St Adalbert’s Quarter is one of the most typical river areas of the New Town, which evolved naturally as an economic area concentrated on crafts and activities linked to the nearby river. The core of this area is the originally Romanesque Church of St Adalbert which existed before the foundation of the New Town in the mid-14th century. There was an area here inhabited by tawers - artisans who worked raw leather. In the course of the 19th century, St Adalbert’s Quarter was one of the low-lying areas which regularly suffered from flooding and its naturally evolved, unmethodical buildings did not comply in any way with the idea of the future representative role of Prague embankment, which was to be a promenade and a site for luxury houses overlooking Hradčany. St Adalbert’s Quarter occupied the district demarcated by the embankment on the one side and Myslíkova Street and Šítkovské Mills, with the waterworks tower in the south, on the other. It extended as far as the salt-house in the north (where the National Theatre construction was begun in 1868), from the Vltava, including Žofín Island, to Pštrossova Street - which remained intact in its original position and, surprisingly enough, a few of its mediaeval houses have also been preserved. At the riverside, between the bank and Žofín Island there were two groups of mills, in the south Šítkovské Mills and in the north Šerlínské Mills, also referred to as Loďkové Mills (or more precisely The Upper Loďkové Mills, to distinguish them from
Loďkové Mills of the lower stream of the river in St Peter’s Quarter). Vojtěšská Street with its church, parish and bell-tower was the very centre of the area. The houses of this quarter were built so densely and the modern means of transport were so complicated that its continued existence was unthinkable. Before the systematic clearance of St Adalbert’s Quarter took place, a Temporary Theatre was built at its northern end in 1862 and later, between 1868 and 1883, the National Theatre followed, being the first exquisite building of the New Town embankment. The Quarter of St Adalbert also comprises Žofín Island, nowadays Slovanský (Slavonic) Island which evolved from flood silting as late as in the 18th century, particularly after the flood of 1784, when it was reinforced by a wall and regulated. First a leather dyeworks used to be here - this is where its original name of Barvířský (Dyer’s) Island comes from. From 1841 the island was called Žofínský to commemorate the archduchess Žofie (Sophie), mother of the later Emperor Franz Josef I. A community centre where balls, concerts and political rallies took place was built here. To commemorate the slavonic Congress which preceded the revolutionary events of 1848, the island bears the name Slavonic Island.
The Vltava embankment, the construction which started at Palacký Bridge at the end of the 1870s and developed northwards, was to be connected in the future with the first Prague embankment between the Řetězový (Chain) and Karlův (Charles) Bridges. (Nowadays the embankment bears the name of Smetana). The Quarter of St Adalbert constituted a barrier which prevented this goal of interconnection of the two embankments from being realised. Therefore this quarter became the only part of the New Town to be involved in Prague clearance district which was delimited in 1893 and was consequently radically reconstructed. However, this clearance district did not involve the entire vicinity of the Church of St Adalbert, but only its parts adjoining the river to the west of Vojtěšská Street. It was only here that the necessity of improving the state of hygiene was unarguable. The deficient condition of the properties was caused by the immediate proximity to the unregulated river. There was therefore a lack of construction company interest in this area, which, in the early 1890s, was not the case for all the other sites surrounding this part of St Adalbert’s Quarter adjoining the river where new building took place.
Plans for the construction of two blocks were made for the area determined for demolition. These schemes, however, were only to be carried out after the new embankment had been completed. The work on the construction of the above, which was preceded by the expropriation, purchase and demolition of the designated buildings, commenced in March 1903 and was completed in March 1905. The newly demarcated buildings of St Adalbert’s Quarter at the embankment overlooking Prague Castle became extremely attractive and sought after by builders and contractors. The new construction works on the embankment were launched in its southern part across the Šítkovská Waterworks Tower and continued fluently towards the north, linking the completed segments of the riverside thoroughfare. In the row of properties facing the Vltava many buildings stand out because of their monumentally decorated and spectacular facades, which have elements of both historicism and Art Nouveau. The last important alteration was the removal of the remaining mill buildings close to the Waterworks Tower in 1928 and the construction of the Constructivist building of the Mánes Association of Artists in 1930. The same period of time saw the demolition of the baths building on Žofín and the entire island was arranged into a park. The architectural alteration of St Adalbert’s Quarter was carried out peacefully, without dramatic events which accompanied Josefov or the Old Town clearances. This is due to the fact that its history was not so famous and its architectural value was not indispensible.
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