A fortified settlement standing on the site of the present-day chateau of Sokolov (German: Falkenau, derived from the noun "falcon") was built at the crossroads of important provincial trails – the most significant being the Erfurt Trail leading from central Germany via Kraslice and Svatava, and the Cheb trail leading to Loket and on to Prague.
The oldest written record of Sokolov is dated to April 13, 1279 and refers to trade negotiations involving the Nothaft brothers who denoted themselves as "de Walchenawe" (of Sokolov). According to archaeological research, a water stronghold had already been built and served as a manor house then. A circular inner curtain wall surrounded the rectangular residential palace. In 1339, the Nothafts sold the demesne to the Winklers, from whom the demesne passed under the administration of the Royal Chamber in 1366. The Hussite Wars had no impact on its fate. After the wars had ended in 1434, Emperor Sigmund gave the Sokolov demesne to Kašpar Šlik.
In the 1480’s, the Šliks rebuilt the stronghold into a castle with an oblong layout and four corner towers, which served as the foundation base for the present-day chateau. The last lord of Sokolov from the Šlik family was Jan Albín who together with his brother, Jáchym Ondřej, belonged among the leaders of the uprising of the Bohemian Estates in 1618. Following the defeat of the Estates Uprising in the decisive Battle of White Mountain on November 8, 1620, Jan Albín Šlik fled abroad and his brother Jáchym Ondřej was executed on June 21, 1621 in the Old Town Square in Prague. In the same year, Sokolov Castle and the demesne were confiscated and in the subsequent year, they were sold to the Nostitz family who belonged among prominent nobility loyal to the Habsburgs.
Throughout the Thirty Years War, the Sokolov Castle fulfilled its military function within the defence of the town. Estate, Imperial, Saxon or Bavarian armies swept through the town and the demesne, with the ultimate blow coming from the Swedes who burnt down the town and the already damaged castle in 1648. The castle was completely devastated by the numerous raids and its owner, Johann Hartwig Nostitz, therefore had it rebuilt into a Late Renaissance comfortable chateau. The reconstruction took place from 1659 to 1663.
In the 1730’s, the chateau surroundings were landscaped in the style of a French garden decorated with many sculptures. In 1742, during the War of the Austrian Succession, the French occupied the chateau, and in 1762, during the Seven Years War, the town and the chateau were plundered by the Prussians. Between 1800 and 1805, the enlightened Count Friedrich von Nostitz-Rieneck entirely reconstructed and renovated the chateau in Classicist style. Minor building alterations were carried out in 1870, and around the year 1880, the old chateau tower roofs were replaced by broach roofs, which have been preserved to the present day.
The park and the game-park surrounding the chateau were continuously diminishing in the course of the second half of the 19th century. The chateau garden gradually changed into a town park. Two bomb shelters were built in the chateau cellarage during World War II. In 1945, the chateau was confiscated from the Nostitz family based on the Beneš Decrees. For several months, the chateau served as the headquarters of the U.S. Army that liberated Sokolov.
In the 1950’s, the chateau was occupied by the Czechoslovak Army and it was exposed to immense devastation. The chateau movables were partly stolen and partly destroyed; many interior furnishings were moved to other cultural institutions. A part of the chateau library ended in flames and the furnishings of the chapel were completely destroyed. Gradual reconstruction of the chateau began in the course of the 1960’s. The district library was moved to the chateau and the Museum of Mining in the Sokolov District was opened here in 1960. In the 1970’s, the facades and interiors were renovated and the ground floor of the chateau was converted into a ceremonial hall and prestige municipal premises. Nonetheless, the repairs were of low quality and rather insensitive as regards the historical value of the chateau.
The museum was transformed into a town museum in 1982 and it has been enjoying the status of the district museum since 1984. The chateau was subject to a complete reconstruction between 1993 and 1994. The most recent reconstruction fully respects the Classicist architectural style of the beginning of the 19th century. The chateau facades now have the typical brick colour with white window lining and white portals. Archaeological research was completed during the reconstruction and its findings have enriched and greatly influenced our existing concepts of the development of the noble residence in Sokolov.
The Renaissance Town Hall standing in the historical town square was built in the 1540’s and reconstructed into its present-day appearance after a fire in the 1630’s. The forefront of the two-storey building faces Old Square. It boasts a Gothic and Renaissance entry portal with medallions in corner gussets. An incorrect coat-of-arms of the town was preserved in the header joist (the falcon sits on a branch of a snag instead of three hills). The windows above the portal are arranged into groups of three while the remaining windows on the ground and first floors are arranged into groups of two.
A small tower used to stand on the ridge of the roof but it was struck by a lightning in 1794 and only its removal prevented the spreading of fire in the town. All other fires spared the Town Hall.
In the early 19th century, the forefront of the Town Hall was renovated in Classicist style and some layout changes were carried out as well. The town taproom and a counsel hall adjoined by an archive were located in the building.
The Town Hall served its purpose until the 1950’s. It later became the headquarters of Sokolovská uhelná a.s. (Sokolov Mining Joint-Stock Company), which reconstructed it in 1995.
Interesting tidbit: Tale of Knight Šebestián