Hotel Béke

In the beginning of the 20th century, it was already common knowledge that coffee trade is a profitable business. Coffee trader Henrik Fábri, returning from his journeys in England and the Far East, heard the call of tourism and wanted to establish a modern hotel next to the Western Railway Station (Nyugati pályaudvar) in Budapest. Our current virtual exhibition is introducing you the story of Hotel Béke, or by its maiden name: Hotel Britannia.

Modernity above all

VF_2008_23_1.jpgWhen Henrik Fábri arrived home, the hotel was already standing next to the Western Railway Station. It is true that it was near the ill-famed Westend House, which teemed with prostitutes and pickpockets assumably. No wonder that Fábri wanted to equip his new hotel with all services of comfort, unlike his rivals. The hotel was opened on 10 May in 1913 finally, and its modernity did not run out with furnishing hot water, lift and a central vacuum cleaner. It also included serving diet dishes, which is a rarity even today.
After several owner changes, the hotel was purchased by two Englishmen, who entrusted the tenants of Aranybika of Debrecen with the management. The hotel lived its heyday during the leadership of Mr. and Mrs. Aladár Németh. Rooms got telephones, which could contribute to the fact that the number of rural guests increased. After the luxurious restaurant, the famous Szondi Brasserie and the Nótás Restaurant were opened in the basement. Celebrities like author Ferenc Móra regarded the hotel as their second home, and even a room received his name. The basement construction at the nearby lot in Szondi Street allowed the opening of the first hotel basement garage in Pest, which was able to hold up to thirty cars.

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Haranghy – museum

VF_2012_36_1.jpgJenő Haranghy, teacher of the College of Applied Arts, excelled in several fields of applied art. Primarily, he was known as an illustrator and poster designer; he created the illustrations of the first Hungarian edition of The Jungle Book as well as the glass windows of Matthias Cellar Restaurant (Mátyás Pince). He also designed the large metal-framed glass roof of the dome saloon of the hotel in 1937. It could be folded in two parts, thus they could open the roof above the guests in summer.
Designers applied several interesting solutions for the first time there. They lighted the glass dance-floor from below as well, which also solved the lighting of the garage under it. The artistic implementation was provided by Jenő Haranghy, thus he became an object of taunts not by chance – he could even regard the hotel as his own museum. In the winter of 1944-45, during the siege, the hotel became a war hospital, but the artistic valuables could be saved, because Aladár Németh had almost everything wrapped up expertly and taken into the cellar at the beginning of the siege.

Peace to its ashes?

After that the Soviet troops had left, the hotel could be reopened, this time under the telling name Béke (peace). Life invigorated again during the sixties. Famous people performed here, like László Aradszky, Hanna Honthy, János Koós or Pál Herrer and his band.
Meanwhile, there were only minor restorations in the hotel and its condition deteriorated. The then operator HungarHotels decided to reconstruct the hotel completely. The enlargement and renovation were executed with the aid of a foreign hotel loan. KÖZTI was assigned for creating the design; the work started in 1982 and finished in the summer of 1985. Eighty percent of the old building was pulled down. The “reconstruction” received a great media coverage and finally, most of Haranghy’s artworks remained. Everything was renewed except for the façade facing the boulevard. Nowadays, the hotel lives on under the name Radisson Blu Béke Hotel and it adds to the faded light of the Grand Boulevard.

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Sources:

https://welovebudapest.com/2015/04/17/az-egykori-britannia-hotelbe-is-benezhetsz-a-budapest100-on/

https://www.kozterkep.hu/~/31445/A_volt_Szondy_borozo_uvegablakai_Budapest.html

Translated by Zita Aknai

 

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