A brief history of the house U Kočků
Due to a former fire of the Old Town Hall, which destroyed market books that had been stored there, it is research performed by Tomek and Teige, supplemented by inventory sources, that represents some of the few sources of information on Old Town houses that we can rely on today.
The first mention of the house No. 147, situated in the then Zlatnická ulice (Goldsmith Street), dates back to 1357, when the house belonged to Kryštofor Bavor. After Kryštofor had passed away, his heirs sold the house for an unknown price to Mikuláš Gentes in 1364. According to Tomek, in 1365 the house was the property of the Vartemberks, but this mention could also relate to another house in the neighbourhood.
After World War I, the house was bought by Mr. Ing. Václav Kočka-Amort and his wife Jarmila Kočková-Amortová, including the land plot that the building is situated upon. Between 1927 and 1930, the house was renovated, Romanesque cellars were unearthed and after excavating its backyard, the basement under the house’s passage was extended. After renovation, the house was used primarily as a commercial building.
In 1953, the house was confiscated by the state.
In a 1992 restitution case, the house was returned to descendants – Mrs. Jarmila Kolářová (daughter, with her maiden name Jarmila Kočková-Amortová), and Mr. Václav Kočka-Amort. The siblings have agreed to divide the ownership of the house according to the following proportion: Mrs. J. Kolářová 6/20, and Mr V. Kočka-Amort 14/20. In later inheritance proceedings, ownership of the property was acquired in its present form. Between the current co-owners there is consensus as to the way the reconstruction should be finalised, as well as regarding management and operation of the real estate, which they do not intend to sell in any way.
In the course of the reconstruction, a new elevator was built with stations from ground floor to the 4th floor, with doors leading in two opposite directions, making it possible to descend directly to floors or mezzanines.
The house U Kočků is a large building occupying a medieval plot; it is an urban landmark on the corner of the Jilská and Karlova Streets. Its external appearance is that of High Baroque, with well preserved façades of the 1720s reconstruction. It is the work of an unknown, yet undoubtedly important architect. The façade is characterized by perfect formal workmanship of the stucco decorations, as well as a balanced composition of the façade as a whole. The entrance portal protrudes from the plane of the façade in a convex arc, it is decorated with sculptural details and fitted with the original gate door, including decorative and richly designed bars in the lunette, with a cryptograph mentioning letters, which might relate to the name of the builder. The meaning of the letters is ambiguous, as will be described later in the text. The outward appearance of the house stands out due to its colours – while the structuring elements are painted in yellow, the prevailing colour is red, which was a reason for naming the house Červený dům (Red house).
Apart from the entrance portal and baroque shop entry gates, the ground floor is plain. However, above it, the first-class splendour of the stucco work reveals a superb intuition both of the architect and of the plasterer. As a whole, the first-floor supraports represent a high standard of contemporary Prague production. On the second floor in the sides of the building, there are the eye-catching elements above its windows. These illusive and deformed shapes are made only in stucco, not in the masonry and are rich in their forms, for which we find close analogies in supraports of the same quality and similar shapes in the courtyard façade of the palace of the Pánové-z-Bubna Lords in Celetná Street No. 598/I. Its construction is dated before 1737 (cf. year at the gate), which testifies to our estimate that the façade was created at the time not too distant from that under scrutiny. Moreover, it appears that it might have been the work of the same architect, who, however, still remains unknown.
The authorship of Bartoloměj Scotti, which had been claimed by earlier literature, must be strictly rejected, as explained in the introductory chapter. So far, there are no conclusive reasons in its favour. It would be necessary to prove that the style was one that Scotti adhered to, either directly or indirectly by comparison with the palace of the Pánové-z-Bubna Lords. The façade, however, also includes some more recent elements; for example, the Langweil model of the late 1820s reproduces two windows on the left of the main portal, while Baroque form portals did not exist here. On the other hand, in the other axis of the left within the wing, near the Jalovcová Street, there used to be a portal, which might have been transferred into the passage in front of the entrance to the elevator. It is interesting that over time, the sculptural decoration of the main portal was simplified. A watercolour post card of the twenties depicts a stone Pietá on top of the portal. The portal ranks among Prague’s top monumental portals of the Baroque era.