In a story-book house, in a prosperous kingdom, when a century was new, lived a unique little boy...
Leo Szilard later recalled it this way: "I was the oldest of three children, and we lived in a house which belonged... originally to my grandparents. Then it was inherited by three sisters, of whom my mother was one, and each sister had a whole floor. It was a house with a large garden in the cottage district of Budapest."
The house still stands, at 33 Városligeti Fasor. In English, the street would be called City-Park Esplanade. At that time, it was named simply Fasor (Esplanade). Larger image (49 KB)
The house was the result of a closely-knit family and an inheritance. In 1901, Leo's maternal grandmother decided to use a recent inheritance to build a house large enough that her three daughters, and their families, could live with her. The house also was intended to show the abilities of her son, struggling young architect Emil Vidor. He was instructed to create the best and most beautiful house possible. Larger image (32 KB) or Largest image (104 KB)
Construction of the house began in the fall of 1901 and it was completed in December 1902. Louis and Tekla Szilárd and their three children -- Leo, Béla and Rószi -- moved into the 3rd floor. Leo was 4 years old, Béla was 2, and Rószi was 1. In addition to serving as a family home, the house provided office space for the civil engineering practice of Louis Szilárd and the architecture practice of Emil Vidor. (Vidor's name still can be seen above the door to his office.)
Later years would bring financial hardship to the family, but the years of Leo's childhood were prosperous and happy. Behind the house, the large back yard provided a safe place for the children to play. In front of the house, the broad street was lined with chestnut trees and travelled by horse-drawn carriages.
A short walk up the Fasor to the north was the Városliget (City Park), with its amusement park, zoo, and lake. A short walk to the west was bustling Andrássy út, the widest avenue of the city. Larger image (60 KB)
A plaque on the front of the house commemorates its famous resident. "In this house," it begins, "grew up Leo Szilard..."
The house is no longer a private residence. It is now a dormitory for music students (Liszt Ferenc Zenemüvészetiföiskola, Bartók Béla Kollégiuma).
To visit the house, take the subway (M1, yellow line) to the stop at Bajza utca. You will be at the corner of Andrássy and Bajza. Walk southeast on Bajza 300 meters to Városligeti Fasor. The house, at number 33, is near the corner. Please do not disturb the residents.
Szilard quotation from Weart and Szilard, Leo Szilard: His Version of the Facts, Selected Recollections and Correspondence, page 4. Other details are based on interviews with Bela Silard, and on Louis Szilárd, Recollections (English translation by Bela Silard), unpublished manuscript courtesy John Silard.
Text and photographs © 1998 Gene Dannen
Created: March 1, 1998
Gene Dannen / firstname.lastname@example.org
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