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The Olšany that Vanished

Location: green area and garden opposite Olšanka, in front of the Olšanská prefab building ground level

Olšany is a village no longer existing in the territory of the present Žižkov and Vinohrady, traceable solely in the names of the Olšanská Street, Olšanské Square, Olšany Cemeteries. It was first mentioned in 1306.  Over the centuries, the proprietors changed and after the breakout of the Black Death epidemic in Prague in 1680, the Prague Cities established three plague cemeteries in Olšany – the Old Town cemetery with the early Baroque church of St. Roch of 1682, the New Town cemetery with the Baroque church of the Holy Cross (nowadays the Žižkov Atrium) built in 1717 to 1719 after the next Black Death epidemic, and the Jewish cemetery (Old Jewish Cemetery in Žižkov). In the second half of the 19th century, the village basically merged with the emerging Žižkov. There were several fishponds along the present Olšanská Street and in the junction area; these were subsequently filled up with earth. The Olšany Creek that flowed across the village was also captured underground. 

The razing and renovation of the 1970’s meant the ultimate end of the last remnants of Olšany and the Old Žižkov as is still commemorated by a rock with the inscription “Commencement of Žižkov Reconstruction, October 1978” in the inner courtyard of the prefab buildings between the Ondříčkova and Kubelíkova Streets. In the early 1970’s, the cable connection tunnel from the Fibichova Street to the telecommunication switchboard behind the Olšany Cemeteries, in construction right then, made an unwelcome contribution to the general razing when the construction work resulted in static failures in several buildings in the corner of the Táboritská Street over several days, and people had to be evacuated immediately. According to the renovation plans, demolitions were intended to reach as far as the U Bulhara junction, excepting the Functionalist General Pension Institute (the Radost House at present). One of the arguments backing this radical action was the thickening traffic in the streets of Prague; Žižkov was supposed to accommodate a major trunk road to the east, the massive Žižkov Radial Highway extending today’s Olšanská Street right up to the U Bulhara where it would cross the North-South Highway. The plans involved extensive demolitions in today’s Seifertova or Husitská Street, even the demolition of the Masaryk Station was considered. The new development could have swallowed the Žižkov Town Hall, the Viktoria Žižkov sports stadium, schools and whole apartment blocks. A development ban was issued for the territory of Žižkov; buildings were intended to age and gradually become uninhabitable. The intention and scope of the razing and renovation of Žižkov was approved in 1973 and the first buildings to be demolished were houses near the present Olšanské Square including the old Olšany school, the oldest in the Žižkov area (classes had been held there since 1838). The area vacated by the old buildings was taken by the Olšanka Hotel and a massive building of another prefab house with shops on the ground floor opposite the Hotel in early 1980’s. That way, Žižkov became the first and only inner City quarter cuddling a prefab estate in its territory. The fact that not all of the Old Žižkov was demolished, and that the prefab houses are limited to the area around the Olšanské and Komenského Squares is due to the gradually increasing delays in construction, and to the fall of the regime in late 1980’s. The last demolitions took place in Žižkov in early 1990’s.