The Civic Club building, currently serving as the District Museum in Suwałki, Suwałki
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The Civic Club building, currently serving as the District Museum in Suwałki

Suwałki

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The former Civic Club building presents a significant historical and artistic value, enjoying the status of a regional landmark. It was originally designed to accommodate various civic, cultural and educational institutions whose task was to maintain a patriotic attitude among the nation enslaved by the partitioning powers. Its history remains inextricably linked to the city’s intellectual elite. The architecture of the building was intended as a manifest, incorporating influences of various Polish historical styles; as such, it was created to counterbalance the prevailing official, government-sanctioned architecture of the other public buildings in Suwałki.

History

The Civic Club in Suwałki can trace its roots to the year 1833. In 1855, following the consent of governor Benedykt Tykiel, a list of 120 candidates was drawn up, while the organisation’s articles of association were approved one year later - the same year that the club’s committee was officially appointed, making it possible for the club’s operations to commence. The Civic Club became an important centre for cultural life - a place designed to uphold the Polish national identity where many meetings and heated, patriotic debates were held. It also maintained a collection of Polish books which were made available to visitors at the reading room; in addition, the organisation also organised charitable events, balls and concerts of various kinds. The operations of the organisation were discontinued in 1862 and it was only after 1905 when it was able to make a return. The cornerstone for the construction of the new building at 81 Kościuszki street was laid on 20.07.1912, with the structure itself opening its doors to the public during the autumn of 1913. The investor responsible for its construction was the Savings and Credit Association. Much like many other Polish organisations which remained active at the time, the Civic Club moved into the new building immediately following its completion. The edifice became the centre for the cultural, artistic and social life of the Polish residents of the city of Suwałki. It also served as the editorial office of “Tygodnik Suwalski” (“The Suwałki Weekly”), St. Milewski’s printing house and the Science and Research Reading Room. A local choir known as “Lutnia” (The Lute) is also known to have conducted its activities on the premises. In 1919, the Civic Club building was visited by Marshal Józef Piłsudski. During the period of the German occupation, the building served as the so-called German House. After the war came to an end, the edifice was briefly used as the boarding house of the Vocational School of Mechanics. From 1956 onwards, it has served as the District Museum, featuring, among others, a permanent exhibition dedicated to the life and works of the eminent painter A. Wierusz-Kowalski. A comprehensive renovation of the building was completed in 2012.

Description

The Civic Club building forms part of the western frontage of the Kościuszko street. Unlike the rest of the surrounding structures however, the building is slightly receded vis-à-vis the line of the frontage.

It was designed in the eclectic style with influences taken from both modernism (the asymmetrical design), Renaissance (the loggia), the Romanesque style (arcades) and Baroque (the two-tier roofs, the decorative roof parapet). The detailing of the building is strongly reminiscent of the “Pohulanka” Polish Theatre building in Vilnius.

The floor plan of the structure is complex, consisting of two rectangular modules linked together by a connecting section, with avant-corps projecting out of each module. The sophisticated, dynamic silhouette of the building incorporates both two- and three-storey sections. The front (eastern) façade features decorative rustication on the walls of the ground floor level, its southern section featuring a large gateway on the outermost axis, accompanied by a blind arcade, identical in both shape and size, positioned right next to the gateway itself. The individual storeys are separated by a profiled, dentilled cornice. The elevated middle section of the front façade is crowned with a three-axial gable adorned with volutes surmounted by spherical finials. The windows of the ground floor level as well as a few first-floor windows are topped with segmental arches; other first-floor windows are topped with semi-circular arches, while all of the second-floor windows are rectangular in shape. The two outermost sections of the front façade are topped with a solid, decorative roof parapet adorned with volute motifs. The middle section of the front façade features a stacked arrangement of two balconies projecting out of the façade at the first-floor and the second-floor level, with the lower balcony supported by corbels linked together by an arch. The southern façade is deprived of any decorative flourishes, save for the profiled crowning cornice. A part of the second storey is accentuated by a balcony resting on volute-shaped corbels and featuring an openwork balustrade. The window openings are rectangular or topped with segmental arches. The walls of the northern façade are smooth, deprived of any architectural partitions and punctuated only by rectangular windows.

The historical monument is open to visitors.

compiled by Grażyna Rogala, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Białystok, 23-12-2014.

Bibliography

  • Suwałki miasto nad Czarną Hańczą, J. Kopciał (ed.), Suwałki 2005, pp. 234-235, 844, fig. p. 392.

General information

  • Type: public building
  • Chronology: 1912-1913
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Kościuszki 81, Suwałki
  • Location: Voivodeship podlaskie, district Suwałki, commune Suwałki
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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