Demolished memories, lost buildings – chief towns, settlements

My previous article is continued now with moving the focus from the buildings and squares of Budapest to the buildings of chief towns and small settlements, which you cannot see anymore in the way they used to be 25, 50, 100 or more years ago. The article reveals what you can look upon in Győr and what the inhabitants of Kecskemét had to face when waking up on 8 July in 1911. I will also introduce some examples for the devastations of the Second World War outside Budapest.

Győr – Fehérvári Gate and Fire Lookout Tower

Győr - Tűztorony - Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDMany people – even many Győr-residents – do not know from where the town hall tower, which is an important element of the town panorama, inherited its present form and its bell. The Fehérvári Gate was one of the gates in the old bailey. According to a memorial tablet found during excavations this year, significant historic events took place here. For example, the battle of 1594 against the Ottomans, and against the French in 1809. The fire lookout tower was built on the gate in 1792, based on Jakab Tollner’s plans. It served the town for a bit more than a century, though it was planned to be pulled down in 1857. The reasons for the demolition were: the narrow town gate impeded fluent traffic on one of the busiest routes of the town, and its structure also decayed and became life-threatening. Nevertheless, the latter statement was denied by several requested experts, who said that after a major renewal the tower could stand for many more years. Despite that, the general assembly of the town decided to pull it down in 1894. When the decision spread around, residents insisted that the form of the tower (a symbol of Győr) should appear in the design of the new town hall, thus this became a criterion in the tender invitation. The Fire Lookout Tower and the Fehérvári Gate was demolished in 1895 and the bell was moved into the new tower of the town hall.

When no humans to blame

The inhabitants of Kecskemét could wake up terrified at 2 am on 8 July in 1911, when a powerful earthquake shook the area. Almost miraculously nobody was injured, but the buildings got damaged badly. The weekly magazine Vasárnapi Ujság reported on the catastrophe on 16 July: ‘The catastrophe of the earthquake killed thousands of houses by cutting death-wounds in them in the town of Kecskemét, but every one of the 65 thousand souls survived with a whole skin in the peril among the crunched walls and crashed roofs.’

Devastations of the Second World War

Vasútállomás - Verseghy Ferenc Könyvtár és Közművelődési Intézmény, CC BY-NC-NDTransport started on the second railway line of the country on the route Pest-Cegléd-Szolnok on 1 September in 1847. Ten years later, the first-class romanticist waiting hall was opened. After the turn of the century in 1907, another departure building was built based on Ferenc Pfaff’s plans, because of the increasing passenger and heavy traffic; it served until WWII. In 1944, bombing the strategically important buildings started. The railway station of Szolnok and its surroundings got more than 800 bomb hits that left the building unserviceable.

Debrecen - Múltidéző képeslapok, Margit fürdő, 1912 - Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDThe fate of the Margit Spa of Debrecen was also sealed by the war. The spa was inaugurated in the summer of 1887. Besides the luxurious furniture, steam baths and tubs, it had the first sports swimming-pool of the town. But this luxury was lost during the fights, including furniture, equipment and murals. Three-quarters of the building complex were in ruins; the undamaged parts first served pioneers and later the workers’ militia until its complete demolition in 1967. Presently, four-storey mansions are standing in its place.

Synagogues then and now

Szigetvári zsinagóga - Csorba Győző Könyvtár, ©Ingyenes hozzáférésThe fate of several Hungarian synagogues is also related to the Second World War, but in a different way. In their cases, the reason for demolition or transformation was not the damages that incurred in the buildings primarily, but the fact that they could not serve their religious function anymore, because the Jewish population was deported and killed. Those who survived the horrors did not return to their hometowns generally. Most rural synagogues remained empty. In some cases, the building was saved and got a new function, like the one in Szigetvár. In Mohács, the synagogue was pulled down in 1968 and a library was built in its place. Opposite the library – on the site of the Israelite elementary public school – the Garden of Martyrs commemorates the victims. The synagogue of Székesfehérvár was hit by a bomb and burnt down. You can find a memorial monument in its place, similarly to that of the one in Hévíz. The synagogue of Eger was demolished in 1967 and a hotel was built on its domain in downtown.


Pusztuló szélmalom a malomházzal - Thorma János Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDAfter the recreational and sacral buildings and the ones without traffic function, I have to mention agricultural buildings as well; the most beautiful ones of them, which give inspiration to artists are the windmills. There is no exact date about when the first windmills appeared in Hungary, but the earliest trace of them can be found in a written record from the 16th century: the word ‘zelmalom’. They were spreading during the following centuries and already 854 windmills existed in 1873. Due to the change of technology and the appearance of larger mills, they were put into the shade. Most of them were pulled down or tumbled down spontaneously, just like the last windmill of Túrkeve on 12 May this year.

High-rise of Pécs

Pécsi Megyei Kórház a Jakováli Hasszán Dzsámijával - Csorba Győző Könyvtár, ©Ingyenes hozzáférésFinally, I must not pass by the story and the current demolition of the high-rise in Pécs. Its construction began in 1974 and the 25-storey 84-meter-high block with 250 flats was inaugurated in 1976. Due to the defects of the applied pre-stressed reinforced concrete technology, the house became life-threatening and tenants had to move out in 1989. The house has been mostly empty since then. As of the 2000s, it had several owners, who dreamt of different functions and futures for the building, but finally in 2015 preparations for demolition started, and wrecking has begun this year.


Translated by Zita Aknai


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