It began with chime of bells
The high spot of the feast was the Millennial Thousand-Year-Old National Exhibition between 2 May and 3 November 1896, which was inaugurated by the king on 2 May, while the bells were chiming. The following days were also busy. On Vérmező on 5 May, 17 thousand soldiers participated in the parade under arms. On 6 June, the Saint Crown was taken from the Royal Palace to Matthias Church, escorted by supreme dignitaries of Hungary and armed corps. It is likely that the first newsreel made by the Sziklay brothers – Arnold and Zsigmond – and Mr. Therm, a technician of the Lumière factory, reported about this event.
240 pavilions were built rapidly – they were dismountable buildings, not shaky huts.
Surprisingly, Vajdahunyad Castle (Group of Historical Buildings) was made out of wood originally, and later it was rebuilt out of lasting materials. The essence of the exhibition was to introduce past, present and future together. In the plot, there are thematic units, according to which the pavilions were arranged. The outfits of buildings usually hinted at the topics they represented. The exhibition of the past was introduced in Vajdahunyad Castle that consisted of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque building units. They even paid attention to the authenticity of contemporary occupations. The ethnographic shows that represented different regions, like ‘skanzen’ buildings (open-air ethnographic museums), were important parts of the exposition.
There were two different areas: the Historical exhibition that introduced the past and the Contemporary exhibition that consisted of 20 groups. The Trade Hall was standing in the central position of the event, symbolising the present, the economic and industrial progress. It was situated on the place of today’s Petőfi Csarnok (Petőfi Hall, a famous youth leisure centre) and the meadow in front of it. (When constructing Petőfi Hall, the remainder base and flooring of the Trade Hall were also reused.)
The largest pavilions that were built by the exhibition of 1885 were the Trade Hall, the Ganz pavilion, the Transport Museum and the above-mentioned Group of Historical Buildings.
Making permanent from temporary
The majority of the temporary buildings disappeared before the turn of the century, but the Ancient Buda Castle was closed only in 1907. Fortunately, the main Historical building group also survived, due to their popularity and to the lobbying of its designer Ignác Alpár. It was rebuilt from lasting materials in 1906.
Unfortunately, the Transport Museum was not that lucky, though it was one of the most stateful buildings of the event. The sizes of the romanticist and eclectic-style building would have fitted to a cathedral, with its glass windows made by Miksa Róth. After the millennial exhibition, one of the first technical and transport museums of the Continent was equipped here as of 1899.
It lived 45 years as the Hungarian Royal Transport Museum – focusing on Hungarian navigation and railway mainly – and then two bombs hit it during the WWII. For a long period nothing happened, its demolition was ordered, but finally it was reopened. According to the fashion of the era, it was curtailed and deprived of its typical neo-renaissance appearance: its dome and towers were pulled down. Nowadays, the museum is facing new changes. It will be renovated in its original state in the frame of the Liget Budapest Project. While this project is under realisation, you can browse the contemporary photos of Ferenc Pfaff’s compelling building.