Stunning house with famous underground safe renovated in Buda Castle

Hungarian version of the article: Gyönyörűen felújították a föld alatti trezorjáról híres budavári házat az Úri utcában

Written by: Péter Bukovszki

November 13, 2020 at 10:00 AM

The house under 72 Úri Street and its underground tunnels once housed Hungary's gold reserves during the second world war and 600–700 people alongside them. In the 1950s the location was used to control the electrical grid. The house has newly been restored to its original late-baroque design as the educational centre of the Hungarian National Bank.

Not far for Mary Magdalene Tower at the end of Úri Street, a small two-storey Baroque house fits casually into the landscape. Built in several phases after the expulsion of the Ottomans, most of the current building was built in the 18th century. Its stone gate on Úri Street was built in the 19th century.

Today the house is still surrounded by wooden planks and noise of work can be heard from inside. However, the signs of change are already apparent. After having stood neglected for decades, the house has been returned to its Baroque splendour. Beyond restoring the facade, the interior of the building was torn down to the bricks themselves, all wiring modernised, and the roof replaces. Work still seems to be drawing to a close, despite the original deadline of its completion being in September.

A pub then a grocer operated in 72 Úri Street (to the right) in the 19th century. Photographed by György Klösz after 1895 (Photo: Budapest Archives, Reference No.: HU_BFL_XV_19_d_1_07_201)

From the outside, the building seems nothing special, set against the general view of the Castle District. Its real value lies underground in the form of a 1534 square metre cellar system that reaches 45 metres into the earth.

The house once again showcases its late Baroque beauty (Photo: Balázs Both/

The life of the building changed considerably in the 1930s. Fearing the coming world war, the government decided to find a secure place for the valuables of the Hungarian National Bank in the government quarter of the time, which happened to be the Castle District. In 1936, the Vice-President of the National Bank, Géza Scossa, secretly purchased 72 Úri Street and large scale constructions began in and below it.

Work is still underway inside, but the outside has been finished (Photo: Balázs Both/

The pre-existing two-storey 7–10 metre deep baroque cellar system was expanded between 1938 and 1941. Two emergency exits were also built 15 metres underground. One led under the castle wall onto Lovas Street, while the other led to the former Ministry of the Interior, which operated in 51–53 Úri Street at the time.

The traditional windows of the building are characteristic of Buda Castle (Photo: Balázs Both/

The created bunker had running water, sewage connections, and electricity. It was filled with safe rooms where parts of the national cash and gold reserves were stored during the Second World War, alongside the coronation jewels. A team of 6–700 people lived in the provisioned bunker through the bombing raids.

The State Security Agency was interested in the building after the war. However, it was eventually taken away from the National Bank and given to Erőmű Tröszt ('power plant trust'). Following the slightly paranoid atmosphere of the times, the national electricity load distributor was established in the well-defended bunker. The system worked from the bunker until 1978, when it left the small and now impractical site. It moved into the recently demolished MAVIR headquarters planned by Csaba Virág, next to the National Archives, also in the castle.

The control room of the distribution system in 1971 during the light switch vote of the Riporter kerestetik TV show (Photo: Fortepan/No.: 147921)

In 2015 the building was returned to the Hungarian National Bank, or its PADME (Pallas Athena Domus Meriti) Foundation to be exact. The reconstruction was initiated by the foundation's predecessor, PAIGEO (Pallas Athéné Innovation and Geopolitical Foundation) and is now drawing to a close.

Cover photo: 72 Úri Street as seen from Kapistrán Square (Photo: Balázs Both/

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