So much has been written about this Prague landmark, I wondered how I could add to the conversation. But then I came across some old photos of Prague and it occurred to me that most people have not seen what the Old Town Hall or Staroměstská Radnice looked like until recently, and that it has changed over the years. I located photographs from before WWII, just after the war and as far back as the 15th Century.
This is the view as it is now, from a slightly different angle than most see.
Before 1945, there was an entire eastern wing of the town hall, which wrapped around the side of the square.
Here is an image from 1939.
Below you can see how the town hall looked like on the archive postcard shortly before the war began.
I bt you didn’t know that the tram actually stopped at the Orloj (aka the Prague astronomical clock).
So what happened to this part of the structure?
Just a few months before the end of World War II, Prague began the Prague uprising. It lasted only a few days, and during these days the town hall housed one of the central insurgent groups.
For a couple of days, the Nazis were intensively shelling the town hall, and then, on another attack on the last day of the uprising, on May 8, they set fire to it.
It was difficult to contain the fire and soon this part of the town hall burned to the ground.
Then the fire spread to other parts of the building and neighboring houses as well.
The roof of the tower was burned, Orloj was badly damaged, and the oldest bell of Prague, cast as early as 1314, was also destroyed.
The astronomical clock was badly ruined.
Well, when the war was declared over several months later, they decided to restore only the main tower and the southern wing of the building, and the eastern wing was demolished.
Let’s look a little further back in time.
Here is a photo of the early 1900s.
This is before the tram was even allowed there.
In fact, let’s take it back even more.
If we travel through the portal of time for another three centuries, you can see that in 1780, things looked differently.
In fact, in the XV century the town hall looked a little different as well.
Initially, the town hall building was Gothic. Already with Orloj, but without the second clock at the top of the tower.
Here is an illustration from 1825.
Here it is in 1835.
Here it is in 1840.
Here it is in 1856.
Here it is in 1890.
Here it is in 1902.
Here it is in 1905.
Here it is in 1910.
Here you can see the detail, as the firemen stand ready in 1912.
And a nice view of the astronomical clock in 1914.
And this is strange – an artists rendition (though it looks like a photograph) of a proposed design for a glass and concrete structure.
Finally, here is a collection of drawings which show how the structure changed during the ages.
Who knew it had gone through so many changes!