Prague’s 19th century Těšnov station remembered on 30th anniversary of demolition

Těšnov train station, photo: Public Domain

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the demolition of Prague’s Těšnov train station, a once magnificent 1870s structure that stood just a stone’s throw from the city’s Florenc district. The razing of the station has become a symbol of the cultural barbarism of Czechoslovakia’s communist regime.

Těšnov train station,  photo: Public Domain
On March 16 1985, Prague’s Těšnov train station collapsed in minutes following a controlled explosion that period footage shows threw up a gigantic cloud of dust.

For the first four decades of the neo-Renaissance structure’s existence it bore the functional name North Western Station.

Following independence it was renamed Denisovo (Denis) Station, after Ernest Denis, a French politician who had supported the foundation of Czechoslovakia.

Photographs from the time show that the station – which mainly served passenger trains – really was a magnificent building.

Petr Kučera is an architect with a strong interest in disappeared Prague.

“I think it was one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe. It was designed by the Vienna architect Karel Schlimp in 1875. It was inspired by Roman triumphal arches and it was unique. It was a small train station, but very nice.”

Petr Kučera,  photo: Ian Willoughby
The last train departed from Těšnov to Lysá nad Labem in Central Bohemia in July 1972.

The northern wing of the station was knocked down two years later to make way for the “magistrála”, the motorway the communist authorities decided should cut right through the capital.

What remained of the building was given protected status, while simultaneously being unused and allowed to fall into disrepair.

Petr Kučera says the communist authorities decided without warning – and ignoring its protected status – to raze the remaining part of the station to the ground.

It was on the route of an event linked to a Spartakiad mass sports meeting being held in Prague in the summer of 1975.

“There was a plan to reconstruct it for university needs as Charles University dormitories, to rebuild it as a student building. But the political decision for demolition was made one day and the demolition took place the next day.”

Photo: CTK
Before the Těšnov train station was knocked down completely, it was stripped of its statues and other valuable fittings, which were added to the collections of the National and City of Prague Museums.

A panel exhibition on the site’s history was installed on Monday in front of the latter institution, very near the now rather bleak spot where the railway station stood for over a century.