Landslide in Buda: cracked walls and sunken villas lined Castle Hill

Hungarian version of the article: Földcsuszamlás Budán: falak repedtek, villák süllyedtek a Várhegy oldalában

Written by: Csaba Domonkos

January 21, 2021 at 9:00 AM

In January 1936 the earth began to move in Buda. But it was not an earthquake but a landslide. The western slope of Castle Hill began to slide. Roads sank, houses cracked, many homes had to be abandoned. The hill’s movement lasted for months and was eventually stopped in the Autumn. Several houses were demolished due to the disaster.

The residents of the elegant villas and tenement houses on Castle Hill were shocked to find that their cars were hitting ever-larger bumps in January 1936 because the soil was sinking on Logodi Street. Not much later, cracks began to form in the plaster on the houses, even in the newest and most modern buildings.  The landslides started in front of the building at 26 Lovas út, which was incidentally the home of Géza Bornemissza, the Minister for Industry.

Retaining wall under construction on Logodi street in 1936 (Photo: Fortepan/No.: 128815) 

The January 1936 newsreel of Magyar Világhiradó reported the following:

“Due to the structural loosening of the subsoil on the south-western slope of Castle Hill in Buda, the side of the steep hill has moved slightly. Cracks have formed on the walls of several old and new houses. The growth of these cracks is being measured through test plastering and glued strips of paper. The Institute of Geology is studying the loosened soil through boreholes. The pipes under the road will be replaced with flexible steel pipes to improve safety. (…) To avoid further danger, the competent authorities shall make every effort to shore up the damaged buildings.”

Based on the directions of the cracks and the sinking of the soil, experts were able to conclude that the earth’s movement extended from Bástya Promenade to Attila Street. On 11 January, the stairwell of the newly built residential building at 63 Logodi Street was damaged by the land movement. The doorway and staircase had to be supported with beams. In 85 Attila Street on the edge of Vérmező, the plaster fell off the walls in several flats of the old single-storey house. Even a few bricks were displayed in the caretaker’s flat.

On 14 January, newspapers reported that the sinking had reached dangerous proportions and many feared that the house at 85 Attila Street would be swallowed by the earth.

The location of Attila Road, Logodi Street, Lovas Road in relation to each other and the direction of the landslide from Eligius Róbert Schmidt's study Földtani és talajmechanikai jegyzetek a budai várhegy 1935/36. évi suvadásához ('Notes on the geology and soil mechanics of the landslide on Castle Hill in Buda in 1935/36.')

Many residents voluntarily moved out of the house, and the police closed the surrounding streets. In January, the authorities moved out the residents of five more houses. Retaining walls were built, and boreholes to drain groundwater dug. Authorities also dug boreholes in an attempt to discern how deep the movement was. Other holes were drilled and then filled with concrete to stop the slide. In total, the slopes of Castle Hill moved 35 centimetres.

Relocation of residents from 63 Logodi Street in 1936 (Photo: Fortepan/No.: 177377) 

The utility pipes were replaced, roads were continuously repaired. The city spent a total of 270,000 Pengős on the effort, including the construction of retaining walls. However, this sum does not include the cost of the damaged buildings.

A study found that the reason for the landslide was that the equilibrium of the soil had been upset when a house was demolished between Logodi Street and Attila Road. Heavy rainfall allowed the groundwater to seep into the different layers of the soil.

Nevertheless, the sliding did not stop but continued to cause problems. Residents were evacuated from the house at 87 Attila Street, then – at the end of January – from 59 and 61 Logodi Street. In February the houses at 24 and 25 Lovas Road were emptied. Authorities mailed an eviction order to the residents of 26 Lovas Road, including the Minister for Industry, on 22 February. Residents had to move out within eight days.

Shoring up 61 Logodi Street (Photo: Fortepan/No.: 128805)

Work and repairs carried on for months. On 25 September 1936, Népszava reported:

“So far, protective measures have proven futile, and the soil on Castle Hill is still moving. At a meeting with councillors at City Hall on Thursday morning, the Councillor of road and canal construction Kálmán Király announced to Mayor Károly Szendy that the prefecture of the 1st District had ordered the owner of the villa at 26–27 Lovas Road to demolish the building within fifteen days.”

Evicting the residents of the building in February had not done enough, the building had to be torn down. The ruling claimed that the building was pushing the soil, and the expected rain of the damper season could lead to further land movements.

However, restoration work also led to an unexpected find. In June 1939, the foundations of the church of the former village of Logod were found.

Cover photo: 68 Logodi Street (Photo: Fortepan/No.: 128816) 


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