The history of the district

Written by  2017.03.28.

The characteristics of the district

The XVIII. district of Budapest - Pestszentlőrinc and Imre – was established in 1950 by the unification of two formerly independent settlements. Nowadays approximately 100 000 inhabitants live in the residential area – in the two bigger city quarters – under their 22 own names. The ratio of the residents: 79% in Pestszentlőrinc and 21% in Pestszentimre. Péterhalmi-erdő is situated between the two city quarters.

The district is considered to be a residential area on the outskirt of Budapest with mainly low-level number private houses, several intensively built-up housing estates and some important industrial establishments.

The names of the residential quarters are the following: Erzsébettelep, Bélatelep, Rendessytelep, Lakatostelep, Lónyaytelep, Miklóstelep, Szemeretelep, Ganztelep, Ganzkertváros, Szent Imre-kertváros, Bókaytelep, Liptáktelep, Havanna lakótelep, Szent Lőrinc-telep, Gloriett-telep, Alacskai úti lakótelep, Almáskert, Belsőmajor, Új Péteritelep, Kossuth Ferenc-telep, Erdőskert.

Several daycare facilities, 28 kindergartens, 21 primary schools, 2 independent arts schools, 6 high schools are run in Pestszentlőrinc and Pestszentimre. 2 sport halls, 1 sport center, several swimming-pools, sport and tennis courts, cycling tracks and dry ski-slopes in Bókay-kert and 19 sport clubs welcome sport-loving citizens. Many cultural centers, 3 public libraries, a creative arts center, a museum, theatrical and dance companies as well as more than 140 civil organizations provide different programs for anyone interested.

The Marczell György Main Observatory of the National Meteorological Institute and the biggest international airport in the country, which was renamed to Liszt Ferenc Airport in 2011, are also operated in the area.

The history of the XVIII. district of Budapest

The area of Pestszentlőrinc and Pestszentimre was already inhabited during the Hungarian Conquest, the earliest written documents available can be found in certificates of the XIVth century.

In the Turkish Age the area became completely deserted.

The history of the present settlement dates back to the 18th century, when Szent Lőrinc and Péteri puszta (Péteri Plain) got in the possession of Antal Grassalkovich I., thus being part of the several thousand-acre property with Gödöllő as the center.

A manor center was established in Szentlőrinc Puszta (Plain). Out of the building complex only the Szent Lőrinc (Grassalkovich) chapel, which was built around 1761 and is the only national monument of our district, remained to us.

From 1799 it was Ferenc Xavér, the honored citizen of Pest and Buda and friend of the Earl István Széchenyi, who rented and revived the area. He developed the manor to a model farm and created a grape collection in Ferihegy bearing his name, which is where the international airport operates today.

In 1841 after the conquest of Napoleon the guests of the great-power conference taking place in Vienna visited Pest-Buda. To honor the occasion, a parade was organized is Szentlőrinc Plain. The Prussian, the Russian and the Habsburg Monarch observed the event from the belvedere set up in today’s Gilice Square. The belvedere itself was destroyed during the World War II., but the neighboring area still bears its name.

In the second part of the 19th century the intensive development was supported by the closeness to the capital and the four railway lines. The plains belonged to many freeholders back then and the parcelling of building sites could begin. In the center of today’s settlement, along Gyöngyvirág street, an elegant holiday resort place was established in the 1870s. The estates were bought by members of the political and scientific elite as weekend cottages. Prime Minister Earl Menyhért Lónyay achieved the establishment of a railway station under the name of “Puszta Szent Lőrinc Nyaraló” (Plain Szent Lőrinc Holiday Resort) on the Cegléd-Szolnok railway line in 1875, which made the new settlement easily accessible. Among the property owners were Baron Loránd Eötvös politician-physicist, who started his famous outdoor torsion balance experiments in the garden of his mansion; Tivadar Puskás, the inventor of the telephone operation system; Tivadar Margó, the researcher-biologist of genetics and Sári Fedák, the famous actress.

Due to the local conditions, several industrial facilities appeared in the area. From the 1870s brick-yards, gravel-pits, then some textile mills, factories producing barrels, gig-lamps, railway carriages, metals came into life and between the two world wars plants assembling vehicle bodies then during the second world war airplane bodies were established: Lipták-plant, Kistext, Filtex, the Hungarian subsidiary of the European-famed Orenstein and Koppel Ltd. etc..

Lajos Cséry, who owned a 2600-acre estate in Szent Lőrinc Plain, signed a contract with the capital for transporting garbage. Alongside Nagykörösi Road he set up a garbage processing plant where the rubbish was selected, assorted and graded; he patented a composting process that enabled the plant to produce organic manure by adding additives to the rotten and mouldy rubbish. After going bankrupt the area went under the operation of the capital city. The processing plant was put to an end and the rubbish was brought and left in the neighboring area of Pestszentimre for decades. This several million m3 waste piled up 1,5 km in length, 100-800 m in width and 20-25 m in height and its recultivation has remained a current task and challenge to solve.

Szentlőrinc was developing intensively in the first years of the 20th century. The light railway line running on Üllői road and suitable for passenger and freight transport as well was electrified in 1900. Miklós Szemere, member of Parliament and stable owner bought a part of the late Szent Lőrinc Plain property and the manor center in 1902. Krúdy’s hero, a big fan of the sport set up a “shooting gallery” and shooting track on his land. Today the “shooting gallery” functions as a pastry shop of high standards after having gone through a complete renovation. Schools, kindergartens, a chapel and a cemetery as well were established. In 1910 Pestszentlőrinc became an independent civil parish with 7824 registered inhabitants.

At the turn of the century the parcelling of building estates started in the neighboring Péteri Plain with mostly poor families moving here. The settlement belonging to Soroksár bore the name Soroksárpéteri from 1904.

During the first world war the plants and factories of Pestszentlőrinc switched over to munition production. In Lipták-plant a pioneering research and development work was going on and many photos can prove the experiments on combat cars and military helicopters taking place there.

After the end of the first world war the deserted buildings once belonging to the Hungarian Munition Factory were transformed into flats by the Ministry of Public Welfare for the refugees coming from the lost territories and even new blocks of flats were built. This closed area with tenement buildings was the State-estate which significantly increased the population of Lőrinc.

The intensive development of the two settlements continued between the two world wars. In Pestszentlőrinc four school buildings were completed in 1927. Many new residential and suburban quarters, catholic, evangelical, Calvinist and Unitarian churches were built. In 1936 the settlement became county city and in the 1940s it had 35000 registered inhabitants. A grammar school was established, the market hall was built and the construction of the city center and the airport could begin too.

In January of 1930 Soroksárpéteri became an independent civil parish and a year later, in 1931 it was christened to Pestszentimre. Several public buildings, cinemas were built as well.

Due to the second world war the development got stuck. In the end of 1944 the whole population of Pestszentimre and a smaller part in Pestszentlőrinc were evacuated. The biggest destruction was caused by the air-raids and the battles of the passing frontlines. Both churches in Pestszentimre were blown up.

In 1950 following the reconstruction, Pestszentlőrinc and Pestszentimre were attached to the capital as theXVIII. district of Budapest. As part of the capital a significant development could begin. The restored Ferihegy Airport has been of service to the civil flight since 1950. The park and shelter-woods plantation began. Besides Hengermű (Rolling-mill) and Petrochemical Company, Lőrinci Fonó (Spinning-mill) started production again and in the 1960s became the national center of the Hungarian Cotton-mill Company. Beyond industrial facilities and public institutions housing estates were also built. The building of the Lakatos and Szentlőrinc council estates – formerly known as KISZ – eased the housing problems of the 60s. In the 70s the closed down brick-yard gave place to a new multi-level health care unit, the sport hall as well as the library. On the location of the state plant Havanna-estate with 10-floor blocks of flats was established and unlike the habits of that era the houses were completed at the same time with the welfare institutions (nursery schools, kindergartens, schools, shopping facilities etc). The Post Office and the new Town Hall were built on Üllői road. In the end of the 80s the construction of two new residential quarters of high standards began but they were not finished due to some proprietary legal problems during the change of regime. These days their situation is getting sorted out.

In the beginning of the 1990s the troops finally left the two, originally Hungarian and from 1956 Soviet barracks. Over the last two decades the majority of the factories and industrial facilities ceased to exist, on their places new residential quarters are being built.

The plans of the local municipality contain the establishment of the new city center in Pestszentlőrinc and Pestszentimre. As a result, we can see the new market hall meeting the European Union standards and the flats under construction in its surroundings. The new Major’s Office and health care unit will form part of the city center of Pestszentimre.

Sources: Zsuzsa Heilauf – Pedagogical Institute and Collection of Local History of the XVIIIth district of Budapest