History of Szechenyi Spa

Szechenyi Baths was built in 1913 in neo-baroque style, in the biggest and greenest part of Budapest, the City Park (district 14, or with Roman numbers as you would see on a Budapest Map: District XIV, called Zuglo).

The whole story of Szechenyi Bath, most probably the number 1 top attraction of the city of Budapest, started in the 19th century, when a hard headed mining engineer, Vilmos Zsigmondy, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as well as a successful and enthusiastic advocate of drilling spring water wells all over Hungary, decided to drill under the City park in Budapest (which at that time, in the 1870s, did not at all look like today – the beautiful buildings you see by and in the City Park were built by 1986, Hungary’s 1000th birthday!).

Old Makeshift Furhaz the first "Szechenyi Baths"

Old Makeshift Furhaz the first “Szechenyi Baths”

Long story short, after almost ten years of ardent drilling, Mr Zsigmondy did find the wells he expected to be there – based on his calculations and geological studies of the then marshy City Park (Varosliget). The drill went deep under and at 970 metre deep (3183 feet), Vilmos Zsigmondy found very hot natural spring waters. In the 1870s, it was one of the deepest wells in Europe. The well was giving generous amounts of hot water: each day 1,200 square metre (12,916 square feet) water came out at 74° Celsius (165° Fahrenheit)… that is a lot of water… and it smelled like something bubbling from hell, due to the high sulfide content. Nevertheless, there was a temporary ‘makeshift bath facility’ built upon the well (the ‘Fúrhaz’ – Drill House), and it soon became very famous in Europe – already in the 1880s. Needless to say, the city of Budapest has decided to built a permanent spa baths complex to replace the wooden and small Furhaz.

The beautiful neo-baroque palace of Szechenyi Baths was built in fact on an island called Marsh Island as formerly this part of Budapest was a royal hunting area with lots of wet, boggy, reedy places. In the 18th century, the green lands now known as City Park were mostly used for hunting. The trees that were planted were grazed by the animals, so initial efforts to turn the wet area more dry were futile. By the 19th century, however, due to the continuous efforts to plant trees, trees and even more trees here, most of the place was covered with acacia trees and mulberry trees – to make it more attractive, livable, and drier – more like an English park, as Maria Theresa and his son, Joseph II Holy Roman Emperor envisioned it. It took more than 2000 workers to drain the marshy boggy ‘Ökör dűlő’. In 1808 Henri Nebbien, a French gardener was in charge to improve the City Park, so he drained the marshes, replaced the acacia trees with plane trees, and in general made the park more like the park we now know.

You can see the bust statue of Vilmos Zsigmondy by Szechenyi Spa Baths, in front of its entrance from Kos Karoly korut street.

Today, the baths and pools of Szechenyi Baths are not supplied from the first well drilled by Vilmos Zsigmondy any more. Instead, it is another srping water well (drilled in 1938) and 6 minor cold water well that supplies the most popular bath complex of Budapest.

 

The source of historical picture of the first bath in place of the current Szechenyi Baths is BudapestCity.org

 
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