Water tower, Frombork
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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A Gothic structure which constitutes a remnant of a medieval water supply system - the very first structure of this kind in Poland and the second to be built in Europe. One of the few historic buildings in town, that were saved from destruction during World War II. Following a successful adaptation to its new function, it was awarded a distinction in the “Well-preserved Historic Monument” competition (2013).

History

The history of the water tower is linked with the water mill, which was built in 1427 (or perhaps even earlier) and with the construction of a water supply system in the second half of the 16th century, designed to provide running water to cathedral hill. The tower was built in 1571, the lower sections of the walls of the mill being incorporated into its structure. Inside, the tower featured a water lifting device powered by the water wheel as well as a distribution container. The water was distributed gravitationally to a network of pipes made of hollowed oak trunks and supplied to the houses and yards on cathedral hill. The chapter concluded a contract with master Walenty Hendl from Wrocław for the design, construction and commissioning of the water supply system; the tower itself was built by a master bricklayer named Stanisław. It was the second water supply system of this kind in Europe. The first such structure in Europe, based on similar principles, was built in 1548 in Augsburg. The tower performed its function until the mid-18th century when the hydro-engineering devices were dismantled; the tower subsequently formed part of the mill complex. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries a few multi-storey factory buildings were erected west of the tower, partially adjoining the structure itself. With the end of World War II, the complex of the mill buildings and the canal supplying water to the tower were seriously damaged. The remaining parts of the mill buildings were finally demolished during the 1960s. The turbine chamber, the weir and the accompanying machinery were also dismantled. The tower itself was reconstructed in 1964 as part of the “Frombork” initiative of the scout movement; it was subsequently adapted to serve as a tourist attraction. In 1966 a low commercial pavilion was built in its direct neighbourhood. Currently the tower remains private property with a viewing terrace and a cafe; temporary exhibitions are also held inside the tower. In 2012 the tower was thoroughly restored; in 2013 it obtained a prize in the “Well-preserved Historic Monument” competition organised by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage.

Description

The water tower with the adjacent modern commercial pavilion is situated in the centre of the town, by the Bauda river. Set on a rectangular floor plan (6.20 x 8.30) with vaulted canal running along its diagonal axis, the tower features a flat roof forming an observation deck, surrounded by a barrier. It was built of solid ceramic brick, its facades bearing easily discernible traces of the two stages of its construction, which can be identified due to the different brickwork patterns used. The northern and the southern facades feature a series of windows topped with semi-circular arches, their arrangement corresponding to the original layout of its storeys. The western facade features an entrance topped with a segmental arch as well as the rectangular former doors at the second, third and fourth storey level, which have once led to the now-defunct mill. Remains of a cast iron belt pulley are visible in the eastern facade. Today, the tower features four storeys with modern ceilings and ferroconcrete stairs, with traces of the original layout of the building’s floors still visible on its interior walls.

The structure partially accessible, from May to September during opening hours of the café; the terrace can be accessed for a fee. From October to April the building can only be seen from the outside.

Compiled by Iwona Liżewska, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Olsztyn, 29.09.2014.

 

Bibliography

  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki. Braniewo. Frombork, Orneta i okolice. Województwo elbląskie. Warszawa 1980, p. 114-115.
  • T. Piaskowski, H. Szkop, Zabytki Fromborka, Frombork 2003, p. 99-100.

General information

  • Type: industrial architecture
  • Chronology: 1571
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Elbląska 2, Frombork
  • Location: Voivodeship warmińsko-mazurskie, district braniewski, commune Frombork - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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