Louis Winter (1870 - 1968)
© PhDr. Vladimír Krupa
Ľudovít Winter has been and remains one of the most important people in the history of Piešťany town and Piešťany Spa. The transformation, over half a century, of Piešťany from a small village with provincial baths into a renowned international spa town in inextricably linked to the Winter family.
Born on the 1st of November 1870 in Ipeľské Šahy, Ľudovít was the third of four children of Alexander and Henrieta (nee Kacserova) Winter with an older brother and sister Francis and Milka and a younger brother Imrich.
The young Ľudovít went off to study at the Technical University in Vienna but returned before completing his studies when his father Alexander, who by that stage had taken a lease on the Piešťany Spa, asked him to return to assist with the running of the company. He was twenty-four years old when he returned to Piešťany to assist his father in what would become his life’s work.
Ľudovít took over the running of the company when his father Alexander passed away in 1909. He had the business acumen to surround himself with the right people to help him cultivate and realise his vision for the development of the spa; chief amongst these was his younger brother Imrich.
Other important members of his management and development team included; Spa Administrator Václav Vlk, the lawyer Mgr. Majerčák, architects Henrik Bohm, Armin Hegedus, Emil Belluš and Franz Wimmer, the surgeon Eduard Weisz, doctors Stefan Koller and Eduard Cmunt, village notary Anton Kajlich, pastor and Mayor of Piešťany Gašpar Štefanka, and later Alexander Šindelár.
During his lifetime Ľudovít Winter was instrumental in the building of a number of Piešťany’s most significant and iconic buildings including:
- The worker’s hospital, Kursalon Spa Hall – opened in 1894
- Francis Joseph Spa – opened in 1898
- Pro Patria – opened 1916
- The Pink Mill – opened 1916
- Eden Excelsior, now renamed The Yalta – opened in 1929
- The Red Tower Restaurant – opened in 1929
- Thermal Spa Eva – opened in 1934
- And of course his grandest project and greatest pride, was and remains, The Thermia Palace Hotel and Spa Irma spa house Cyril – opened in 1929
Despite the radically changed political and social conditions in Piešťany after February 1948 Ľudovít ensured the continued growth and expansion of the city when proposed and participated in the construction of a new city district, which was to become the Floreat District.
Thanks to his tireless efforts people from all walks of life sought renewed health in the famous spas of Piešťany. As its reputation grew, Piešťany’s rich cultural offer of museums, concerts, theatres and balls along with international medical congresses, excursions and sporting events and tournaments ensured Piešťany became a meeting place for international high society.
In 1899 Ľudovít created what was to become the now famous trademark of the City and Spa, the renowned Barlolamač or “Crutch-Breaker” It remains to this day the best known emblem of the City and is incorporated into the City’s coat of arms.
From 1919 until 1935 Ľudovít was the chairman of the Union of Slovak Spas, he authored a number of works on legal, tax and spa regulations. In the period after World War and the founding of the first Czech-Slovak Republic in 1918 Ľudovít is credited with a number of major developments for the city such as the construction of asphalted streets, sidewalks and squares, the building of the Colonnade and Krajinsky bridges over the River Vah. He led on the construction of the General House, now the Town Hall, water supply and drainage systems for the city and the construction of flood defences and river management for the Dubove River.
Ľudovít Winter dedicated over 50 years of his life to Piešťany and his beloved spa resort. He never wavered from his goal of obtaining world renown for Piešťany, even in times of persecution during World War II, when he endured the anguish of the concentration camps and again after 1948 when during the communist totalitarian regime he accepted the loss of his family spa business, he never lost his love for Piešťany, something he retained right up until his death.
Towards the end of his life Ľudovít wrote his memoirs detailing not only the history of the spa town but recording for prosperity also his unrealised ideas for the continued development of the city. Amongst them his idea for a new spa complex; The Arthros which he would have situated in an area opposite The Hotel Thermal Palace, he also had plans to connect all of the existing bath houses via a single connecting colonnade.
His philosophy can be summed up in the following passage from his memoirs; “Science alone is not enough to turn a Doctor into a good Doctor, for his success it is also necessary for his patients to like him. The same principle applies to those who manage spas. The person who is not in love with his work, who does not connect heart and soul with the interests of his spa guests will hardly be in a position to create a happy and lasting working life in the spa business. In addition to science, a love of the guest is one of the most important criteria for success”.
Ľudovít Winter died in Piešťany on the 15th of September 1968, he was 98 years old. He is buried in the cemetery on Bratislavska Cesta.
A memorial Plaque, by the sculptor Ladislav Ľudovít Pollák, was unveiled on 1st November 1990 at the Green Tree Pension and on New Year’s Day 1991 the main street in the centre of Piešťany was renamed in his honour. He was posthumously awarded with honorary citizenship of Piešťany in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of Piešťany and Piešťany Spa.