The House of Hungary is a member of the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages and one of the 28 international cottages in Balboa Park, San Diego. The houses were built during the 1936 San Diego Exposition for the different ethnic groups to show their traditions, customs, and history. The project was so successful that the City of San Diego decided to donate them permanently to the ethnic groups in order to keep them open for the public. There was a temporary interruption during WWII, when the Naval Hospital used the buildings, but after the war, the City returned them to the different nationalities. House of Hungary became an official member of the HPR in 1948.
Together with our sister cottages we take part in all activities scheduled by the HPR. Some of the public events are the annual Ethnic Food Fair on Memorial Day weekend, and in early December the “Christmas on the Prado.” The profit from these events, the membership dues and donations are used for the upkeep of the cottage and for operational expenses. Every nation is encouraged to celebrate its holidays, one of them with a “Lawn Program.” Ours is on August 20 in memory of the first King of Hungary, King Stephen I (St. Stephen). We also commemorate our great freedom fights and heroes of March 15, 1848 and October 23, 1956.
Our cottage is open to the public every Sunday afternoon, with a hostess offering homemade pastries, coffee and other refreshments to the visitors. Our language school is conducted by professional Hungarian-born teachers and is open to all interested individuals.
Many good Hungarians have handled the leadership of the cottage, and with dedicated work they were able to keep the Hungarian organization alive so that it has continuously presented the culture of Hungary to San Diego. The Huszka Family, from the very beginning, led and supported the cottage over a period of 25 years. Andrew Nemeth helped immigrants in 1956 establish themselves here in San Diego. This was also the case with Gusztav Bujkovszky, who served many years as president. He arranged for new furniture and a beautiful silk flag with shield that is still in the House today. The new furniture was hand-painted by Gyongyi Toperczer, who added an artistic touch to many occasions.
Another very significant contributor was Dr. Frank Waczek, who with his entire family diligently served the House of Hungary until his death. There were many who worked a single year as president and many years in other capacities, such as Bela Kristof and Steve Hegyi. Jozsef Fedak formed our Hungarian Scout Group in the 1970s and helped to organize the 1974 welcoming for Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty. Throughout many years the House enjoyed the dedicated support of Betty Klumpp.
At the beginning we shared one cottage with the Czechoslovakians, but we had always hoped to have our own. In 1980 the Building Fund Committee was established at Gabor Tatrai’s suggestion. It took 15 years of hard work and dedication – in large part successful food fairs and Gabor Tatrai’s idea of the annual Gala Balls – until we were able to save enough money to start building our own cottage. In 1989 the Building Committee was established with the following members: Glen Larsen (chairman), Julius Bagi, Jozsef Haraszko, Steve Hegyi, Margaret Horvath, Gabrielle Ivanyi, Jozsef Major, Attila Mocsary, Eugene Nagy, and Imre Tota. Mr. Glen Larsen did most of the official work dealing with the City of San Diego. Our dream came true when on May 5, 1995, we celebrated the opening of our new cottage. This date coincides with Hungary’s anniversary marking 1100 years of statehood.
Although the House of Hungary was built from the donations of our members and the savings through many years, it is the property of the City of San Diego, and as a non-profit organization we are under the direction and by-laws of the City and the HPR. Our house, like the other cottages, delegate two representatives to the HPR parliamentary meetings held once a month. We elect every November our President and the Board of Directors, all members over the age of 18 have the priviledge to vote.
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