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Budapest's Palotanegyed (Palace District) forms a central district of Pest, the eastern half of Budapest. The area consists of the inner part of the city's Eighth District, or Józsefváros (Joseph Town), which was named in 1777 after the heir to the Austrian throne, Joseph, the later Emperor Joseph II (after whom Vienna's Eighth District, the Josefstadt, was also named in 1850). Józsefváros was earlier called Alsó-Külváros ("Lower Suburb").
The Palotanegyed's borders are the Múzeum körút to the west, Rákóczi út to the north, József körút to the east and Üllői út to the south.
The great flood of 1838 destroyed most of the district's then-buildings. A major impetus for the area's subsequent development was the construction at its western end of the magnificent neo-classical Hungarian National Museum between 1837 and 1847.
Meetings of the upper house of the Hungarian parliament, established as part of the compromise which founded the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867, were held in the National Museum until the opening of the new Hungarian parliament building in 1904.
The rest of Hungary's original parliament was established next door to the museum at Főherceg Sándor utca 8 (in 1940 the street was renamed Bródy Sándor utca). The building, completed in 1866, was designed by one of 19th century Budapest's great architects, Miklós Ybl, who also designed the Opera House and the Basilica, as well as five of the Palotanegyed's palaces (Festetics, Pálffy, Károlyi, Bókay and Odescalchi/Degenfeld-Schomburg). Today the old parliament building houses the Italian Cultural Institute. Roughly between the 1867 Austro-Hungarian compromise and the eve of the First World War, members of the dual monarchy's aristocratic and mercantile elite - many of whom were members of parliament - built at least thirty-four city palaces or mansions in the same area. The Károlyi and Zichy families alone each built four palaces in the district, while the Bánffy and Wenckheim families each built two. The district's palaces were mostly constructed in the streets immediately surrounding the Museum (today's Bródy Sándor utca, Pollack Mihály tér and Muzeum utca) and adjacent to the Wenckheim Palace (Reviczky utca and Ötpacsirta utca). But a number were also built further east, including on today's Lőrinc pap tér, Gyulai Pál utca, Horánszky utca, Szentkirályi utca and Trefort utca.
The other residential buildings constructed in the area around the same time seem to have been designed mainly for middle or upper-middle class occupants.
Still bullet-marked buildings show that the Palace District, like the rest of Budapest, was left scarred by the fighting at the end of the Second World War, during the 1956 uprising and during the subsequent Soviet attack. The communist regime neglected the district's buildings and committed some great acts of vandalism, notably the demolition of the National Stables behind the Museum in 1948, replacing them with a bland modern office block in 1969.
The regime also demolished (in 1965) the city's Népszínház (People's Theatre - or Volkstheater) on Blaha Lujza tér. This building, much loved by Budapesters, had been constructed in 1875 to the design of the Austrian theatre architects Helmer and Fellner, who left a fine legacy of theatres around the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. The loss of the Népszínház still seems to leave a gap on Blaha Lujza tér.
Despite such occasional acts of disdain towards the city's historical fabric, the vast majority of the Palotanegyed's pre-World War II buildings survived war, revolution, Soviet occupation and communism. Nevertheless, by the early post-communist period, Józsefváros had acquired a reputation amongst Hungarians as the poorest and most crime-ridden of the Pest districts. This reputation reflected the dilapidation and poverty especially of the outer part of the district (i.e. east of the József körút) and the proportionately high population of gypsies in that area. This reputation coloured perceptions of the whole of Józsefváros, including, probably unfairly, the Palotanegyed area.
Since the mid-1990s, the Palotanegyed's fortunes have slowly but steadily recovered. Many of the district's palaces have been restored, and slowly but surely other buildings are following suit. Local and international investors have seen the charm and potential in the area. And the Józsefváros local government has made progress rebuilding the district's streets to widen footpaths, rationalise parking, plant more trees and generally smarten the area up. As of July 2012, areas completed include Reviczky utca, Ötpacsirta utca, Mikszáth Kálmán tér, Pollack Mihály tér, Lőrinc pap tér, Maria utca, Kőfaragó utca, Gyulai Pál utca, Horánszky utca, much of Krúdy Gyula utca and Gutenberg tér and the stretch of Bródy Sándor utca between Pollack Mihály tér and Múzeum körút.
The Palotanegyed Palaces
Festetics palace (1862, Miklós Ybl), Pollack Mihály tér 3, today the Andrássy Gyula Budapest German-language University
Károlyi Palace (1865, Miklós Ybl), Pollack Mihály tér 8
Pálffy Palace (1867, Miklós Ybl), Ötpacsirta utca 4/Reviczky utca 2, today the Metropolitan Szabó Ervin Library Music Collection. Built for Count János Palffy.
Bókay Palace (1870, Miklós Ybl), Múzeum utca 9. Built for Janos Bókay, a doctor.
Kauser House (1860, Gerster Károly), Gyulai Pál utca 5. Built for János Kauser, a stonemason and sculptor.
Eszterházy Palace (1865, Sándor Baumgarten), Pollack Mihály tér 4, 1946-1948 residence of the Hungarian President; today houses Hungarian Radio's Marble Room
Gottgeb House (1870, Antal Gottgeb), Gyulai Pál utca 13. Built by Gottgeb Antal, a master builder, for himself.
Keglevich Palace (1871, Ferenc Dötzer), Bródy Sándor utca 9. Built for Count István Keglevich, a Member of Parliament.
Károlyi Palace (1871, József Pucher and Antal Skalnitzky), Múzeum utca 11, today used by the Hungarian State Railways (MÁV) Symphony Orchestra. Built for Count István Károlyi.
Zichy House (1871, Antal Skalnitzky), Múzeum utca 15. Built for a member of Count János Zichy's family.
Bánffy apartment building (bérház) (1871, Károly Berg), Reviczky utca 7. Built for Count György Bánffy.
Fechtig House (1873, Antal Skalnitzky), Bródy Sándor utca 2 - the ground floor housed the Schodl Cafe, renamed in 1885 the Múzeum Café and Restaurant. Built for Baron Nándor Fechtig.
Bánffy Palace (1873, Miklos Bánffy), Reviczky utca 5. Built for Count György Bánffy.
Hasenfeld House (1873, János Kauser), Múzeum utca 7. Built for Count János Zichy.
Dessewffy Palace (1876, Antal Weber), Bródy Sándor utca 4
Almassy House (1877, Antal Gottgeb Antal), Ötpacsirta utca 2. Built for Kálmán Almássy. Today the headquarters of the Hungarian Architects' Association
Károlyi Palace (1881, Ignác Wechselmann), Múzeum utca 17. Built for Countess Károlyi, wife of Count István Károlyi.
Wenckheim Palace (1889, György Dániel), Reviczky utca 4. Built for Baron Béla Wenckheim. From 1934 it was owned by Countess Széchenyi, wife of Count Antal Széchenyi.
Wenckheim Palace (1890, József Pucher), Szabó Ervin tér 1, today the Metropolitan Szabó Ervin Library. Built for Count Frigyes Wenckheim.
Karolyi Palace (1890, Artúr Meinig), Reviczky utca 6. Built for Count Sándor Károlyi.
Pulszky Palace (1890, Arnold Nefanei), Puskin utca 12/Trefort utca 1. Built for Ferenc Pulszky, the then-owner of the National Museum.
Prónay Palace (1890, Fridrich Lóránt), Trefort utca 2, today the Hotel Mercure Budapest Museum. Built for Gézá Rakovszky.
Hunyady Palace (1892, Artur Meinig), Trefort u. 3, today the Józsefváros district centre for medical specialists. Built for Count Imre Hunyadi.
Régi Képviselőház (1865, Ybl Miklós), Bródy Sándor utca 8.
Tauffer Palace (1892, Ernő Schannen), Bródy Sándor utca 10. Built for Dr Vilmos Tauffer, an obstetrician.
Törley Palace (1895, Rezső Ray), Bródy Sándor utca 16. Built for József Törley, champagne magnate.
Pejacsevich Palace (1896, Elek Hofhauser), Reviczky utca 3. Built for Count Tivadar Pejacsevich Tivadar, Ban of Croatia-Slavonia-Dalmatia
Darányi Palace (1896, Sándor Stark), Lőrinc pap tér 3. Built for former agriculture minister Ignác Darányi.
Keszlerffy Palace (1897, József Huber), Bródy Sándor utca 6. Built for János Keszlerffy, who was connected by marriage to Count György Károlyi.
Zichy Palace (1897, Lipót Havel), Lőrinc pap tér 2, today Hotel Palazzo Zichy. Built for Count Nándor Zichy.
Zichy Palace (1899, Gyula Kauser), Szentkirályi utca 16. Built for a member of Count Nándor Zichy's family.
Gschwindt Palace (1901, Sándor Tóth), Puskin utca 19/Bródy Sándor utca 12. Built for György Gschwindt, a wealthy businessman.
Hadik-Barkóczy Palace (1912, Ede Lux), Múzeum utca 5. Built for Count Endré Hadik-Barkóczy.
Palaces and other current and former sights of the Palotanegyed
- Maja and Reuben Fowkes, "Eighth District Seeks its Aristocratic Roots", Time Out Budapest April 2009, http://beyondbudapest.hu/kepek/TimeOut.pdf.
- See, for example, the descriptions of József körút 37-39 and Krúdy Gyula utca 12 in Lajos Csordás, Walks Along the Great Boulevard, Budapest, Vince Books, 2008, pp. 166 and 170
- National Theatre (Budapest)
- Ferdinand Fellner
- József Törley
- hu:Emich Gusztáv (zoológus)
- hu:Athenaeum Irodalmi és Nyomdai Rt