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The Goldberger House

Arany János Street: The Place Where Fashion Was Born

The street was named after Arany János (one of the most prominent Hungarian poets, who died in 1882) in 1885. Earlier it had been called the High Road, the Upper Road and the Main Road, in turn. Property development started in the neighborhood in chessboard fashion in the first decades of the 19th century. By the 1820s and 30s today's Arany János Street was lined with two-storey buildings in neo-classical style. One of these, built probably around the 1830s, was the predecessor of the Goldberger House; from 1892 onwards its street front housed shops. However, the building was pulled down in 1909 and a new, modern office building erected in its place for Goldberger and Sons Ltd. The request for building permission was submitted by the previous owner, Mrs. Ágoston, in 1909. According to the plans the Óbuda-based Goldberger textile factory would have its central offices and wholesale outlet at 32 Arany János Street.

The pre-modern style designs were prepared by architects Dávid Jónás (1871–1951) and Zsigmond Jónás (1879–1936), and the building work was carried out by Lipták and Co. Construction and Iron Works Ltd. in 1910–1911. The façade of the building is dominated by vertical ornamentation, most notably the tall thin pillars in oriental style connecting the two floors. In the frieze just below the roof, there is a rosette above each of the two outside pillars, and the name Goldberger is inscribed between them. One design dated March 9, 1909, which was never realized, had a different, art-nouveau roof, while the façade was much the same as it is now.

In 1922 Goldberger Samuel and Sons Ltd. finally bought the building, which they had only rented until then. At that time they had 120 employees working there. The interior was remodeled in the 1930s and new premises were rented for the offices at 34 Arany János Street. The Goldberger House survived World War II without major damage.

After being nationalized in 1948 the building was used as storage for the National Textile Factory (Röviköt, later Centriköt). In 1981 Konsumex opened its exclusive "dollar shop" in the building, selling goods for foreign currency only. Before the reconstruction work needed for the dollar shop, the civil engineer's report described the building as very modern and "the two-storey, flat-roofed building with a basement can still be characterized with the same term". The dollar shop operated until the fall of the socialist regime, after which the building stood empty for several years.

Today the building reflects much of its original design (the main staircase, for example, was fully reconstructed following the original plans), but in many places it has been altered to meet new requirements and needs. However, the major, most characteristic feature of the building, the huge glass roof spanning the inner court, has remained unchanged throughout its one hundred years of existence.


The Goldbergers and Their Factory

In 1784 a small blue-dyeing manufactory, the predecessor of the Goldberger factory, was founded by Ferenc Goldberg (1755–1834) in what is now the Textile Museum in Óbuda. At first the manufactory worked only with linen; later on cotton, or calico, was added. Ferenc Goldberg changed his name to Goldberger at the beginning of the 19th century. He added two neighboring buildings to the family workshop and erected new workshops in the land behind them. From 1810 he handed over the supervision of production to his younger son, Samuel and concentrated exclusively on sales, while Samuel developed new dyeing techniques.

In 1848 the Goldbergers came out strongly in favor of the War of Independence and contributed by supplying uniforms for the army. For this Haynau made them pay substantial reparations and requisitioned the products of the Óbuda factory. Samuel Goldberger died in 1848 and the management of the factory was taken over by his wife, Erzsébet Adler. She soon revived production and in 1854 was again awarded wholesale rights in Pest. In 1856 the factory bought its first steam engine. As a tribute to the outstanding success of the factory Emperor Franz Josef visited it while staying in Pest-Buda. The family was ennobled in 1867 and became known as the Buday-Goldbergers.

One of the most successful managers of the firm was Bertold Goldberger (1849–1913), who modernized the factory, purchasing up-to-date machinery and embarking on the production of new materials. In 1905 he founded Sámuel Goldberger and Sons Ltd., but the recession of 1908 hit the factory hard and weakened it considerably.

Bertold Goldberger's second son, Leó Goldberger was born on May 2, 1878. He studied law in Budapest and Leipzig, but after the death of his elder brother, obedient to his father's wishes, he joined the management of the firm. In 1905 he became executive director, in 1908 general manager and in 1913, after the death of his father, vice-president director. When he took over the management of the firm it was on the brink of bankruptcy, but the First World War brought new commissions from the army and with these a new phase of prosperity started. In the later years of the war raw materials became scarce, and this gave Leó Goldberger the idea of starting a spinning and weaving mill, but due to the hardships following a lost war the plan was realized only a few years later. In 1920 Leó Goldberger became the managing director of the factory.

The weaving factory was established in Kelenföld in 1923, and later, in 1927, the spinning factory was added. In the 1920s the Goldbergers started to produce Bemberg Parisette rayon, which became so popular that counterfeit versions soon appeared on the market. Another novelty introduced by the Goldbergers was the production of shrinkproof materials, following an American patent. The Great Depression of the 1930s passed the factory by; in fact its most successful years were 1936 and 1937, when exports totaled more than two million American dollars.

When the Germans invaded Hungary Dr. Leó Buday-Goldberger was one of their first prisoners. He was deported to the concentration camp in Mauthausen, where he died tragically on May 5, 1945.

The Goldberger Factory was nationalized on March 26, 1948. The central offices in Arany János Street were closed down on December 31, 1950, after the Goldberger National Company had been split up. The management and clerks were transferred to the factories in Óbuda and Kelenföld.


The text and the photos above are part of an exhibition titled Building CEU which will run intermittently throughout 2011 in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Central European University.

Contributing Institutions:

Association for Budapest Urban Heritage Protection, Photographic Group (BVE FCS)
Hungarian National Museum, Collection of Historical Photographs (MNM TF)
Kiscell Museum of the Budapest History Museum, Photographic Collection. Digital reproductions were prepared by F. Szalatnyay Judit. (BTM Kiscell FT)
Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library, Budapest Collection (FSZEK BGY)

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