Writer Karel Čapek’s Prague villa goes on sale

A 1920s Prague villa built for the Czech writer Karel Čapek has been put up for sale, along with Čapek’s library, personal archive and some original furnishings. The owner’s decision to sell the house has surprised the Czech Culture Ministry; its officials say they would like to buy the property but admit it will be difficult as the price might be beyond their reach.

Karel Čapek’s villa, photo: Petr Vilgus, CC BY-SA 3.0Karel Čapek’s villa, photo: Petr Vilgus, CC BY-SA 3.0 Dashenka the Puppy is one of Karel Čapek’s most popular works, at least with generations of Czech children. Dashenka’s adventures take place in Čapek’s Prague home, a villa located in the Vinohrady district, and in the adjacent garden.

The villa was completed in 1925 to accommodate Karel Čapek and his brother Josef, also a renowned artist. Only Karel’s part of the villa is available; its owner, a relative of the writer’s wife, is asking for 49 million crowns, or roughly 2.5 million US dollars for the three-story house

His decision to sell the property took Czech authorities by surprise. The Czech Culture Ministry says they had no idea the house was put up for sale but would like to buy it, or at least or acquire Čapek’s archive and other personal belongings. Zdeněk Freisleben is the head of the Museum of Czech Literature, a subsidiary of the Culture Ministry.

“There are some rare materials such as Karel Čapek’s manuscripts, his collection of photography negatives, original furniture, and his library. All these things are very rare and interesting, and the Museum of Czech Literature is of course interested in acquiring it.”

Both the owner of the house and the real estate agent offering the villa declined comment. Mr Freisleben says the owner would like to sell the house and the writer’s belongings to one buyer.

“The question is now whether we’ll manage to secure the funds. One issue is whether the asking price reflects its real value; another thing is that it would be desirable to keep the archive materials, the original furniture, and so on, in the house. If this turns out well, we would like to establish a research centre, and open parts of the villa to the public including Čapek’s study and the garden.”

Josef and Karel ČapekJosef and Karel Čapek The capital has few better locations than the quiet residential area of Vinohrady. Houses in this part of Prague do not go sale that often, and when they do, they are expensive, says Blažena Polahárová from the Happy House Rentals real estate agency.

“I think the price is quite realistic. The only problem I see is that it’s not an independent-built villa and you’d be buying only a half of the whole structure. But there are not many villas in Vinohrady on sale with such history, with their own gardens so I think the price will of course be negotiated but asking price seems quite realistic to me.”

The Culture Ministry will now try and reach a deal with the owner of the Čapek villa. But if their efforts fail, they are hoping the new proprietor will respect the building’s history.