The Preiss House

Hodžova Street No. 3

During the middle ages, the most attractive place to live and do business in Žilina was the square and the adjoining streets that were protected by the town’s fortifications – the walls and the upper and lower gates. This was where the richest and most successful of Žilina’s townspeople lived. One of the desirable addresses was what is now Hodžova ulica, which was originally known as Gold Street (townspeople used the Latin name – Platea Aurea). A two-storey house with arcades stood on the site of the Preiss House, probaly from the 16th century. It was unusual because although arcades have been preserved on the other side of the street, this house was the only one on its sides that is known to have had arcades from the photographic record. In 1849 the building belonged to the respected Pokorný family and in 1892 it was acquired by Jakub Preiss who operated a tavern in the front part under the arcades next door to a dairy. The house was 26 m long and 9.2 m wide. In 1924 the house’s poor condition meant that it was in danger of collapsing and the owner wanted to renovate it. The structural condition of the front part was so bad, however, that the renovation plan was refused and the owner had to demolish the building.

After the purchase of the land in 1926 for 24,000 crowns, it was acquired by Jakub’s daughters-in-law: Etela, née Gelbová, the wife of Jozef Preiss, and Valéria, née Weiszová, the wife of Leopold Preiss. After the demolition of another old house next door, they erected a new functionalist building with a reinforced concrete core based on a design by the well-known architect Jozef Zweigethal of Moravská Ostrava. He probably recommended the owners to hire the respected construction firm of Rudolf Maresch, also based in Moravská Ostrava, which had experience of such difficult construction projects. At that time, no Žilina construction firm had that sort of experience.

The owners changed their original plan to build just a two-storey residential and commercial building and on 10 June 1927, the district office issued permission for a three-storey building. Later in the building process at the end of 1927, they asked for additional permission for a fourth storey. The building work and its extension was marked by many complaints from neighbours and disputes about the building’s footprint. At that time there was no other private building so tall and extensive in the town’s historic core. The owners received a permit to add a fourth storey on 09 February 1928 and building work was completed on 07 November 1928. An interesting feature of the building was that it had the first passenger lift in Žilina, which had to have its own separate permit. The lift for 4 persons was supplied by the Edvard Schliegl Special Lift Engineering Factory of Brno and Prague. This company specialising in hoists and lifts founded by Ing. Edvard Schliegel had produced the first lift in the Czech Lands to use an electric motor in 1895. Despite its historic value, the lift was removed and scrapped in 1987. So far it has not been replaced.

The house has a large basement with a separate entrance from the street that included not only cellars and storage space but also central heating systems and bins for coal and ash, which was brought up to the ground floor in a special goods lift. Shops were installed on the ground floor and it continues to be used for retail. Leopold Preiss, the husband of one of the owners, had the largest shop, on the corner of today’s Hodžova and Mydlárska Streets, where he operated a fashion boutique. After 1945 it had several different uses including as a paint shop and a drug store. In the smaller premises on Mydlárska Street there was a repair shop for sewing machines and bicycles. There was a total of twelve large flats on the three upper floors accessed by a separate entrance. Each had ceilings with wooden beams and plasterwork with a height of 3.1 m. The largest flats had 96 m2 of living space though some without bay windows were smaller. The original central heating system was replaced by gas. The flats now have a separate heating system for each floor.

From 1941 to 1945 the building was under state administration. It was damaged during the war when a shell exploded here in April 1945. After the war the building was returned to Valéria Preiss, who was by then living abroad. The building was nationalised by decision of the Žilina District National Committee of 30 December 1962 and placed under the administration of the Žilina housing administration. In 1988 the flats were privatised by individuals who bought them from the town.

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: C4

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