The street was named in honour of emperor Ferdinand V, the Gracious, who ruled in the period 1835-1848, spent his retirement in Prague Castle where he died in 1875, and who was regarded as a good friend of the Czechs. That is why his name was attached to the street officially known as V nových alejích (The New Alley, in contrast to the Old Alley, later known as Na Příkopě Street). However, even Ferdinand’s popularity among the Czechs could not prevent the street from being renamed Národní (i.e. of the /Czech/ nation) Road in 1919, after the Czech separation from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Ferdinandova was one of those streets which came into being by the covering up of the original moat which divided the Old Town and the New Town. Two towers from the original mediaeval fortification are still retained in the courtyard of the block situated between Národní and Bartolomějská Streets. Soon after its establishment in 1781 the new street was adorned on both sides by a lime-tree alley. The last of the trees was still extant in 1864. The part of the street lying close to the Vltava River was for some time different from the rest, due to the fact that it retained remnants of the moat, which was used as a dumping place. The marginal appearance of this area between the Church of St Ursula and the Vltava was not considerably changed even by the construction of the Emperor Franz Bridge and of Franz embankment in the 1840s. On the site of today’s National Theatre stood a state salt-house, surrounded by neglected vacant lots. On the opposite, Old Town, side the area was covered until 1858 by the ellenberg brickyard and lime works, as well as docks. From the 17th century there also stood the hospital of the Knights of the Cross, which was abolished by Josef II and demolished in the course of the construction of Franz embankment. Even further back in history, on this site stood a public bath which was a bone of contention between the Old Town and New Town aldermen as to which of the respective quarters was its rightful owner. Still around the year 1830 most of the structures to be seen on the Old Town side of the street were garden walls. As was the case in Na Příkopě Street (the Old Alley), the New Alley was also faced by the fronts of the New Town houses, while the Old Town, so to speak, turned its back on it. Therefore, for a long time, the more impressive buildings were to be seen almost exclusively on the New Town side, while an impressive structure on the Old Town side was rather a rarity.
This situation changed dramatically in the 1860s when the Old Town side saw the rise of representative neo-renaissance buildings by I. Ullmann, and especially after 1868 when the construction of the National Theatre was started. Thus the street quickly acquired a monumental architectural ending, and the area around the National Theatre became a "Salon of Prague". In a competitive counterpart to Na Příkopě Street, which was the promenade of Prague’s German-speakers, Ferdinandova Street turned into Prague’s no. 1 Czech promenade.
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