Located in the heart of beautiful Prague, the U Kočků building is on Karlova Street directly on the walking route from Old Town Square to the Charles Bridge. Dating back to the 12th century, Karlova Steet, or Charles Street in English, connects Křížovnické náměstí and Malé náměstí. In Medieval times it was one of the region’s busiest thoroughfares, connecting the Old Town Square to the Prague Castle.
The ‘U Kočků’ house was built at the end of the 11th century, and thus is one of the oldest buildings in the Czech Republic. It comprises of 3 different buildings on 3 different streets which over the centuries have merged into one structure. Stucco decoration is a predominant feature of the interior, and this is a perfect showcase of the contemporary craftsmanship of the era. First ownership records of the building date back to 1357, when the house was owned by Kryštof Bavora. After his death in 1364 it was sold by his heirs to the Mikulaš Gents, and in subsequent centuries the building changed hands many times.
After the Battle of Bílá hora (White Mountain) in 1620 the house was pillaged after its then owner, Ester Teyfl, fled for being a supporter of Friedrich ‘The Winter King’ of Palatine during the Bohemian Revolt. The house was subsequently sold. One prominent owner in the building’s history was Karl Calvi, who during his occupancy from 1673 decorated the walls with his magnificent art collection.
In 1675 it was the residence of Špalkovi, who hosted many important dignitaries from the region. Among them were the Austrian prince, Ferdinand Würtenberg, prince Henri de Bourbon-Condé, and it must also be noted that Špalkovi´s ‘Red House’ was even visited by a Russian Tsar, as well as general Pyotr Bagration.
In the 1700s, a well-known Czech painter and historian, Jan Quirin Jahn, opened a gallery in the building.
In the early 1800s various businesses, including a barber’s shop, could be found in the building, and it was the heir Marie Chudobová who really pushed it forward in terms of it being a prominent retail premises in the prestigious Old Town. Stables and several other workshops were soon to pop up, and its new owner Karel Heryng added more display windows in the adjacent Jilská Street.
After World War 1 the building was owned by Ing. Václav Kočka and his wife. There was a major reconstruction between 1927-1930, and it was at this point that the ancient Romanesque cellar was discovered. The property at this point was mainly nonresidential. In 1953 it was confiscated by the communist regime, and only returned to its rightful owners after the Velvet Revolution, and the subsequent restitutions.
To this day this beautiful building is still owned by the Kočka family.