The settlement of Hámor (the name means a reference to the work going on here: a metalworking workshop with manual and hydro power) was named Lillafüred in 1882. Its name can be attributed to the Vay family from Vaj, who played an important role in Borsod County, as the family did a lot to develop the resort area. Lillafüred actually got its name after Erzsébet Vay, the daughter of Béla Vay, who was nicknamed Lilla in the family. An interesting addition to the naming is that, contrary to popular legends, the lady was not the wife of Count András Bethlen, Minister of Agriculture, but the Croatian ban Tivadar Pejácsevich.
Béla Vay, and later his son, were influential people as shiremen of Borsod County, who invited ministers and MPs to Bükk, with the hope that this place of unparalleled beauty might receive government support sooner or later. By that time, there was no trace of the iron processing typical of the area, when the state iron factory in Diósgyőr was founded, the metalworking activity ceased.
Finally, under Prime Minister István Bethlen, the idea was born to build a hotel in the beautiful surroundings. By then, however, there were already a few cottages and restaurants on site. The mansion of Pál Weidlich, a merchant from Miskolc, was built in 1906 on the shore of Lake Hármori. The family spent almost every summer in the mansion, and in winter they also enjoyed the pleasures of sledging and ice skating on the lake with their children. An urban legend is also connected to the Weidlich mansion, according to which the first plans were to build the Palace Hotel in place of the mansion. Of course, the head of the family didn't want to hear about it, the state eventually singled out a new building site; this is how the hotel was placed to its current location. We don't know what really happened, but it is certain that Mr Weidlich was very committed to lobbying to keep the family home calm, as the country road to Eger had to be scooped into the hillside with a sharp left bend because of their mansion. The building is still standing now; the Hotel Tókert operates in it.
Financial background of the construction
The Palace Hotel was built between 1925 and 1929 next to Lake Hámori, according to the plans of Kálmán Lux, in Neo-Renaissance style – and as a public investment from a Speyer loan. The Bethlen government borrowed a total of 250 million gold crowns from Speyer & Co. Bank of New York, all of which were for investments in 48 Hungarian cities applying. The sums received were then used by each municipality for something else: an epidemic hospital, public works or a theatre renovation.
The geopolitical situation of Miskolc changed immediately after Trianon, as with the loss of Košice it became the economic centre of gravity in Northern Hungary. But not only the well-known sources of raw materials came from outside the country, Hungary also lost its Upper Hungarian resorts and important Transylvanian baths. Boosting tourism was an economic interest and would have provided an opportunity for further developments. The name of Lillafüred emerged around the turn of the 19th-20th centuries, but those developments took place in Tatranská Lomnica finally.
However, not only was the construction of the Palace Hotel a major task, but there was also a need for infrastructural developments that would have solved the hot water supply of the building, for example.
"There will not be hot water in Lillafüred at either 1300 or 2000 meters!"
The latter statement came from a private university professor, István Gaál, who was also a palaeontologist at the National Museum, and who based his not very encouraging statement on his unofficial geological examinations.
Although the search for hot water was not a delusory idea, calc-tuff was found during the foundation work of the Palace Hotel, which is known to be deposited at thermal springs. Based on the stones found in the Anna dripstone cave and the Szeleta cave that had been the home of prehistoric people, geologists believed that not so long ago there were hot springs and vapours in the area, and this was a reason enough to drill. On 5 May, 1927, Pál Mazalán, a certified mining engineer, began exploration drilling with a rented Fauck-type equipment suitable for drilling to a depth of 1000 m. Experts were still quite optimistic up to a depth of 400 meters, but at a depth of 734 meters they encountered more and more obstacles. The chief geologist supervising the drilling, Dr Ferenc Pápai Vajna, was accused of technical negligence, and the matter became a political battle. Finally, on 4 March, 1930, drilling, originally planned for 1,000 meters, was permanently stopped. The rig was dismantled; the machines were packed because they realized it was pointless to sacrifice additional funds for research. Thus, Lillafüred did not become a thermal bath. There were still attempts, for example, a beach was created on Lake Hámori, but its water was too cold for a self-forgetting splashing, even in the greatest heat.
About the hotel
By October 1927, the walls of the building were already standing, and the roof was already being built on the eastern side. The four-storey building is slightly U-shaped, the most prominent element of which is the main entrance, which is located below the tallest tower, under a carriageway connected to the north-west corner terrace. According to the original plans, four towers should have stood at the four corners of the building, but this was probably abandoned during construction for reasons of economy. The luxury suites were located on the first floor and there was a separate dining-conference room and a lounge-games room as well. The tourist rooms were created on the third and fourth floors for about 120 people. The equipment and furniture were provided by Hungarian-made products - supporting the economy in this way as well - with the exception of electrical equipment (telephones, radios, sound systems, the central refrigerator - the latter was the real attraction of the hotel), which was supplied by Philips.
The Bouquet Festival of 1930 was held in the presence of ministers, secretaries of state, and other prestigious individuals, but Governor Horthy and Prime Minister Bethlen did not attend the event. The government was subject to serious political attacks due to the huge costs and the use of the American Speyer loan. Miklós Horthy stayed in the hotel with his wife only a year later, in May 1931, as a private individual.
Guests attending the bouquet festival arrived in Lillafüred by a dinkey train. At that time, many still hoped that the thermal water research would be successful and that a medical institution could be built. (Because the drilling was stopped, the medical institution was not built either).
What was achieved, however, was the new watercourse of the Szinva stream, and the almost 20-meter high waterfall, as well as the hanging gardens related to the exterior image of the hotel. We do not know whether it was originally designed this way, anyway it seemed logical that the excavated soil should not be removed but used to create terraces on the hillside. The terraces were reinforced with castle-walled, porthole-shaped retaining walls, and there is still a nice view of the area by walking on the terraces.
When the Palace Hotel was built, the narrow-gauge dinkey railway in Lillafüred - at that time the Szinvavölgy Forest Railway (SZEV) - was already in operation and had been built to transport timber felled in the Bükk Mountains. The main line starting from Miskolc, from Fáskert next to St. Anne's Church, was made in 1919–1920, and led to Garadna by touching Lillafüred. Due to the construction of the hotel, the “Hámor-Lillafüred” stop was pushed upwards, a little further away from the building, and tunnels were drilled before and after it, and a small underpass was built to approach it from the Palace Hotel. Passenger transport on the line began in 1924, and then the name of the dinkey railway was changed to the Lillafüred State Forest Railway, which still runs today.
Despite all the beauty and modernity of the hotel, it was not a success story. Of course the world crisis also contributed to it, but already in 1931, it was written in newspapers that it would be closed, later it was turned into a summer and winter seasonal hotel. After 1945, it became a SZOT resort, and as a trade union resort, the new guests became brigades and workers involved in the reconstruction of the country. By the end of the 1980s, a general renovation of the hotel was due. The preserving refurbishment was completed in 1990. After the building became the property of the Hunguest Hotels chain in 1993, it underwent a complete renovation that lasted for almost five years. Today, the four-star hotel is called Hunguest Hotel Palace.
Translated by Zita Aknai
Dobrossy István : A Palotaszálló és Lillafüred 75 éve, Lézerpont Stúdió, 2005.