(Magyar) A mátyásföldi nyaralótelep – egy értékeket rejtő városi tájegyüttes

BECHTOLD Ágnes

(From previous issue No.39)

The former summer resort in Mátyásföld is a survived casket in Budapest’s XVI. district, from the end of the 19th century. I have been following its state since 2008, and – though I see progressive changes – I find there is more work to do so that it can obtain its rightful place in professional judgment and in the civil sphere as well. This essay shall help this process.

The restaurant

The restaurant
(postcard)

Evolution of resorts in the 19th century

Large-scale urbanization and industrialization making headway from the mid-19th century, together with the strengthening of the middle class, resulted in a growing desire to escape from the bustle, dust and smoke of the city into nature. It became fashionable to go on summer holidays; spas and summer resorts began mushrooming. Those who could afford it built summer cottages for themselves. The holiday houses of the members of the middle class served the same purpose as the country houses and chateaux of the aristocracy; but since the urban bourgeoisie could not afford to spend whole summers in rural estates like the aristocrats, they had their cottages built in the green belts outside the cities. Apart from a difference in financial standings, another reason was that the commoners could not interrupt the business processes for long periods of time, but from a holiday cottage near the city they could easily travel to their offices every day, while their families could rest in a peaceful and natural environment.

Resorts evolved in places with good natural endowments (mountains; water - springs, streams, lakes, sea; forest; panorama; fresh air; silence) and easy access. In resorts, sports also enjoyed high priority – at many places there were open-air pools and beaches – and the cultural life was also vivid. Catering places were opened, finely groomed parks were created. The emergence of resorts was greatly facilitated by the development of transportation: new railway lines, horse tramway in and around the capital, local trains, the construction of the cogwheel train line, new bridges. It was also important to have vacant spaces available for parceling. In the Buda Hills, for instance, when the phylloxera destroyed all the vineyards, it offered a new opportunity: instead of planting new vine-stocks the area was divided into plots (Svábhegy, Rózsadomb, Gellérthegy).

On the outskirts of central Buda and Pest but within the administrative boundary of the capital, holiday houses were built between the City Park/Városliget and downtown Terézváros from the 1830s; on Svábhegy, in Zugliget and around Szépjuhászné large areas were parceled out at the turn of the 1830s-‘40s and summer cottages began to be built from the mid-1840s; in Lipótmező some cottages were already completed when in 1868 the Royal Mental Asylum was opened. When the Chain Bridge/Lánchíd was built (1842- 49), the value of the plots in Buda rose considerably. Until the mid-19th century Rózsadomb was used as vineand plough land and for stone, pebble and clay quarrying. In the 1870s there were a few scattered buildings among the vineyards that presumably served as holiday houses, but the actual neighborhood of villas began to evolve in the 1880s. The great turn was brought along by the opening of Margaret Bridge/ Margithíd in 1876 and by the vine blight of 1880, after which building plots were parceled out on the former vine-hill. Rózsadomb had the advantage compared to Svábhegy or Zugliget that it was closer to downtown. The building up of Gellérthegy was sped up by the opening of the Freedom Bridge/Szabadsághíd in 1896, and by the creation of plots after the phylloxera epidemic.

With the modernization of transportation and with demographic growth, the stratum of those who could afford villas increased, but the prices of building sites rose also. When the areas to parcel out ran short close to the city centre, farther land, even beyond the city limits, began to be divided into plots for summer houses. These lots were still close enough and easily accessible so that daily trips to the city centre were possible. One of the reasons for parceling outside the administrative boundaries was that plots outside the municipal boundary were cheaper and the strict provisions of the municipal regulations were not in effect there. Holiday areas evolved outside the border of the municipality at the time in Csillaghegy on the Buda side (Árpád residential district), and on the Pest side in Rákospalota along the Vác railway line; in Rákosszentmihály and Mátyásföld on the Cinkota rail line; in Rákosliget along the Hatvan railway line; in Rákoskeresztúr (Rákoshegy, Zsófia residential district) along the Szolnok rail line; in Pestszentlőrinc (Lónyay residential district) along the Cegléd railroad. A bit farther from the city centre popular summer areas evolved in Törökbálint, Budakeszi, Piliscsaba, Csobánka, Leányfalu, Göd, Dunakeszi, Pécel, Maglód, Dunaharaszti.

The holiday resort in Mátyásföld

The Mátyásföld holiday district exemplifies the resorts that evolved beyond the border of the capital city. Its natural endowments were not particularly good, it was on a flatland “with the barren sand of Rákos”, its woods also consisting of locust trees. Yet its appeal was the forest, its equal height to Gellérthegy and its clean air. The choice of the location was largely influenced by its proximity to the centre (being 8.2 km away from Keleti/East railway station) and by the good transport facilities with the completion of the Cinkota local train line (HÉV). During its evolution it became even more attractive; suffice to mention the grove formed of the locust forest, the cared-for green surfaces, impressive restaurant and sports facilities (lawn tennis courts, skittle-grounds, swimming pool) and its rich cultural life.

The establishment of the holiday district is associated with the name of Imre Kunkel, the director of the Budapest Central Dairy, who purchased 75 acres of land from the Cinkota estate of Count Gábor Beniczky in 1887 to cut it up into building sites for holiday houses. In the same year he founded the Society of Holiday House Owners in Mátyásföld with 65 members. Imre Kunkel anticipated that after the completion of the then planned local train line (BHÉV) to Cinkota (opened in 1888) the land prices would considerably increase. Indeed, the opening of the BHÉV line boosted demand for Mátyásföld plots and soon after the first parceling new areas had to be divided up. The holiday district flourished until about World War I.

Settlement structure, profile

The character of the Mátyásföld resort was fundamentally different from the “villa districts” of the Buda Hills. It was the result of a pre-planned parceling with a regular settlement structure. That was made possible by the relief of the area being an elevated flatland, and besides, it was a green field investment in the course of which a new settlement evolved practically within a couple of decades around the turn of the century. The main axis of the area was determined by the already existing forest and the restaurant building. The street leading from the second HÉV stop of Mátyásföld to the Mátyás/Matthias (earlier Ilona) Square outside the restaurant was named Imre Street in honor of Imre Kunkel. The axis continued behind the tavern along the avenue of trees across the Erzsébet Grove up to the entrance of the open-air bath and designated the direction of the plots. When the streets were staked out, the ancient wind-furrowed northwesternsoutheastern direction was predominant. During parceling, square blocks of nearly identical sizes were created. They were divided into plots of 600, 900 and 1200 square fathoms. On the side of a block usually three lots of 600 square fathoms each were located, while further inside there were two 900 square-fathom or a 600- and a 1200- square fathom plots next to each other.

Villa of the Diósy family

Villa of the Diósy family
(postcard)

In addition to the regular subdivision of the area, the unified character of the district also owed to the building rules of the Society of Holiday House Owners. The minimum plot size, the distance of a building from the street line and the neighbor’s fence were predetermined, and the building designs had to be approved by the board of the Society. To preserve the holiday character of the resort, no livestock could be kept, no pub or factory founded, workers’ quarters created, and a shop could only be established with permission from the Society’s board. Care was taken to keep a unified streetscape. In autumn 1888 trees began to be systematically planted in the streets, and the process was completed in 1889. The ornamental trees were trimmed by the gardener of the Society (in Mátyásföld the Society operated a garden and there were private horticultural enterprises as well), but the sidewalks had to be kept in order by the inhabitants. The sidewalks and roads were graveled. From among the lines of trees, the horse chestnut trees of Veres Péter Street, the plane trees in Pilóta Street and the avenue of Diósy Lajos Street (including early maple/Acer platanoides, chestnut/ Aesculus hippocastanum and plane/ Platanus sp. trees) are still impressive.

/read the full post in issue No.39/

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