The Chancery Building

The building at Szabadság tér 12 in Budapest’s Fifth District has been home to the United States Legation and Embassy since 1935. It was designed by the architects Aladár Kármán and Gyula Ullman, who were hired by a commercial company called the Hungarian Hall of Commerce, Ltd., who had purchased the site on May 16, 1899. Their plan was submitted to and approved by the Budapest Municipality on August 11 of the same year.

Construction work on the building began almost immediately, and it opened for business on November 1, 1900. The first tenants of the building were the Hungarian Hall of Commerce, and the Budapest Society for the Protection of Creditors. There were apparently a restaurant and several shops in the building, and the upper floors were used as apartments.

In 1911, the owners decided to sell the building, which was purchased by Kanitz and Sons on January 3, 1912. Kanitz and Sons sold the building almost immediately to the Hungarian Royal Postal Savings Bank, which occupied the premises until 1935. In that year, the United States Legation moved into the building from its previous location on Árpád utca.

During World War II, the Chancery Building operated under the Swiss Flag. Consul Carl Lutz, who helped save as many as 50,000 Hungarian Jews from deportation, had offices there from 1942 to 1945. Lutz also indirectly assisted the more famous Swedish Diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, in his rescue efforts. There are stories that Jewish refugees were hidden in the lower levels of the building during the War.

From November 4, 1956 to September 28, 1971, the Chancery served as the home of Cardinal József Mindszenty, who took refuge there during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. The Cardinal lived in what is now the Ambassador’s office. Embassy officers brought him food and reading material, walked with him in the Embassy courtyard, and attended Mass with him.

The U.S. Government purchased the building on October 15, 1946 from the Hungarian Government.