The Padlock House

The house with the padlock, an important tourist site from the city of Arad, is located on the Tribunul Dobra Street, near the Neologue Synagogue. It was built by Joseph Winkler, a Viennese merchant back in 1815. This building served as the headquarters of the Guilds of Arad, organizations endowed with an old history on these lands (the first guild of Arad was registered in 1706 – the Skinner’s Guild). In the corner facing Plevnei Square, the building has a recess which is currently hollow. Once, an iron trunk stood there or to be more precise, a wood trunk, blanketed in shell plate and manufactured after a Viennese model by Moritz Heim, a sculptor from Timisoara. The trunk was made in 1827, at the request of the Macedonian Romanian merchant, Andrei Trandafir. Similar wood trunks would have been found in cities like Wien, Buda, Bratislava, Oradea, Timisoara and others. In the neighboring city of Timisoara, this trunk bears, unofficially, the name Iron Tree or the Guild’s Tree and it’s located at the intersection of Revolutiei Boulevard with the Francesco Griselini Street.

Source – Wikimedia

This wood trunk played an important part in the life of the guildsmen. By their rules, the further advancement from their status as journeyman onwards was conditioned by how much they grasped their craft after a certain number of years. The journeymen required two years to practice their craft, and were also allowed to stay no more than 6 months in each spot. To mark their voyage through Arad, the journeymen visited the House of the Guildsmen, namely the House with the Padlock and hammered a nail in the wood trunk. Each nail had a distinctive pattern, representing a signature of the journeyman that produced it. This tradition was preserved until 1872, when a new law abolished the guild system.

The street on which the building is located hosted bloody fighting on the 8th of February 1849, between the city’s national guards and the Austrian troops who captured Arad’s citadel. After the defeat of the Pasoptist Revolution, the building served as the HQ for Secret Austrian Imperial Police and in the building’s basement, revolutionaries were detained. Regarding the basement, there are legends claiming that the army would have had a network of secrets tunnels connected with the Citadel of Arad. These stories are still not validated but those that have the opportunity to enter the darkened basement, claim that there is indeed a hole that is being stuffed by the residents with various materials.

The recess that once hosted the wood trunk was (and is) protected by a metal bar, locked up with a padlock. From here, the origin of the name The house with the padlock originated. The legend says that the owner (or the owners) of the building told everyone that the persons who manages to open the lock will receive the edifice as a reward. Another particularity, both interesting and witty is that the lock doesn’t have a hole in which the key meant to open it could fit. The lock is still in one piece and can be seen in the same recess since its very beginning. On the other hand, the wood trunk isn’t. In 1994, it was stolen by someone and after a long period of search, it has been found. Some bad rumors suggest that it may have been found in Sicilian basement, but there is no evidence to make that claim credible. After wood trunk was recovered, it has been reconditioned and, fearing a new theft, the representatives of the town hall decided to keep it in Arad’s Museum Complex.

Above the edifice’s main entry, an inscription reads 1851, a symbol inducing many people to think wrong, making them believe that this is the year of the building’s construction. This date actually represents the year in which the building was renovated and expanded. In 1930, the building was modified once more by adding a second floor. The latest reconditioning of the building was in 1963, when the commercial spaces from the ground floor were converted in habitable areas.

The current state of the building is one of advanced deterioration, tending to be deplorable. Even though it’s for sale for a long time and the habitable places inside are for lending, it seems no one tries to make the bold move and offer the requested amount. All we can hope for is that this building wo’t get in an architectural condition as that of other buildings in the city, such as the Old Theatre.

Photo Gallery with the aid of the Arad County Museum:

The wood trunk when it was found

The trunk in the reconditioning process

The reconditioned wood trunk


Eugen Glück, Alexandru Roz, Arad – city guide, Sport-Turism Publishing, Sibiu – 1982;
Eugen Glück, Alexandru Roz, Mihail Toacsen, Arad County Guide, Pentru Turism Publishing, Bucharest – 1974.

Source: Blog Aradean

Author: Eugen Rogojan

Translated from Romanian by: Albert Reich

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