. In 1890, at the initiative of the leader of the county nobility P. A. Stolypin, the theater building (the modern Musical Theater) was erected on the alley. In 1899, electric lighting was carried out. In 1915, Kaunas was occupied by German troops and Nikolaevsky Avenue was renamed Kaiser Wilhelm street (German: Kaiserwilhelmstrasse).
On February 16, 1919, in honor of the anniversary of Lithuanian independence, the main street of Kaunas was named Freedom Alley, and one of the streets intersecting with it was named February 16 (lit. Vasario 16 gatvė). In the 1920s, mainly cosmetic changes took place on the alley: third floors were attached to the houses, wide showcases were made instead of windows on the facades. In the 1930s, several five-six-story buildings were built: Central Post Office, Savings Bank, County Government, Penocentras (Central Union of Milk Processing Enterprises), etc. Nauyamestis finally became the center of Kaunas, and Laisves Alley became its main street.
In 1940, the street was named Stalin Avenue. The alley was almost not affected by the fighting during World War II. Immediately after the war, cafes, restaurants, and hotels working on the alley were nationalized and ceased their activities. The city executive committee settled in the building of the Savings Bank, the building of the County Government was transferred to the police and state security. In 1950, multi-storey residential buildings began to be built on the avenue (houses No. 81, No. 100, etc.). In 1958, the alley was covered with asphalt. Since 1960, cafes “Tulpe”, “Pasaka”, “Orbit” began to open on it again. In 1961, the street was returned to its old name - Laisves Alley. On May 15, 1972, dissident Romas Kalantha committed self-immolation in the square of the Musical Theater.
In 1973, the Kaunas branch of the Institute for Public Utilities Design came up with the idea of turning Laisves Alley into a pedestrian zone. The project was prepared by architects Alfredas Paulauskas and Wanda Paleckene. Since 1975, reconstruction began: the avenue was partially blocked, underground utilities were repaired, concrete tiles were laid, new lanterns were installed, a fountain was installed, which is still dearly beloved by the townspeople. At the same time, the buildings were restored. In total, 3.141 million rubles were spent on the reconstruction.
November 6, 1982 the work was completed. The authors of the project were awarded the Prize of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. Laisves Alley became the second pedestrian street in the USSR after Šiauliai Boulevard.
In the late XX - early XXI centuries, many restaurants, night clubs, casinos opened on the alley and it became a place of entertainment and relaxation.