As Žilina developed from the 13th century onwards, the town square or rínok became its most important area. The richest of the townspeople and nobility had their houses here and the town hall was also on the square. Only a few people could live on the square at any time, because there were just 40 lots and 40 houses, some of which merged at various times to give the current total of 32 buildings. The houses were modified, rebuilt and sometimes even completely demolished – as was the case with house 27.
It was originally a single-storey building – the only one on the square – built in the 16th century in a Renaissance style. Its owners are known from the mid-18th century. They include Count Anton Pongrác and one of the most famous of all citizens of Žilina – Alexander Lombardini. He was born in Bytča and grew up on Horný val, a street not far from the square. After completing his studies and moving to Pezinok for a short period, he spent the rest of his brief but intense life in Žilina. He was a historian, a writer and a lawyer. His research, which he published mainly in the journal Slovenské pohľady, concerned history, personalities and events from every part of Slovakia. His most important work was Stručný dejepis slobodného mesta Žiliny (Brief History of the Free Town of Žilina), published at his own expense in 1874. Lombardini’s successful career in the law enabled him and his wife to purchase house number 27 on the square (now with two storeys) for 14,600 florins in 1886. After his wife died, he continued to live there with his second wife. After he died, his daughter Gabriela sold the house to Móric Ripper in 1901. Móric Ripper’s heirs sold the Renaissance house to Rudolf Preiss and his wife Terézia, née Steinerová, for 160,000 crowns in 1925.
The Preiss family settled in Žilina at the end of the 19th century and were very successful entrepreneurs. While Rudolf Preiss’s father had been a tavern-keeper, he sold clothing and ready-to-wear clothes. His brothers did business as timber and textile dealers. Members of the family had houses on Mydlárska, Národná and Štefániková streets. In addition to the house at Mariánske námestie 27, Rudolf Preiss owned another three-storey house on Hurbanová ulica. He ran a clothing shop in the house on the square until 1933. He then decided for a radical change involving the modernisation of his shop and the residential part of the house in the functionalist style that was then relatively well developed in Žilina. Two modern, functionalist buildings had already been built on the square and had an impact on its character. For this reason, the proposal to add a third functionalist building stirred up a controversy. Representatives of the town’s engineering department and the State Monument Preservation Office in Bratislava were amongst the opponents of building a four-storey building two-storeys taller than the other buildings on its side of the square. The town and the monuments office absolutely rejected the proposal for a large sign advertising the R. Preiss Fashion and Clothing Store. The owner’s name on the sign was made in blue neon tubes produced by the firm Neobrom of Brno and was not in accordance with the legal requirements of the building permit. This part of the advert was later removed from the building’s facade.
The building itself received permission from the District Office in Žilina on 06 July 1933 but without the building plans, which were sent for assessment to the Monument Preservation Office. Although they recommended that it should not be built and returned the plans to the district office, another building permit was issued on 19 October 1933. The building was completed and the occupancy certificate issued on 07 July 1934 despite the fact that it had an illuminated advertisement and was 464 m2 larger than the original plan. Rudolf Preiss commissioned the design for the building from the architect M. M. Scheer, who was one of the best functionalist architects, not only in Žilina but also in Slovakia. He was responsible for many of the functionalist projects in the town including the design of a bank built at number 21 on the square. He completed the basic plan in April 1933 and designed the illuminated advertisement in May and June 1934. In June, he also revised the design of the third and fourth storeys. Friedner’s construction firm built the house.
In the basement there was a central heating boiler, a fuel storage room, a laundry room and storerooms. There was a large shop with a balcony on the ground floor with its own entrance from the square. The shop had a storeroom and later a room where a tailor did finishing work on suits that were sold without complete stitching so that they be adjusted to customers’ exact requirements. The residential part of the house had a separate entrance next to the shop. Initially the first floor contained a five-room flat with a hall, which was later converted into a doctor’s surgery and flat. After the doctor moved out, it was converted to two flats with amenities, one with two rooms and the other with three rooms. On the second floor there was a three-room flat with a maid’s room, a hall, a terrace and amenities and on the partial third floor there was a drying room.
The house was taken into temporary administration in 1941. The original owners died at Auschwitz and after 1945 the real estate was returned to their son and daughter. The first and second floors continued to be used as dwellings while the ground floor became the OTEX clothing shop in 1949. The state took over the building in 1961 and it was returned to its original owners and sold into private ownership in 1990. It was renovated and extended and is now used for commercial purposes.
Source: Mgr. Peter Štanský a Milan Novák
It can be visited
■ exterior during a guided tour of TIO Žilina.
Position of the monument on the map: B4