Villa Petschek has an extensive history in terms of who occupied the Villa and when, as well as what happened to the Villa during that period of occupation. In 1923 Otto Petschek bought the land lots that were numbered 746-750 in Bubenec, Prague for the reason that he wanted to live closer to his brothers, who had also built residences in that area. The following year, the German architect Maximilian Spielmann started construction on the Villa. Spielmann was an expert in historicizing styles during a period of considerable rise in modernism throughout the rest of Prague. Just five short years later, Villa Petschek was completed by Matej Blecha and Maximilian Spielmann, designed by Otto Petschek himself. The Petschek family moved into the Villa during the winter of 1929-1930 and the Staff-house next door housed Petschek relatives. Otto wanted a place for him, his wife, and four children- (3 daughters, one son) that displays his wealth and social status with room for a luxurious social life.
Not even 10 years later in 1934, Otto Petschek became ill and passed away. After the death of Otto in 1938, there was a Nazi threat to peace in Europe, and in Czech specifically. Because of this, the Petschek family fled to the United States. When the Nazi’s occupied Prague, they seized the home and until May of 1945, it was the residence of the General Toussaint, who was the head of the German Army that was occupying Prague. After the Germans were forced out of Prague, the Soviet Army took over the Villa for several days. The next occupants were the Czech General Staff and it was used as a Staff Headquarters. Not much was done to the Villa during this time to maintain or modify the property, other than several artifacts being taken and/or destroyed.
1945 was the start of an important few years when in September, the American Ambassador Laurence Steinhardt leased the residence from the Czech Ministry of National Defense. The lease was subject to an annual renewal and was required the ministry to make certain repairs. Three years later, in July of 1948, the residence, which was Deputy Chief of Mission’s house, and the staff-house were purchased for $1,570,000 and were established as the Ambassador’s residence. The money went to the Czech government against surplus property debts to the US Government. The villa and its furniture was a part of the sales agreement between the Czech Ministry of National Defense and the US State Department along with other properties, adding up to $1.72 million. The total cost was credited to the Czech surplus debt after the war, so ultimately did not cost the US any money. When the relationships between the two countries became increasingly worse with the rise of Communism, the Czech Government ceased payment on property debts and the assets and credits were frozen.
Time Line of Villa Petschek
DSN S 546: Interdisciplinary Design Studio, Spring 2018
College of Design | Iowa State University
Preservation & Cultural Heritage Czech Republic: International Perspectives and Design Issues
Diane Al Shihabi, Ph.D.
Department of Interior Design
Mikesch Muecke, Ph.D.
Department of Architecture