The stately home was built in Fehérvárcsurgó (Hungary) between 1844 and 1850 by Count George Károlyi in neo-classical style. The architect was the Austrian Heinrich Koch, assisted by the young Miklós Ybl, who later became one of greatest Hungarian architects of the century. It underwent major refurbishing in 1910s, when George’s grandson, Count Joseph Károlyi, inherited it and wanted to make it more suitable to the “modern life” of that time. In 1945 the stately home was nationalized together with the whole estate, and the Károlyi family emigrated to France. It was then occupied for some months by the Hungarian People’s Army and then assigned to the National Gas Company who began to convert it into a holiday place for its employees. After becoming home for the Greek children kidnapped by the communist partisans, it was turned into an orphanage for Hungarian abandoned children. Eventually, in 1979 the orphanage closed and the stately home fell into disrepair. When the current operators first started to think of doing something there around 1992-1993, the legal situation was very complicated. They thus defined a new function for the house: becoming the seat of the European Cultural Meeting Centre, focused on the opening of Hungary to Europe. This project was approved by the State bodies owning the building as perfectly suitable for the place and in 1994 the Joseph Károlyi Foundation was founded, a tax-exempt, non-profit organization that signed in 1997 a “co-operation and partnership agreement” with the MAG, under which both partners would join their efforts to restore the stately home and install in it the activities of the European Cultural Meeting Centre. Thanks to a long-term loan from the Paris-based Council of Europe Development Bank and the European Union’s Structural Funds (meanwhile become available also in Hungary), the Foundation managed to perform a successful restoration. As of now, the stately home is normally visited by more than 25,000 people on a yearly basis. They are currently carrying out the renovation of the former stables in order to be an interactive exhibition centre on the story of the family and planning to increase the residential facilities by building more guestrooms, a small theatre and studios for artists.
KÁROLYI KASTÉLY, FEHÉRVÁRCSURGÓ (HUNGARY)
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