Town Hall Hláska

The best-known symbol and a dominant feature of Opava is its town hall called Hláska, which is situated in the eastern part of Horní Square. The complicated history of this focal city building is reflected in the diverse and not always comprehensible names given to the tower and the town hall itself. In the past the German names varied from Turm, Stadtturm or Stadthausturm, the building adjoining the tower was called Schmetterhaus. The Czech names were Hláska, city tower or clock tower, but there was no name for the house.

In the first half of the 14th century the town council transferred the south tower of the parish church Assumption of the Virgin Mary to the church. The available documents suggest that a new tower was built in the square where there had been or was planned to be built the so called Schmetterhaus – a one-storey building, in which merchandise was stored. The plan was also to add one more floor that would  house the town hall. The tower was used as a watchtower from which events such as the start of the market or fire were announced. By the tower there were scales, on which the merchandise was weighed.  In the 16th century the tower was destroyed in a storm and it took fifty years to rebuild it. Schmetterhaus underwent a reconstructing following the fire in 1561. In 1580 the town council decided to buy a house in the south part of the square (in the space of today’s Slezanka); the town hall had its seat there until the end of World War II when the buildings in the area were torn down.

In 1614–1618 a new Reneissance tower with a clock was added to the old town hall. The tower was designed by Kryštof Prochhuber. The two-storey Schmetterhaus was presumably rectangular with an attic on top. The tower was either incorporated in the front facade or stood in front of the building. Apart from small shops located in the town hall in the second half of the 18th century, the building provided space for theatre performances. In 1803 a police station was added to Schmetterhaus as one of several adaptations of the building. Until mid-19th century there were flats on the first floor, which later housed building or business authorities, and a small gaol. Later on a calibration office, military office, chamber of business and commerce, and a museum of decorative arts were situated on this floor. The police station on the ground floor was replaced by shops. At the end of the century the chamber of business and commerce together with the museum relocated and various offices took their place.

The town wished to have a new  house that would suitably represent it and would go well with the Rennaisance tower, and so at the beginning of the 20th century the council invited projects for a new Schmetterhaus. The winning project by Rudolf Srntz was chosen from 82 applications. The old town hall was torn down in 1902 to be replaced by a historicizing building in the Renaissance style. The three-storey building comprises three perpendicular two-section wings with oriel turrets on the corners. The main facade with a line of windows and two balconies is adorned with reliefs of the town crest carried by two lions, coats of arms with jewels above the main entrance, eagles on the sides, and lions on the corners. There are lions and two medallion portraits on the attic triangle gables. The prismatic tower, which has kept is 17th century appearance, ends with an octagonal extension with an alure and a three-storey dome with two lanterns. On the ground floor in the north there was Café Niedermeyer, in the south there was a branch bank. The first floor was residential, on the second floor there was a museum.

The building remained largely unchanged in the following years, including the period of occupation when a project was prepared to change the interior of the building. It was never realized, though. Unlike many other houses in town Hláska was not destroyed during liberation. The only damaged parts were the roof in the north and several burnt-out rooms, including Café Niedermeyer. After February 1948 the town hall housed the town national committee. In the folowing years both the exterior and interior of the building underwent only minimal reconstructions. A general overhaul came in 2006 when the decorative and exterior features from 1902 were restored and Hláska returned to its original state. Today Hláska is the seat of the Municipal Authority of Opava.