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Old postcards of Prague   the Clearance of Josefov

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The Prague Town Council tried to push through the Clearance Act as early as in the middle of the 1880s. However, it was not until February 1893 that the Act was adopted by the Imperial Council. The Act delimited the clearance district which, apart from the Quarter of Josefov, also comprised the adjoining areas of the Old Town. Furthermore, the Act defined the manner of expropriation which was essential for the demolition of specific houses. The aim of the clearance project was the construction of a new, exquisite commercial and residential quarter in the very centre of Prague, in the vicinity of Staroměstské Square. The clearance district comprised the area demarcated by the river Vltava on one side and the line passing through Platnéřská Street, the northern part of Staroměstské Square and Dlouhá Road on the other; in sum, the clearance district included 584 land-registry numbers, out of which 260 pertained to Josefov. The clearance commenced in 1896 on the site where the future main street of the new quarter merged with Staroměstské Square. The main street was to be 24 metres long and it was to imitate the Paris boulevards and the Viennese Ringstrasse.

The trajectory of this new street did not comply with the original street network and was in a way an interference with the historic ground plan. However, the new side streets crossing the rising Mikulášská Street, from both directions, paradoxically respect the trajectories of the original old streets, even though the new streets are wider and more straight-forward. The first three years saw the demolition of the streets located to the south of Široká Street and, despite a public outcry, the demolition of five buildings on the northern side of Staroměstské Square was also carried out, as was that of the building housing the Benedictine St Nicholas Convent. From 1900 the clearance moved north-westwards, in the east it did not yet pass Cikánská Street. Between 1907 and 1908 the westernmost areas of the clearance district were demolished, including the Old Town streets Kaprová and Platnéřská. In 1909 the block between Hampejská and Břehová Streets as well as a part of Josefov and the adjoining Old Town streets to the east of Cikánská Street, were cleared. The gradually cleared building sites were sold to property developers and built up with new houses, the design of which varies from historicism to Art Nouveau and reveals the course of time during which the clearance was carried out. Further clearance was discontinued by the outbreak of the First World War, afterwards, however, the clearance was resumed in the demarcated area under renewed Acts, even though the easternmost part in the vicinity of St Agnes Convent remained intact. Demolitions in other historic parts of Prague took place at the same time as the clearance. This extensive alteration of Prague’s built-up area caused the intense resentment of the cultured public which was focused around a strong movement called, from 1900, For Old Prague. None of the protests, however, hindered the new construction projects in the former ghetto as its state of disrepair did not even allow consideration of renovation.

the Clearance of Josefov

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