Sunday, 24 June 1928 was the celebrated day of the laying of the foundation stone of the Spolkový dům Přátel přírody (Naturfreundenhaus / the Friends of Nature Association House). Members of the Association had wanted to have their own house for quite some time, and preparations for this stone-and-timber building beneath the ridge of the Královka took several years.
The construction work itself was carried out by members of the Association over hundreds of volunteer hours, and the magnificent lodge was completed in record time. At the end of November the same year construction was commenced (1928), the Building Commission adjourned on site, and granted the Association permission to begin using the lodge on 1 December 1928. One week later, the lodge was officially opened.
Opening for public
The celebratory opening, during which the association house was presented to the public, took place 23 June 1929, exactly one year after the laying of the foundation stone. This was also the culmination of the five-year effort of the Friends of Nature Association to build its own house. At the time of its opening, the lodge boasted eleven rooms with a total occupancy of 44 people.
Cutting off the activities
However, at the beginning of World War II, the original Friends of Nature House was expropriated by the Nazis, and the popular lodge was closed to visitors to the mountains. At the time, no one had any inkling that the lodge would not open to the public again for another 52 years.
The lodge came under the Office of the President of the Republic, and in the following years functioned as recreational facilities for its employees. The lodge was not open to the public, was not even marked on tourist maps, and the access road was closed off with a barrier.
In the spring of 1989, the Šmaus family from Bedřichov took over management of Prezidentská chata. The lodge was still kept somewhat secret from tourists, and hiking routes took a wide berth around it.
Resumption of Prezidentská
This was a turning point for Prezidentská—after over 50 years, the lodge was once again open to the public and all passers-by. The earlier caretakers leased the lodge from the government. Since 1996, they managed it under the Ještěd spol. s.r.o. organisation, which marked the beginning of our operations here at Prezidentská.
Selling of Prezidentská
For about a decade, the Office of the President had been weighing their options of getting rid of the lodge and selling it, which is why they always only gave us one-year contracts. The government finally decided to sell the lodge to the highest bidder without taking its future use into consideration. In August 2011, after 20 years at Prezidentská chata, we were given a month to empty the lodge, let go all of the staff, and sell all of the furnishings. The new owner closed the lodge down.
Buying of Prezidentská
Despite this, happier times were just around the corner. Soon after, the Dědek family from Jablonec nad Nisou bought the closed-down lodge from the new owner, and asked us to come back to Prezidentská as lessees and operators. Prezidentská chata was to serve tourists once again as it did before, but before this, would undergo complete yet sensitive renovation.
In a sign of reconstruction
A year dedicated to renovations. "After twenty years of operation, I had a clear idea of what the lodge needed," remarked Petr Šmaus, who was in charge of Prezidentská chata's renovations. His primary focus was to preserve as much as possible of the original, sturdy character of the lodge while offering guests modern comforts. This is why the stairs still creak and the wooden walls are still crooked. At night, however, you can sink into a comfortable bed, having enjoyed some time in the sauna beforehand.
Opening after the reconstruction
And on we go! On Saturday, 1 December 2012, we opened Prezidentská chata to the public once again. During the lodge's over one-year-long closure, the first large renovations since the lodge was built in 1928 took place. We returned to Prezidentská with more or less the same team, and, after a year-long interlude, we commenced the 21st season of Prezidentská chata. Our regular guests returned, and we look forward to future summers and winters here in the Jizera Mountains.