Saturday, 11 September 2010

'We are Reconstructing for You'

And not before time. Hats off to the council etc. The magnificent 'Rangherka' chateau, which dominates the historic centre of the old town of Vršovice, has been in a state of severe decay for at least a decade. Now 100m Czech crowns (£3.3m) - a tenth of Prague 10's annual budget - has been ringfenced for its reconstruction.

Giuseppe Rangheri was born in Gora, on the shores of Lake Como, and came to Prague in the late 1700s when there was already a thriving silk market. He set up his original mulberry plantation near Wenceslas Square, in those days the city's horse-market. After his death, Rangheri's son Enrico bought this plot of land in Vršovice - previously a vineyard - and planted hundreds of new mulberries, converting the existing farmstead into a turretted palace-cum-silk factory.

But silkmaking in Prague was in decline, and after Enrico Rangheri's death in 1857 this noble if eccentric enterprise gradually came to an end, The building was sold for 30,000 gold pieces, then re-sold in 1882 to the township of Vršovice, The mulberries were grubbed up and a public park established. Finally in 1899 the turrets were torn down and the palace rebuilt in its present neo-renaissance style, along with a monumental horseshoe-shaped staircase.

Since then the building has been through many incarnations including a primary school and clinic for the treatment of tuberculosis and, later, alcoholism.  And what now? Plans are currently wavering between a hotel-restaurant complex and accommodation for senior citizens. Given that Vršovice has the highest percentage of pensioners in the city, that is the plan which seems to be gaining approval. Let's hope they keep the five-star restaurant idea, though - after all pensioners still have to eat!

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