Lochotínský park / Lochotín Park

(Plzeň) Plzeň Severní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7605944N, 13.3640314E

Lochotín park covers part of the terrain break and the southern slopes along today's Karlovarská Avenue below the Lochotín and Vinice districts and above the Mže river valley. As with other important public spaces from the first half of the 19th century, its foundation was linked to Martin Kopecký (1777-1854), Pilsen’s mayor from 1828 to 1850.

The impulse for establishing the park was the existence of nearby springs rich in iron and their alleged health benefits. Kopecký, who became familiar with the advantages a spa would have on the overall development of the town in his former position as mayor of West Bohemian Loket, wanted to make use of the anticipated healing properties of these springs and build a spa on the Lochotín slopes overlooking the panorama of the historical town, thus turning a somewhat lacklustre Pilsen into a spa centre competing with Karlovy Vary or Mariánské Lázně.

As early as 1830, a joint-stock company was established, which acquired the necessary capital by selling shares to more than five hundred shareholders. The plan was also fostered by the broader intent of beautifying Czech towns and cities by Count Karel Chotek (1783-1868), chancellor and Government President (Gubernialpräsident). Chotek supported Martin Kopecký ‘s idea via his purchase and subsequent gift of the land to the city in 1833. Thus the construction of the first spa facilities soon commenced. The Spa House (today's Lochotín Pavilion) was built with tub baths in both wings, a social hall in the central part and a restaurant with accommodation both in Empire style. On the site of a bare pasture slope and quarry, three elevated terraces lined with trees were built after demanding terrain work and delivery of high quality topsoil. The stream bed was also adapted and crossed by small wooden bridges. The paths were lined by alleys with open views of the city's skyline; the surroundings of the buildings were upgraded by smaller landscaping works.

The park also involved smaller-scale architecture and works of art. This included a cave with a statue of a hermit contemplating the ephemerality of worldly life over a human skull. A column was erected in front of the cave and next to it a stone table called Arthur’s Table was placed. The stream was animated by a waterfall with water surface. This composition was later enriched by a gazebo of a square ground plan, located above the hermit's cave, which offered an unobstructed view of the historic heart of Pilsen. In 1883 this building was named Chotek's Seat in honour of Count Karel Chotek. The surrounding area of ​​the spring north of the park was also refurbished and a one-way circular path was brought here from the main road to Karlovy Vary (today's Kotíkovská Street). The intersections with the road were highlighted by chapels. In 1833, the spring was fitted with a sandstone border and complemented with a colonnade in Neo-Classical style.

The spa began operation in 1834. The area of ​​the premises stretched over five hectares and was connected to the city via stage coach. The Lochotín spa was gradually becoming a social centre. Professor Josef František Smetana set up a library and magazine reading room here, and dance nights and other events took place. Unlike the thriving hospitality facilities, however, the spa operations were accompanied by increasingly frequent problems. The healing quality of the spring was challenged by chemical analyses, and its yield also proved to be insufficient. A well was dug to help deal with this problem, yet several local waters mixed in it, causing the water properties to deteriorate even further. The spa also suffered from a lack of finances, which did not allow for sufficient large-scale and representative modifications of the premises and its surroundings.

Due to the aforementioned problems the spa did not yield the necessary profit and the joint stock company was forced to abandon their operation. The complex was sold in auction in April 1849 and the Committee of Burghers with Brewing Rights, which owned the Burghers Brewery, became its new owner. It was a patron of other cultural and social facilities in the city and wanted to turn the well-established hospitality complex into an attractive day-trip destination that would also expand the sales of its beer. From the original spa operation, the new owner left only the tub baths, while the colonnade was dismantled and transferred from the spring to the parks in the city centre. The Pavilion of Empress Caroline was adapted to manufacture porcelain. The brewery had the remaining buildings restored while also initiating the construction of new buildings.

On the fifty-year anniversary of the park’s establishment in 1884, a bust of Martin Kopecký was installed in front of the Spa House. In the same year, wooden bridges were replaced by steel ones. In 1888 and 1889 an extension of the concert court called the Imperial Hall was added. In 1890 the brewery bought the land at the site of today's zoo and placed an outlook gloriette called Belveder there. Two years later, in 1892, it had a greenhouse set up opposite the Spa House for growing tropical plants. The park was further enhanced by regulating the stream running through the area with waterfalls and gorges, as well as smaller-scale romantic architecture and sculptures of Red Riding Hood, a farmer’s wife or a dwarf. In 1899, a tram line from Bory to Lochotín made transport to the premises easier for Pilsen’s inhabitants.

Under the brewery’s administration, which lasted until nationalisation in 1945-1947, the entire complex was extended to 71 hectares. However, the scheme of the company did not fully meet its original expectations either. Moreover, for cost-saving reasons, the brewery had the park largely covered with spruce, turning the park into a predominantly spruce forest monoculture, which reached its highest density in 1938. The instability of the vegetation became fully evident two years later, when most of the trees were swept away by a storm (approximately 400).

However, the Burghers Brewery was not the only one to take part in the development of the park and its surroundings. As early as 1876, the Union for Planting Orchards to Adorn the City of Pilsen managed to plant a poplar alley all along Lochotínská Street up to the park. One year later, the Union proposed to set up a tree-lined walk from the Kalikovský Mill to the park. Yet this project was delayed by opposition from the owners of the meadows, and the “Kilometrovka” (“Kilometre-Walk”) as it is known today was surveyed as late as 1892; trees were planted along it the following year.

Both World Wars meant periods of neglect for the park. Nonetheless, in 1942 it went through a major transformation. In 1951, when the park was already under the city’s administration, the memorial of Josef Kajetán Tyl, formerly placed at the Methodist Church in Husova Street (C2–1777), was transferred here. Today, the memorial by the sculptor Vojtěch Šíp is part of St. Nicholas Square. Between 1951 and 1961 a botanical garden was established in the former Kodet Garden near the park, and in the years 1960 to 1962 a zoo was moved here from a site near the Municipal River Baths. Between 1960 and 1964, an open-air amphitheatre with a capacity of up to 30,000 spectators was established in its immediate vicinity, still used today as both a cultural venue and an environmental centre.

The construction of a four-lane road, which was formed by straightening Karlovarská Street and serving as a connection between the city centre and the newly founded housing estate in the North Suburbs, had an enormous impact on the park. All the spa buildings apart from the Lochotín Pavilion – the former Imperial Hall, the restaurant and the greenhouse – were forced to give way to the new transport route. The watercourse with bridges and waterfall was filled in and an unsightly concrete wall grew up on the eastern side of the park.

The present appearance of Lochotín Park, protected as a so-called significant landscape element, is the result of a number of studies carried out continuously since the 1990s. The long-term implementation of the current form of the project, which was developed by the Hysek Architectural Studio in 2007, was completed in 2015. The first stage of complex revitalisation, which has once again made the section of the park from the Lochotín Pavilion to the amphitheatre an attractive public space, involved landscaping, renovation of the network of gravel and paved paths, planting of many new trees and the instalment of a new footbridge over the stone bed below the pavilion. Some of the buildings, primarily the Lochotín and Music Pavilions, were restored to their original form. On the contrary, Chotek’s Seat, renovated in 2012 (thanks to the initiative of the informal association Maják Plzně), and Arthur’s Table by the sculptor Václav Fiala, have been given a contemporary appearance. Thanks to Maják Plzně, a new statue of the hermit Lochota by students of the Zámeček Secondary School of Applied Art was also erected in the cave. In 2016, the same group launched efforts to save the damaged house of the custodian of the Kopecký Spring.
 

JČ – MK – PK

Sources

  • Klára Cílková, Lochotínský park – pohled do historie, Správa veřejného statku města Plzně, www.svsmp.cz, http://www.svsmp.cz/mestska-zelen/zajimavosti/lochotinsky-park-pohled-do-historie.aspx, vyhledáno dne 15. 10. 2017.
  • Klára Cílková, Obnova Lochotínského parku v Plzni, Správa veřejného statku města Plzně, http://www.svsmp.cz/archiv/2014/obnova-lochotinskeho-parku-v-plzni.aspx, vyhledáno dne 15. 10. 2017.
 
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