The once-iconic Corvin department store has a fascinating history.
The building, which later served as the venue of the department store, first opened in 1875 and housed Népszínház, the Hungarian National Theater. The building was also home to a newspaper, Budapesti Hírlap, and then it functioned as a cinema. – writes 24.hu. The cinema later became Apolló Cabaret, then Apolló Stage, but the building was deconstructed by Christmas 1923. A new building took over the place on 24 March 1926 and the Corvin department store finally opened its doors.
It was Hungary’s first mall.
Customers could visit a railway ticket office, household goods store, carpet store, shoe store, instant photography, cafe, restaurant, and fashion stores as well. Clothes were fitted to the customers by 60 seamstresses and free brochures were sent out by post so that people could see the available products. The mall was also the first building in the country to have an escalator. At times, the shoppers were even entertained by live music. The employees enjoyed working at the department store as well. The staff of 700 people earned a good wage, higher than average, and even a daycare was available for their children. The company also provided homes for some of its employees.
The siege of Budapest then changed this idyll.
History left a mark on the building that lost its charm eventually. A serious decision had to be made: should the owners close down the building for a two-year renovation or find other solutions to keep it open? In the end, they tried to fix the damages instead of renovating the building, so that they could keep using it and prevent financial losses. However, the building lost its beauty.
In 2003, it was almost decided to be torn down, but then it became a protected building, thus it was spared from demolition.
In the 2000s, the building served numerous functions. A Chinese store, bookshop and a supermarket were operating inside the building. But it was also home to cultural and social centers, and at the rooftop, there were concerts and film screenings held. These businesses eventually left the building starting from 2017, and by 2022 January the last tenant, Spar, moved out as well. The building is now being renovated and probably will await visitors in the future. The original look of the building is definitely a reference point in renovating and revamping the venue. Although, recapturing its original state does not seem to be the main goal of the project. Some of the original elements have to be eliminated, as they cannot be used anymore. The store will reopen in 2023, probably in the spring.
The Hungarian government has allocated HUF 300 million for the renovation of the store. – lakaskultura.hu writes. The portal also quotes an old article of Pesti Hírlap, which gives a realistic image of the building’s golden era: “Not only are thousands of customers from the capital crossing the threshold but so are foreigners who know that Budapest’s fashion trade is not behind Paris or London in terms of taste, quality and conscience.”