15. Steinbrener House No. 3

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In the sloping little street leading from the square down to the River Volyňka, the derelict house No. 3, situated right below the present town council building, attracts attention with its neglected exterior. Owing to the sign it bore it used to be called Elephant House. It marks the beginning of the successful and fruitful career of one of Vimperk’s most outstanding natives, Johann Steinbrener (1835 - 1909). In 1855 he started a printing workshop in the house, then owned by his father, and a small shop, and started to print books there. After a great fire in 1861 he re-built the destroyed house and bought neighbouring houses No. 1, 2, 4, 5, as well as other houses, in order to expand his printing works, into which he gradually introduced modern machinery. In 1872 he built a brand new factory on the banks of the River Volyňka. He specialised in printing prayer books and calendars, expanding step by step into European markets and even overseas to the United States. He became the most successful businessman in the town and Vimperk’s prominent celebrity. He held a number of public posts and contributed to the town’s cultural and educational scene. He even built houses for his workers, founded a social institution for children, and a retirement house. Books from his printing works won numerous awards at international book fairs, and the medals are still set in plaster on the outside walls.

Johann Steibrener is an example of a successful 19th-century self-made man who painstakingly worked his way from humble beginnings to the higher strata of the society of the time. His name is commemorated by a street in Vimperk, and house No. 3 bears his bilingual Czech-German memorial plaque, installed in 1992.