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Letná Parks (Letenské sady)

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Praha 7 - Holešovice

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Letná Parks

The parks between the Edvard Beneš Embankment and the Letná Plain were among the first public parks of a promenade nature. They spread on 25 ha. In the past, they used to be called the Letná Hill, which means a hill facing the summer, i.e. the Southern side. As the Chotek’s Park has already been connected with the Royal Garden, there was now a chance to walk from the lower part of Holešovice via a green park all the way to Prague Castle and then on past Strahov, Petřín, and all the way to Smíchov. There used to be vineyards on the Letná slope, and the Letná Plain was often used as an army camp. In 1635, a chapel of St. Mary Magdalene was built at the foot of the hill, and it was transferred to its present-day location in relation with the traffic modifications at the end of the Čech’s Bridge in the 50s. In 1716, Count Valdštejn built a chateau here, which he called Belvedér. The French armies blasted it away during their withdrawal in 1742. The name Belvedér was then incorrectly transferred to the Queen Anne’s Summer House at Prague Castle. After the death of the owner of most of the land plots, Jakub Wimmer, the Letná plains began to become desolate. From the 1860s on, the City of Prague began buying out the land plots in order to establish a public park. The park was established according to a project of artistic gardener Bedřich Wünscher and Jiří Braul. The modifications culminated by building a new-Renaissance restaurant according to an architect Vojtěch Ullmann in 1863. Today, the restaurant is named Belcredi, after Count Richard Belcredi, a governor in Bohemia form 1864 on, after whom a street was named, today the Milada Horáková’s Avenue. The building is called Letná Chateau. Not far away in the direction of the National Technical Museum, there is an interesting curiosity - an old carousel with wooden horses in a decoratively carved wooden pavilion. The horses are overlaid with genuine horse skin with no seams from heads to hooves. There are four cars and twenty one horses on the carousel. It was brought here from Královské Vinohrady from the coaching inn Na Kravíně in 1894. It was functional without major repairs until 1995, when it was partially restored. In 2004, the National Technical Museum purchased it to include it in its collections, and a general reconstruction is planned.

At the end of the 1880s, further park modifications were performed in accordance with a project of František Thomayer. The second Prague’s cableway was built opposite today’s Revoluční Avenue on the occasion of the Jubilee Exhibition in 1891, from which it was possible to change for Křižík’s electrical line up on the hill, which went from here to the exhibition grounds. The cableway was in operation until the World War I, and after the war it was transformed into moving staircase, which stopped moving at the end of the 30s. In 1892, a decorative pavilion promoting foundries and ironworks in Komárov near Hořovice was transferred to the Letná Park from the Exhibition Ground. The pavilion was a donation of Count Vilém of Hanau, the owner of the foundries and the surrounding manors, to the City of Prague (hence the name Hanavský). Above the Chotek road, on one of the bastions of the Baroque fortifications, a spectacular villa in new-Baroque style was built in 1911 by a parliament member and the first prime minister of the Czechoslovak Government JUDr. Karel Kramář. It is not open for public, as it serves the needs of the government.

In 1953, the square Letenské náměstí was connected with the embankment via the Letná tunnel. In the same year, a construction of a monumental Stalin Memorial began on the hill opposite the Pařížská Avenue. The memorial’s authors were sculptor Otakar Švec and architect Jiří and Vlasta Štursa. The memorial was blasted off in November 1962.

Instead of the memorial, there is now a huge metronome on the platform. This pendulum was manufactured by the company ČKD Racionalizace in the early 1990s, upon an order from the Association for the Czechoslovak General Exhibition. The author is Vratislav Karel Novák, a professor of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design. The metronome first started to move on the 15th May 1991. It is nearly 25 metres high and weighs 7 tons. The installation could not be performed by a land technology, due to fears from disturbed statics of the platform after blasting off the Stalin Memorial, and it was therefore settled in place by a giant helicopter. Underneath the former Stalin Memorial, there is an extensive space of 10,000 m2, unused as for now. A restaurant from the Expo 58 exhibition in Brussels was brought to Prague after the exhibition and in 1960 it was installed in the hill behind the Štefánik’s Bridge. The pavilion was used as an exclusive Expo 58 Restaurant until 1992. Then the restaurant closed and the object started to dilapidate. There was a reconstruction in the years 2000 - 2001, and now the pavilion is used by a private company. Regarding trees, the poplars, willows, plum trees and spruce trees are dominant in the park, and especially the mighty sycamore trees are remarkable.

In April 2003, over 70 new trees were planted in the Letná Park. Behind the former Stalin Memorial, there are decorative apple trees from the dendrology collections in Průhonice, and a beech alley was planted nearby the apple trees.


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