THE HISTORY OF THE BENCZÚR HOUSE AND ITS BUILDERS
The Egyedi-palace was built during the end of the 19th century, simultaneously when the other villa quarters appeared near the Andrássy Avenue. (Benczúr Street was called Nagy János Street at that time.) The building’s plans were made by architect Oszkár Marmorek. The palace was constructed as a three-storey residential building: the basement was occupied by service areas and the stables, the first floor had bedrooms and reception areas, while the offices were located on the second floor. A winter garden was created under the dome of the ceremonial hall, the salon was located in a room overlooking the streets, whereas the ladies’ room (White Salon today) and gentlemen’s room (Brown Salon today) were placed in the two side-rooms. The hunting hall served as a dining room.
Following the death of the building’s first owner, Lajos Egyedi, the palace’s ownership was acquired by the Hungarian-Italian Bank. The building was purchased from the bank in 1930 by the Hungarian Royal Post Welfare Fund in order to provide a clubhouse for its postal associations.
In 1928, owing to the trust of the government, the withdrawn pension contributions of postal workers did not have to be surrendered to the central pension contribution fund. Instead, the Royal Post was allowed to establish an individual fund, from which certain institutes aiding postal workers could be supported. As a result, the welfare fund, which controlled the pension contribution fund, decided to establish a clubhouse for the association and purchased the palace under Benczúr St 27. in 1930. In 1931 Baron dr. Gábor Szalay, president of the Postal Music and Cultural Association that was founded in 1925, remembered this occasion in his article titled ”A new home for the Post” the following way: ”I do not state that if we had to construct a new building for us now, we would have built it in such an opulent way. However, do not let yourself distracted by the beautiful looks of the place, for it was a rare and favourable transaction. The building was purchased from the legal successor of a rich cosmopolitan, for such a price that would have covered only fragments of the construction of a simple house suiting our needs.” … ”Let this house be home to peace, love and understanding,… and let future be as beautiful as we hope it to be.”
Excerpt from the founding document of the cultural association in 1925: the goal of the association ”is to pique the interest of postal officers in scientific and fictional literature, along with all branches of art; promote culture through the organisation of scientific or literary lectures and performances for art lovers; establish a musical choir and a symphonic band for the encouragement of a more sophisticated musical culture, while also organising choir and musical events and maintaining a musical school as well.”
The postal palace suffered only minor damage during World War II, and from the ’50s it served its original purpose again as a cultural institute for post office workers. In the early ’90s the building became the headquarters for the Postal and Telecommunications Cultural Foundation, founded together by Hungarian Post Ltd., MATÁV Ltd. and Antenna Hungária Ltd. Following the goals set by the original founders seven decades ago, the foundation aimed to maintain its stature (although now under the name Benczúr House) as a high quality cultural centre, offering programmes for the general public of the capital city.
In 2009 the founders decided the closure (and later the sale) of the Benczúr House, also terminating the foundation maintaining the building. As a result of this, the 100-year-old Erkel Ferenc Music School had to move to another building in the 6th district.
In 2010 the newly appointed leadership of Hungarian Post Ltd. decided that an institute with such rich traditions should not be threatened by the fate of being forgotten. Subsequently, Hungarian Post purchased 52 % of the shares from the owners, and as a 100 % owner of the building decided to revive its former activities, founding the Postal Museum and Cultural Foundation in 2011.
The second and third floors serve as the new location of the Post Museum, which has been welcoming visitors since 9th October 2012 (www.postamuzeum.hu).
THE HISTORY OF THE FORMER BUILDERS OF THE PALACE
The wealth of the Egyedi family was established in the second part of the 19th century by Ignác Stern, a distillery business owner from Újpest. The distillery operated in Budapest, under Árpád Street 27. Since the distillery industry was highly advanced in this period, the factory was very profitable, allowing Ignác Stern to bequeath significant wealth to his two sons, Artúr and Lajos.
Artúr managed the several thousand acre family farmland in Egyed (Sopron County), while Lajos became the new owner of the distillery in Újpest. In 1885 and 1889 the Stern brothers adopted the Hungarian Egyedi surname after the location of the family lands.
At the turn of the century, the two brothers were well known in the aristocratic and higher class society as talented sportsmen, playing a vital role in the national equestrian sport life for 20-25 years. Artúr Egyedi was an excellent agricultural expert and horse breeder, who attended to 12-16 self-raised animals at the same time and bred famous horse families. The carefully kept herds of Lajos Egyedi were registered among the most notable in the country and they are still recorded by Hungarian equestrian sport history. According to storytellers, one of the grandchildren of the famous horse Kincsem was buried in the gardens of the Benczúr House. (There is a commemorative pillar in the garden behind the stage.)
Although he had great interest in equestrian sport and horse breeding, Lajos Egyedi never gave up on his business plans. He built a house, which is now called the Benczúr House, under Nagy János (now Benczúr) Street 27., to serve as a residential building and office. He was among the highest tax-payers of the time. However, the establishment of the alcohol cartel in 1913 blocked future improvements of his distillery, which he had to sell in the next year. After the sale of his factory, he started a cotton venture in Árpád St. He invested a substantial amount of capital into the purchase of modern factory equipment in 1916. Soon, however, tragedies shadowed the family’s everyday life, while the Great Economic Depression also made life difficult for the Egyedis. The contemporary press gave a wide publicity to the death of Artúr Egyedi, who was strangled by his own wife after refusing to pay up her debts. Only fragments of the family’s wealth remained, while the majority of the assets was acquired by the Hungarian-Italian Bank.
In order to prevent the windup of the Benczúr St residential building, Lajos Egyedi committed suicide in 1927.