History of the Hvar tourism through old postcards

Results of climate research in the middle of the 19th century have shown excellent properties of the Hvar climate, suitable to treat many illnesses, especially the ones of the respiratory system. Thanks to Franz Unger, a botanist from Graz, soon after there was an idea to use these benefits and establish a health-hygienist institution. In Hvar, in the year 1868 the Hygienist's Society was founded (Societa' igienica di Lesina) starting the era of modern tourism.

The first hotel was established in a rented house on the southern side of the Hvar Pjaca, with 13 single-bed rooms with heating and a restaurant. However, the mission of the Hygienist's Society was building a modern health hotel. Since the Society was unable to fund the project they addressed the Viennese court for financial support, expressing their desire for Queen Elizabeth being the sponsor with the hotel then carry her name. The constructions started in 1881 in place of the former Duke's palace, but due to constant lack of funding they were postponed. The first part of the hotel was finished in 1898 and formally opened on April 1st of 1899. The first postcard of Hvar (picture 1) appeared that same year with a picture of an agave and a palm tree illustrating the Mediterranean atmosphere and mildness of the Hvar climate to its recipient which is why it was fondly called the ''Austrian Madeira''. The upper part of the postcard is dominated by the scenery of Hvar as observed from the Paklinski islands, with Loggia and Duke's palace (already demolished to build the hotel).

Besides printing publicity leaflets and advertisements in Austrian magazines, Hvar hotel managers have quickly spotted the possibility to promote Hvar tourism via postcards. Frequently used motifs were: the Franciscan monastery, St. Stephen's cathedral, Paladini palace, the fort, church of St. Marko, Loggia, idyllic sunsets but also the newly opened hotels.

One of the postcards (picture 2) illustrates the first part of the Queen Elizabeth hotel, which judging by people posing in front of the hotel and on the windows was already well booked. Constructions finished in 1903 and the hotel (picture 3) had 26 rooms with 35 beds, bathrooms, dining room and a café (Cur-salon) in the old town Loggia. Domestic as well as foreign newspapers were available for reading in the Cur-salon (picture 4), also the possibility to play cards or billiards, and concerts, dances and lectures were also organized.

The Hygienist's Society and the hotel ran a successful business at the beginning of the 20th century. Guests primarily came from the area of the Austria-Hungary Monarchy (Austria, Czech Republic and Hungary) but also from many other countries in order to exchange their cold winter with the mild one on Hvar. Interesting text on a postcard (picture 5) sent from Hvar to Burlington (Vermont, USA) describes Hvar as an unusual old town becoming popular as a winter resort.

Success of the Hygienist's Society inspired tourism initiatives on the island. In 1911 in Jelsa, a modernly decorated hotel ''Jadran'' was opened with 14 rooms, dining area, an ale house, reading salon and a nearby beach. The owner of the hotel, captain Miće Žufić, also publisher of promotional postcards for hotel ''Jadran'' (picture 6) where future clients were able to see the appearance of the hotel as well as its offer. Soon after, a new hotel was opened in Hvar – hotel ''Kovačić'' with 30 beds (picture 7).

After the First World War the Hygienist's Society encountered some difficulties and in 1918 sold the hotel to Milan Čank who renamed it ''Grand Palace'' (picture 8). A few years later the Hygienist's Society was disbanded and along with winter and health tourism Hvar became more and more known for summer, bathing resort tourism. Town parks, coast and beaches were redecorated and in 1927 the town stone bathing resort was built and hotels ''Slavija'' and ''Overland'' were opened. One year later, the ''Grand Palace'' hotel becomes ownership of Roko Bradanović from Vis and is now called hotel ''Palace''.

Advances in technology enabled Hvar to become what the founders of the Hygienist's Society could only dream about: a world known tourist destination with an increasing number of visitors each year. Today, in times of the internet and smartphones postcards are rarely used and pictures of Hvar travel the globe in a single click. Only the passionate collectors care about postcards escaping the hectic everyday life in search of past romantic times.

For OH: Siniša Matković – Mikulčić
Secret Hvar DMC