The Loitz family townhouse, Szczecin
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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A unique example of a patrician residence from the transitional period between the Gothic and the Renaissance era. One of the most impressive of all surviving buildings featuring tracery façade decorations characteristic of the architecture of the Pomerania region.

History

The townhouse was erected in the mid-16th century on a parcel of land owned by the Loitz family of wealthy merchants. The representatives of this family engaged in the trade in salt and herring as well as in banking; in addition, many of them were also members of the Municipal Council or performed the function of the mayor of the city of Szczecin. The townhouse, located in the middle of the parcel, was preceded by a spacious courtyard which clearly indicated its purely residential nature from the very beginning. The existing building was most likely formed through the amalgamation of two smaller structures. The redesign of the tenement house was completed in 1547, with the scale and form of the new residence being evident nods towards the southern wing of the Castle of the Pomeranian Dukes which was completed during the same period. The representational nature of the townhouse was further emphasized by the presence of a tower as well as by the lavishly decorated front façade incorporating a stone relief depicting the scene of the Conversion of St Paul - a clear reference to the history of the Loitz family, who have themselves adopted the Lutheran confession.

In 1572, after the Loitz trading house went bankrupt and after the family itself relocated to Poland, the townhouse was taken over by the Dukes of Pomerania; once the very last members of the ducal family died during the 17th century, the house became the property of a local counsellor named Rosenhand and was therefore habitually referred to as “the Rosenhand House” at the time. In the 18th century, the townhouse was acquired by the Swiss family of Dubendorf. One of the members of the family, Adam Dubendorf, was engaged in the construction of a wooden gravity fed water pipeline designed to deliver water from the Warszew Hills to the fountain located in the Horse Market (Rynek Koński). Later on, a confectionery was also known to have operated at the townhouse, which was usually referred to as the “Swiss Mansion” at the time. During the 19th century, the former residence lost its original nature and was transformed into a typical tenement house. An additional storey was added, with a number of new windows appearing in its façades; the front façade was now partially obscured by the added side buildings. It was in this condition that the structure survived right until its destruction during World War II. The interior of the townhouse was gutted by fire, as was the entire roof truss above the structure. All that remained were the peripheral walls with the tower as well as the vaulted ceilings on the basement level. After the war came to an end, the Loitz family townhouse was one of the first historical monuments to be reconstructed. In the years 1951-1955, the site was cleared of the rubble; later on, the townhouse was reconstructed by the Historical Monument Conservation Workshop, allowing it to partially regain its former appearance. The added storey was dismantled and the tall roofs were restored to their former shape; however, the original, highly decorative gables and the roof of the tower were not reconstructed in their entirety. The interior was remodelled in a thoroughly modern fashion in order to serve the needs of the State Secondary School of Fine Arts. The school complex also occupied a pair of Gothic granaries, which now formed a single ensemble with the tenement house. During the initial period of the building’s postwar existence, its façades were painted white. The current, reddish colour scheme was only adopted in the year 2000, following a series of studies.

Description

The Loitz family townhouse is located in the lower section of the Szczecin Old Town, at the end of a short alley known as Kurkowa street, currently intersecting the nearby Mściwoja street, although during the pre-war period the street was actually little more than an elongated courtyard located among the surrounding buildings. The building’s façade faces the south-east. Today, the townhouse forms a part of an ensemble of buildings serving as a local secondary school, accompanied by a pair of Gothic granaries; the larger of the said granaries is linked to the tenement house itself through a single-storey connecting section located on the north-eastern side thereof. The site of the tenement house is positioned on a relatively steep slope leading towards the Odra river, which means that the back entrance facing Grodzka street is positioned at the first-floor level. The immediate surroundings of the tenement house and the neighbouring granary remains free from any buildings or other structures; however, in the south-western frontage of the Kurkowa street, the foundations and basements of the now-vanished tenement houses have been unearthed and are scheduled to be replaced by brand new developments in the near future.

The townhouse itself is a Late Gothic building, its current projection having a roughly rectangular shape resulting from parts of the former back yard being redeveloped during the postwar reconstruction process. A tower designed on a square floor plan adjoins the front (south-eastern) façade of the building, with the connecting section leading into the former granary abutting its north-eastern wall. Before World War II and the resulting destruction of the building, the front part of the tenement house and the short, wide side building on the right hand side of the yard formed an L-shaped complex. This original layout can still be discerned when looking at the building’s silhouette, consisting of the four-storey main body topped with a tall gable roof adjoined by the pyramid-roofed tower as well as the former side building - a three-storey structure which is nevertheless of the same height as the main building due to its positioning on a higher level of the underlying slope. The former side building is covered with a three-sided roof. The former yard is now taken up by the two-storey post-war section covered with a two-sided roof.

The townhouse is a brick building, its façades covered with plaster; originally, the layer of plaster covering the façades was much thinner than it is today. The roofs - including the pyramid roof of the turret - are covered with beaver-tail roof tiles.

The front façade of the tenement house follows an asymmetrical, seven-axial layout, with the staircase tower positioned on the right (north-eastern) side, on the fifth axis of symmetry. The tower entrance is accentuated by a portal topped with a semi-circular arch and adorned with a multiplied bar tracery surround. The windows, topped with inflexed arches, are positioned in a paired arrangement on both the first and the second floor; the third-floor windows are distributed in a manner inconsistent with the axial layout of the lower storeys; they are also much smaller and are not grouped in pairs. The tower windows feature slanting sills and lintels, with the windows of the ground floor level being topped with simple, segmental arches. The same window shape was also used for the windows of the first and second floor level positioned on the two outermost axes in the north-eastern part of the building. The windows are incorporated into decorative panels framed by vertical and horizontal bands. The upper sections of these panels are adorned with Late Gothic tracery incorporating, among others, ogee arch and trefoil motifs. Similar decorations have also survived in the upper section of the tower as well as on the side façades. The two-axial south-eastern façade retains those decorations on all storeys, whereas on the north-western façade they are only present on the top floor section. A replica of the stone sculpted panel from the Renaissance period, depicting the Conversion of St Paul, is embedded in the front façade at the first-floor level. The appearance of the rear façade of the townhouse is the result of postwar reconstruction, much like its two-bay interior with the staircase positioned in the rear suite of rooms of the former side building.

The building is accessible to visitors during the opening hours of the school.

compiled by Maciej Słomiński, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin, 03-03-2015.

Bibliography

  • Architektura gotycka w Polsce, T. Mroczko and M. Arszyński (eds.), vol. 2, Katalog zabytków, A. Włodarek (ed.), Warsaw 1995, p. 222
  • Kamienica Loitzów i jej otoczenie. Szczecin, ul. Kurkowa. Dokumentacja historyczno-architektoniczna, compiled by H. Dziurla, Historical Monument Conservation Workshop (PKZ) Szczecin 1958, typescript available at the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Szczecin
  • Papritz J., Das Handelshaus der Loitz zu Stettin, Danzig und Lüneburg, “Baltische Studien” NF, vol. 44(1957), pp. 73-94
  • Pilch J., Kowalski S., Leksykon zabytków Pomorza Zachodniego i Ziemi Lubuskiej, Warsaw 2012, pp. 187-188
  • Architectural monument record sheet, compiled by K. Konopka, 1992, typescript available at the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Szczecin.

General information

  • Type: tenement house
  • Chronology: 1. poł. XVI w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Kurkowa 1, Szczecin
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district Szczecin, commune Szczecin
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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