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Did you know there is another Budapest in America? – Here is its story

How did our capital end up in the US, and what does it have to do with wine production? In the 19th century, a small group of Hungarians made their way to Georgia, where they revitalised the vineyards in a small settlement named after the Hungarian capital to the point where they became some of the best in the country. Today, almost none of this remains, with the town having fallen under Prohibition.

Although the Hungarians emigrated to the New World relatively soon after the defeat of the War of Independence in 1848-1849, the first small town named after our capital was not established until the 1880s. If you've spent a few hours browsing Google Maps, you may have come across Budapest – not the Hungarian capital, of course, but Budapest in America.

In 1882, a real estate developer named Ralph L. Spencer from Essex, Connecticut decided to plant vineyards near Tallapoosa, Georgia, but he knew he would need experts to make good wine from the grapes. That's how he came to see the knowledgeable Hungarians in Pennsylvania, who were working in the mines day and night instead of making wine. It was good business for Spencer to have someone to work the land and make it fertile, and it was good for them to finally have land instead of a meagre living. He settled about 200 wine-growing families in the area in northwest Georgia, named Budapest in honour of the Hungarian capital. The community was led by a Catholic priest, Frances Janisek, who himself was a wine connoisseur. 

The vineyards soon developed into a small town: a church, school, shops, and even a post office were constructed, and the harvest season attracted the local folk. However, nothing lasts forever, the Hungarian-speaking community was not welcomed by the people of the neighbouring communities, who didn't like that they didn't speak English, nor did they appreciate the fact that they had turned wine production into a booming town in such a short time.

Nonetheless, it was not them, but Prohibition in 1907, that put an end to the prosperity. One by one, the wineries fell into ruin, families needed new jobs, and many went back north to find work in the mines. The small town slowly became deserted, although in 1969 the police busted an illegal distillery in the former church, which eventually burned down in the 1970s. The last remaining Hungarian settler died there in the 1960s, so today the cemetery is the only reminder of Budapest that was once inhabited by Hungarians.

(Cover photo: Budapest, Georgia - Facebook-oldal)


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