From a settlement to a modern city
Jablonec nad Nisou is a typical child of the precipitous Gründerzeit, which fundamentally influenced its appearance. The first mention of the settlement of “Jablonecz” can be found in the confirmation registers of the Prague Archbishopric dating from 1356. In 1469, the municipality was burnt down by Lusatian troops fighting against King George of Poděbrady and it was still listed as abandoned in the Land Tables in 1538. A change came with the new owner of the Malá Skála estate, John of Wartenberg, who, like other renaissance aristocrats, began using his estate to do business. The sufficient quantities of wood and water predetermined the fate of the Jablonec area, which became a glassmaking area of European significance after the arrival of glassmakers from the Lusatian Mountains and Saxony. After the first unsuccessful attempt of the subsequent owners of the estate, the Counts of Desfours, in 1706, Jablonec was eventually raised to the status of a market town on the basis of an imperial decision issued at the instigation of the new owner of the Malá Skála estate, Franz Zacharias, on 21 April 1808. Nevertheless, Jablonec still had the character of a submontane village, whose modest centre consisted of a church and a rectory, a poorhouse and the Golden Lion travellers’ inn.
After its rise in status, it admittedly acquired certain privileges, including the right to hold markets, but there was practically nowhere to hold them. For that reason, the estate engineer Johann Benesch was charged with drawing up a town plan in the same year. The resulting project was the first attempt at creating a real centre and a new square, called the Alter Markt (the Old Market, nowadays the Peace Square) was marked out. The role of the main road was performed by Komenského Street, which connected the square with the church. At that time, the production of costume jewellery, which had recently arrived from nearby Turnov and Hodkovice nad Mohelkou and subsequently went on to experience an unprecedented boom, was starting to come to the fore. This was reflected in a further rise in the status of Jablonec, this time to that of a town in 1866, the symbol of which was the new town hall building (1867–69, Ludwig Seidemann, Gustav Sachers) located on the Lower Square.
The expansion in the town’s construction went hand in hand with the development of industry. The town-planning concept was marked by the dramatic and significantly sloping configuration of the built-up areas. Therefore, a second square, called the Neuer Markt (the New Market, now the Lower Square), was marked out at the base of the slope on which the Peace Square is located in 1864. The squares were connected by the town’s two steep streets (Lidická and Kamenná Streets). The newly demarcated Soukenná Street finally led to St. Ann’s Church and the historical core becoming better connected to the organism of the newly emerging town. The establishment of the imperial Krkonošská Road between Liberec and Trutnov in 1847–51 was also an important moment. The road led from Liberec via Vratislavice nad Nisou and Proseč nad Nisou to Jablonec, where it passed through the town along today’s Liberecká Street and the Peace Square and then continued from there towards the mountains. Its route corresponds to the today’s Podhorská Street, one of the town’s main arteries, around which imposing export houses erected a new series of magnificent terraced buildings in the historicist style followed later by the art nouveau.
The further expansion of Jablonec, as authored by the engineer Gustav Müller, took place in practically all directions. In 1880, the so-called garden town was marked out to the north of the centre. This involved the villa suburb delineated by Generála Mrázka, Liberecká, Rýnovická, Větrná and Palackého Streets. Despite its strict geometric structure, it soon acquired the character of a relatively exclusive residential area, mainly thanks to the less dense construction of villas that managed to break up the compact block network. This regulation was followed by another in 1883, namely the much more grandiose expansion of the town towards the south, which also included the alluvial plain of the Lusatian Nisa. This led to the creation of both compact bocks consisting of multi-storeyed town houses in the wider centre and the distributed construction of villas in the elevated areas that provided impressive views and a healthy climate. The railway station (1888) that Jablonec merchants had long been calling for was also located in the southern area of the town, practically at the town’s erstwhile border. This as good as ended the regulation of the town and it then basically acquired its current appearance. The as yet almost undeveloped area of the Upper Square was intended to be used for the construction of a new Catholic church and some though was also given to also locating the town theatre and other buildings from the applied arts school there, but this did not occur.
The specific garden nature of Jablonec was influenced by the character of the local industry, which more or less functioned on the principle of dispersed manufactories, and also by a ban on the construction of industrial buildings inside the town. The last newly established factory was that of the Jäger Company in Průmyslová and Větrná Streets in 1904.
The interwar regulation of the centre, which was intended to give it a metropolitan aspect, constituted the culmination of the town’s urbanistic development. During that period, the new town hall (1933) was built and the Upper Square (Gewerbeplatz) was completed with Zasche’s Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (1931) and the Metzner fountain (1930). This saw the completion of the unrepeatable and unique urbanistic composition of the three cascading squares with the distinctive dominant features of three towers – on the old and new town halls and the Catholic church.