The administrative center of Debrecen has been in the same place for centuries, at today’s Piac utca 20. The Classicist-style Old Town Hall with a tympanum was built in 1843, but its history dates back much earlier.
The core of the “ancient” town hall was the stone house of András Tar, Chief Justice of Debrecen , which the town bought in 1531. This has been extended over the centuries by the surrounding townhouses and plots that have housed shops, leased partly to the office and partly to merchants.
The “ancient” town hall was created by merging five town houses and became the administrative center of the city of Debrecen. There was no connection established between the houses, so it was only possible to get from one part to another through the courtyard.
There were 18-19 leased shops on the ground floor throughout, while the office operated on the first floor and in the courtyard buildings. Upstairs was the small and main council hall, the archive, the printing house, the prison, the oven and cooking house, the kitchen and the tap were in the courtyard. The town hall or “Domus senatoria”, as it was once called, was home to the Chief Justice, Senators and other officials of Debrecen for 300 years.
The building of the “ancient” town hall, which has been scaled up over the decades, suffered severe damage in the 1802 fire. A completely new building was then designed in its place.
Mihály Péchy made the first plans, but too little money was raised for the construction.
The next plan was made by Ferenc Povolny in braid style, but his work could not be completed either, in the end the plans of chamber engineer József Ságody were accepted, who thought further about Povolny’s ideas . The imposing tympanum-arcade building was handed over to the city in 1843. The first general meeting was held in May 1844 in the now renovated building. In keeping with the puritanical taste of classicism, a single ornament adorns the tympanum: the coat of arms of the city .
During the bourgeois revolution of 1848-49, the town hall and the city played an important role. On January 7, 1849, the Hungarian government moved its headquarters to Debrecen. At that time, Lajos Kossuth and his family lived here, the office of the Defense Committee was here, and the Hungarian Holy Crown was also placed in the “secret archives” of the city. Throughout history, Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, also received accommodation in the upstairs rooms.
The single-storey town hall, handed over in 1843, was deemed inadequate by 1888. The construction of a new building was proposed and rejected, as well as the construction of a second floor to the single-storey building, which was finally carried out in the last years of the 19th century according to the plans of the architects of the engineering office and István Tóth.
The remodeling included the construction of a simplified driveway, the abolition of the detention center, the conversion of the prison premises into offices and the connection of the house with a hanging corridor to the adjoining trading house (this is called the “bridge of sighs” by the locals).
Today, the Municipality of Debrecen and the Mayor’s Office still operate in the building of the town hall. There are shops and restaurants on the street front, as well as the Tourinform office.