This trail will lead you around the most important buildings and public spaces designed for Jičín in the 1920s and 1930s by Čeněk Musil. He was the architect and urbanist who, without exaggeration, converted Jičín from a sleepy 19th century backwater into a modern town. Musil oversaw the construction and modification of over 650 buildings, and through his Regulatory Plan (Regulační plán města Jičína), conceived in the spirit of the very latest theses of Vladimír Zákrejs, he set the course of the town’s development.
The trail will introduce you to his public buildings, outstanding examples of which are the Commercial College and the Municipal Library in the initial section of the walk, as well as his apartment buildings and buildings for private contractors. It also takes you to the villa quarter of Čeřovka – a superb example of Musil’s urban vision. The walk ends in the grounds of the hospital, with the exceptionally accomplished morgue building.
Of all the most important buildings erected in Jičín during the First Republic, only a handful were not designed by Musil: Otýlie Mendíková´s villa (Krátká 252), designed by Emil Králíček in 1934, the villa of architect Studený (Štrauchova 578), the block of flats at no. 653 Fügnerova Street (1938–1939, Klement Ossendorf), the Ulrich terraced home (Husova 65, 1928, Vít Obrtel) and, regarding public buildings, the Bohemian Paradise Theatre – later a cinema (1923, the company Gröger, Hemerka a spol. – according to some sources in collaboration with J. Kraup), successfully reconstructed in 2019, and the Hussite Congregational House (Denisova 613).
Jičín during the interwar period
In the mid-1920s, when Čeněk Musil arrived in Jičín as a fresh-faced architectural graduate, he was living in a town of 10,500 inhabitants (up until 1921), in which just 880 buildings had been erected. Jičín had a large garrison (the barracks, today a much truncated complex, was on the street Československé armády 172), it was the centre of the catchment area for elementary and secondary schooling in the far-reaching Podkrkonoší region (there were 11 secondary schools here, and a sizable portion of the local economy was supported by students), distinguished by its distinct cultural, social and sporting life, and it was an important base for tourism, largely thanks to the attractive countryside that surrounded it. Jičín was not ranked as an important economic centre, however. True, regionally important markets were held (and still are) every Saturday, but there were no large industrial enterprises within the town (the exception being the Knotek factory, manufacturing agricultural machines and implements. Partially responsible for this lacklustre state of affairs were the town’s owners, the Trauttmansdorffs. They played de facto zero role in the town’s social life, nor did the town have any major significance in the family’s economic plans. Not until the 1920s and 1930s did they make any significant land available to the town for building. Besides which, the railway – often a catalyst for industrial development and urban expansion – came relatively late to Jičín (1871), and moreover as a branch line of a branch line (on top of which the connection of this track from Ostroměř up to Turnov was opened in 1903).
So-called modernisation (the building of infrastructure and public buildings/spaces) occurred in Jičín relatively late, mainly towards the close of the 19th century, and – unlike the case in most Czech towns, or even compared to surrounding towns in north-eastern Bohemia – it was not accompanied by mass urbanisation. A genuine rocket-like building boom did not happen until after World War I. At the turn of the 1920s the town found itself in a seriously neglected state. The area around the Deanery Church of St James, in the very centre of town, had become overgrown with trees and bushes. In the chateau grounds, the remnants of the Valdštejn estate’s farm buildings and workshops were falling into ruin, and had merged with the aforementioned strip of unkempt vegetation, which ran down to the flood zone of the Cidlina River and formed a barrier between the historic centre and the New Town (Nové Město). The lime-tree alley, like the woodland park on the heights of Čeřovka had similarly gone to seed, and the press at the time groaned with complaints regarding the litter and general untidiness. Civic leaders were conscious of the need for change, and in the mid-1920s they sought the help of leading urbanist Vladimír Zákrejs; a more detailed regulatory plan was then entrusted to Čeněk Musil. His works account for a majority of the buildings erected in Jičín during the 20 years of interwar Czechoslovakia. In these twenty years were built approximately 550 buildings within the town.