The house at 5 Štítného Street in Žižkov was built in 1875 by Hodan. On the ground floor of the house there was a tavern called U rytíře Dalimila, later called U Jana Lucemburského. The inn included a large ballroom with balconies of an unusual type, which, however, had to be cancelled by the builder due to the objections of the approval committee.
When the need for a chapel in the growing village became apparent around 1883, the house was bought by the Association for the Construction of a Catholic Church in Žižkov. The inn was closed and the former dance hall was adapted into a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Sisters of the Boromean Order had a children’s nursery next to the chapel. After the construction of the Church of St. Procopius, the chapel remained in use by school children and the rest of the house, which was raised by one floor, was given to the newly established grammar school. After its removal, the Public School of Commerce of the Prague Trade School in Žižkov acquired the classrooms here.
In 1919, the advisory body of the city council for cultural affairs decided to close the chapel and adapt the building for “folk education” purposes. The architect Jindřich Motejl was commissioned by the then mayor of the town, Rudolf Kostrakiewicz, to draw up a reconstruction plan. Everything that resembled the interior of the former chapel was removed, a stage was built against the front wall and 208 seats were placed in the auditorium. In the following years, the newly established Žižkov Hall became the venue for a large number of cultural events – lectures, music, recitations and social discussions – which attracted the interest not only of the citizens of Žižkov, but also of many visitors from all over Prague, who formed a circle of appreciative audience.
The cultural programmes were diversified by the introduction of theatre evenings, for which, however, the stage of the hall, named after the first president of the republic, T. G. Masaryk, was not very suitable. At that time, it was mainly the amateur groups of the Municipal Awareness Choir, the drama department of the State Conservatory and others who performed there.
In 1924, under the supervision of the builder J. Herink, the stage was enlarged, a stage portal, a storage room and a theatre dressing room were built. However, due to limited financial resources, even after these modifications the necessary equipment was not achieved. Therefore, in 1927, the architect Chvojka removed the tasteless galleries and replaced them with a spacious balcony, built a vestibule with dressing rooms, a room for theatrical props, a new stage portal and provided the auditorium with 336 seats. The new stage and auditorium lighting completed the conversion of the former chapel into a dignified cultural hall. Since then, it was mainly the stage of the Municipal Education Choir under the direction of Ing. František Síla, which eventually grew to forty active members and staged a number of important productions here. The MOS scene was active on the stage of the Masaryk Hall practically until the arrival of the German occupants.
After the end of the Second World War, the Masaryk Hall in Štítného Street was renamed the Hall of Folk Artistic Creativity (LUT) and was again reserved for the needs of educational activities. During the sporadic performances of amateur groups, plays were performed under the new reorganisation under the name of the Žižkov Theatre (the Tyl Readers’ and Amateur Union, in which Jaroslav Marvan was also active, the Mlok amateur group, the Akademická beseda Žižkov, Jirásek, Pokrok and others).
In 1960, the LUT theatre in Žižkov was closed due to inadequate stage equipment and outdated security equipment. The reconstructed stage was reopened under the name of the Žižkov Theatre in the 1976/77 season. From this date onwards, its activities have been covered in our newsletter.
In 1986 the last major reconstruction took place (wiring, stage, auditorium – capacity was reduced to 230 seats, foyer and sanitary facilities) and in 1995 the stage was reconstructed, including the added forbina.
Under the influence of the watershed events of 1989, the Žižkov Theatre was renamed the T. G. Masaryk Theatre. Since 1995, the theatre has been called the Jára Cimrman Žižkov Theatre and the whole building has been called Masaryk House.
Currently, a study is being discussed for the gradual total reconstruction of the theatre, which should consist mainly in the expansion of the new actors’ dressing rooms, the enlargement of the small foyer and the maximum barrier-free accessibility of the theatre.
(From the Newsletter of the Club of Friends of Žižkov No. 26, prepared by František Švanda and Miroslav Čvančara, selected and supplemented by Jana Rumlenová)