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Restoration of the Thanhoffer Villa in Siófok

  • The renovated Thanhoffer villa is once again the shining jewel of Siófok

    It was 150 years ago that the elites of Hungarian society first discovered Siófok, and with the completion of the southern railway line, it became much easier for them to get there from the capital. The state of the town’s development can be traced to the mid-19th century, when the guidebooks of the time began referring to the town as a place with a “bright future”. 

    It was at this time that the first tourist projects were launched, and then the 1890s ushered in an era of dramatic change in the history of the beach resort.  This is when an incorporated investment entity founded under the name Balatonfürdő Rt. and headed by Henrik Glatz purchased the bathing rights from the Veszprém church, and the company launched some major projects in 1891.

    In July 1893 the luxurious beach resort was completed together with a walkway along the beach that still exists today, flanked by a stone wall, and with the Sió and Hullám hotels, which in their renovated state still stand proudly next to the Petőfi Promenade.  A few minutes from the first hotels built in Siófok stands the Thanhoffer Villa, which was restored to its past glory in November of last year; it was originally built as Soófok’s first resort designed for the upper middle classes.

    Siófok as a beach resort

    Siófok was developing as a beach resort and attracted an increasing number of celebrities to the southern shores of the Lake Balaton by the end of the 19th century, including the famed medical professor and academic Lajos Thanhoffer. (He was the first academic to write medical textbooks with up-to-date content in Hungarian instead of German, which at the time was the main language of higher education, and today he is considered a pioneer in histology whose contribution to medicine is appreciated to this day). Henrik Glatz asked Lajos Thanhoffer and four of his colleagues to demonstrate the Balaton’s beneficial effects on health at the Siófok beach resort. As a result of this scientific assignment, the Interior Ministry announced its decree naming Siófok an official medicinal bathing centre at the Balaton Season Opening ceremony in July 1893.

    It is not surprising that Lajos Thanhoffer wrote this in one of his articles: Hungarians are very silly to choose fashionable beach resorts abroad when the Balaton and Siófok are much more beautiful than the preferred resorts of the Adriatic.  Lajos Thanhoffer, who was himself descended from nobility, was so captivated by the lake and by Siófok that he eventually had his own villa built there. Characteristically of him, this medical professor built the first villa of Siófok at the end of the 1890s not only for his own comfort but also as an example for others to follow. It is through this that he wished to inspire wealthy families to embellish Siófok with similar buildings. 

    The building as a headquarters

    After Lajos Thanhoffer passed away, the building was sold by the family and it has had several owners over the past decades. For example, there is old footage of workers’ children enjoying their summer holiday in the villa in 1919, and in the same year the building also served as the headquarters of Miklós Horthy. In August 1919 Horthy’s aide-de-camp designated the villa as the headquarters of the commander of the National Army, and so the villa served as the commander’s residence until November 1919 when Horthy entered Budapest. The future regent’s wife and daughters also lived in the building.

    The villa was nationalised in 1945, and in the new millennium the municipality of Siófok purchased the property for approximately 18 million forints and ran it afterwards as a college library for 10 years. In recent years the condition of the building has deteriorated significantly, and a few years ago it suffered serious water damage as a result of a thunderstorm at Balaton. In 2012 Siófok decided to have the Thanhoffer villa restored in a way worthy of a property of its significance, as it is a building that is not only architecturally, but also historically, important for the town.

    exclusive guest house of siófok

    The villa was renovated completely both inside and out, and now enjoys local protection as a listed building; in 2013 it won the “Our Heritage, the Treasure of Somogy County” award, and at the end of the year the restored property was opened to the public. The renovated building was formally opened in November 2013 during the 45th city festivities commemorating the 150-year history of this beach resort.
    The Thanhoffer villa, where the refurbished suites bear the names of the female members of the Horthy family as a reminder of its past, serves as an exclusive guest house in Siófok. The building receives high-ranking visitors to the town, and it also serves as a high-end conference venue.