The City Hall (the so-called New City Hall or Red City Hall), currently serving as the Maritime Office, Szczecin
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The City Hall (the so-called New City Hall or Red City Hall), currently serving as the Maritime Office

Szczecin

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The most impressive town hall edifice in Western Pomerania, the building remains an outstanding example of monumental architecture designed in the Gothic Revival style. The City Hall is an important landmark which instantly defines the surrounding landscape of the New Town district - an area which had once been the very first to allow real estate development beyond the outline of the former fortifications of the Szczecin Fortress. Today, the building draws admiring glances due to its highly original ceramic façade detailing as well as the monumental, neo-Gothic interiors of the main hall and the lower ground floor level.

History

The City Hall, often referred to as the New City Hall or the Red City Hall, is one of the most important landmarks of the New Town district of Szczecin, the street grid of which was first drawn up in 1846. This district was the very first attempt for the city to grow beyond the area once enclosed by the fortified structures which surrounded the city, with the new buildings being erected alongside what is now known as 3 Maja street (former Lindenstrasse), located between the Old Town and the railway station. The first developments in the area have taken place shortly after the railway connection between Szczecin and Berlin was completed. In the 1860s, the construction of new buildings on the parcels of land located on the eastern side of 3 Maja street began. The decision on the construction of a new City Hall was adopted back in 1856. The old, medieval city hall located by the Hay Market Square (Rynek Sienny) was rightly considered to be too small and cramped to satisfy the needs of the administration of a rapidly growing urban centre. A city map dating back to 1866 is the first document which shows the outline of the walls of the newly erected city hall, most likely drawn on the basis of the finished design produced by Konrad Kruhl, a municipal building counsellor. The cornerstone for the new edifice was laid on September 2, 1875, with the consecration and subsequent opening of the completed structure taking place on January 10, 1879. The new city hall - which would remain the tallest structure in the surrounding area for many years to come - has become the seat of the city administration, consisting of 19 council members, the mayor and the supreme mayor. The City Council consisted of 62 members, elected for a 6-year term of office. The City Management Board was divided into 14 different bodies and departments. Apart from the administrative section on the ground floor level, there was also the archive section, while the basement level served as a restaurant and café.

Before 1945, all construction and renovation works carried out inside the building were limited to minor alterations. In the year 1900, the ground-floor archive section was modified, while in 1912 the attic level was adapted to serve as a residential space for the waiters working at the basement restaurant. In order to effect those adaptations, a number of new, large dormer windows were added. During World War II, the city hall was taken over by the Gestapo. In May 1945, the city hall - which survived the wartime period unscathed - was engulfed by the flames, most likely as a result of arson. Almost the entire central part of the building was completely gutted in the process, with the remaining rooms also sustaining serious damage. All that remained of the structure were its peripheral walls and interior partitions. In 1956, the municipal authorities of the city of Szczecin decided that the city hall would be rebuilt in order to accommodate the offices of the Municipal National Council. The design for the reconstruction was drawn up in the years 1956-1959 by Kazimierz Stachowiak, a construction engineer working for the Miastoprojekt architectural firm in Szczecin. The works commenced in 1959, although the original concept for the future use of the building has changed, with the former city hall now earmarked to serve as the headquarters of the Maritime Office. The reconstruction effort involved, inter alia, the renovation of the walls and interiors, reconstruction of the destroyed vaulted ceilings in the main hall as well as the rebuilding of the roofs, with the attic level to be adapted for various utility purposes. In addition, new gables and turrets were also to be constructed. The wimpergs above the second-floor windows which had once graced the façades of the middle avant-corps projecting from both of the longer sides of the building were gone, replaced by oculi designed to provide illumination for the uppermost storey. The angle of the roof was also changed, its surfaces now punctuated with new dormer windows, letting in more light into the attic. The appearance of the tower spires and turret finials was also changed. The window and door joinery also had to be replaced. The new doors were positioned inside new, smaller openings. Inside, the building was now divided into a few large chambers as well as a number of smaller offices. In 1997, the entrance portico facing the Bathory Square (Plac Batorego) was restored to its former glory. The process also involved the conservation and partial reconstruction of the allegorical figures which adorn it. In years 2007-2008, the renovation of the façade on the side of Dworcowa street was completed, followed by the side facing the Bathory Square in years 2011-2012. The side façades were restored between 2013 and 2014. The works in question involved cleaning and scrubbing the dirt from the brick wall cladding, the replacement of missing sections as well as the reconstruction of damaged or destroyed pieces of exterior detailing (including the reconstruction of missing or damaged bricks and then ensuring that the replaced sections did not stand out from the rest of the building in terms of colour scheme and overall appearance). Year 2014 marked the beginning of the comprehensive restoration of the main hall and staircase.

Description

The New City Hall building is located at the eastern end of the New Town district of Szczecin, at the edge of the escarpment rising above the Odra river, reinforced by a brick retaining wall. The edifice is accessible from two levels - from the lower level in the east (from the City Hall Square [Plac Ratuszowy] located between the Old and the New Town) as well as from the upper level (from the west, i.e. from the direction of Bathory Square which reaches all the way to 3 Maja street). The southern frontage of the Bathory Square includes a number of historic buildings, including the former commandant’s office building dating back to 1866 as well as the late-19th century Victoria hotel. At the lower level, the City Hall Square merges with the Tobruk Square, with its late 19th-century fountain that had once been graced by a group of sculptures centred around the goddess Sedina, invented during the 19th century as a local symbol. The square is surrounded by a number of impressive buildings from the 19th century and the early 20th century - Post Office no. 2, the former Municipal Administration Building (currently serving the needs of the Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin) as well as the Pomeranian Library building (the former Municipal Gymnasium).

The City Hall itself is a Gothic Revival building consisting of five wings in total (four outer wings and one inner wing), surrounding a pair of inner courtyards. It was designed on a rectangular floor plan, with avant-corps projecting from both of its longer façades as well corner extensions positioned at all four corners of the structure. Due to the fact that the building is positioned on an escarpment, the number of storeys varies from one section to another. On the eastern, southern and northern sides, the building features six storeys in total, with a tall semi-basement level forming a two-tier terraced structure, above which rises as a relatively low second storey, positioned at the level of the basement of the four-storey western wing. An additional attic storey rises above all outer wings of the edifice. The building is covered with gable roofs, with the roofs rising above the avant-corps of the two longer wings being slightly taller than the rest of the roof structure and slightly offset towards the front. The roofs above the corner extensions are of the truncated pyramid type, with terraces on top. The turrets flanking the eastern avant-corps are crowned with tall, slender conical spires surmounted by weathervanes bearing the date “1878”. The city hall is a brick building, its façades clad with red brick; the retaining wall of the terrace is lined with yellow brick adorned with red stripes, while the façades facing the courtyard feature a yellow brick cladding. The roof is covered with beaver-tail roof tiles, while the spired which grace the turrets are covered with sheet metal. Segmental vaults are used for the basement level, while the rooms on the lower ground floor level on the side near the City Hall Square feature cross-ribbed vaulting, as does the main hall; double-barrel vaults can be admired inside the hallways of the building, with all the other rooms featuring flat, fire-resistant ceilings. The front and the rear façades both follow a symmetrical, nineteen-axial layout, each with a five-axial central avant-corps and a pair of two-axial corner extensions. The main entrance into the building is positioned in the middle of the front façade, facing the Bathory Square; it is preceded by an arcaded portico with three pointed arches, flanked by buttresses with pinnacle-shaped finials. The lavish ceramic-brick decoration of the portico consists of tracery ornamentation positioned between the arches and extending into the terrace parapet above. Between the arches stand four allegorical sculptures, three of them representing Industry, Agriculture and Sailing, while the fourth figure is a postwar replica. The first- and second-floor windows of the avant-corps are topped with pointed arches, the ones positioned on the two outermost axes being notably narrower than the rest. The windows on the third-floor level take the form of round oculi. The large windows positioned on each of the three middle axes are separated by pinnacles spanning the height of two storeys. The three large openings on the ground floor level, i.e. the French window opening towards the portico terrace as well as two large windows which flank it are all framed with decorative surrounds adorned with crockets and fleurons. The coat of arms of the city of Szczecin, portrayed here in its full version from the Swedish times, i.e. with a shield supported by two lions and surmounted by a closed coronet, is displayed in the form of a sculpture gracing the top section of the avant-corps, above the row of postwar attic-level windows. A pair of pointed-arch windows graces the ground-floor level of each of the corner extensions. At the first-floor level there are open, balcony-like oriels incorporating a pair of pointed-arch windows flanked by pinnacles. A decorative window header with a coat of arms of the city of Szczecin can be seen above the windows on the second-floor level. The attic level is separated from the rest of the façade with a pointed-arch arcaded frieze and a cornice; its corners are accentuated by slender overhanging turrets, while the surface of its walls is adorned with a series of narrow blind arcades topped with trefoil arches, in each case flanking a single, pointed-arch window divided into a pair of lancets and adorned with tracery, with the wimperg rising above the window providing the finishing touch. The sections of the façade positioned between the avant-corps and corner extensions are slightly recessed and divided by lesenes spanning the height of the three upper storeys, each of them topped with a wimperg-like finial. The entire assembly is topped with a frieze consisting of quatrefoils inscribed into circles. The ground-floor windows of these sections of the façades are topped with segmental arches, while those of the upper storeys are rectangular in shape. The lintels above the windows on the first- and second-floor level are topped with rectangular hood mouldings. The third-floor windows are of postwar origin and take the form of horizontally positioned rectangles.

The façade of the building overlooking the City Hall Square is preceded by a retaining wall with two opposing flights of steps leading up to the terrace which stretches ahead of the building itself. A pair of pointed-arch portals flanked by pinnacles, leading into the rooms located beneath the terrace, pierce the surface of the retaining wall between the two flights of steps. The retaining wall is also pierced with narrow, pointed-arch windows, with the brick balustrade leading along its edge providing the finishing touch. The arrangement of the rear façade is almost identical to the front one. A pointed-arch archivolt portal leading from the terrace into the building is positioned in the middle of the central avant-corps, at the level of the upper storey of the basement section. The central avant-corps is flanked by partially engaged, cylindrical towers with a cluster of smaller, overhanging turrets at the top. The balconies projecting from the façade at the level of the first floor between the towers as well as directly from the tower walls are supported by corbels taking the form of a section of an arch. Both of the side façades of the building follow an eleven-axis layout, with two-axial corner extensions and pointed-arch portals in the middle, their overall disposition being identical to that of the side sections of the front façade.

The interiors of the external wings of the city hall follow a one-and-a-half-bay layout. The staircases are positioned inside the main vestibule, inside the central avant-corps projecting from the rear wing; other staircases are positioned mid-length inside the side wings (on the courtyard side) as well as in the two corners between the rear wing and the internal wing dividing the courtyard into two. This internal wing, running across the courtyard and featuring a vaulted vestibule in its front section, also contains the great, square hall spanning three storeys and surrounded by pointed-arch vaulted cloisters, with illumination being provided courtesy of a large skylight above. The surviving vaulted interiors of the former restaurant can be admired in the section of the building located on the side of the City Hall Square. The remaining interiors, including the former City Council meeting room, are devoid of period fixtures and fittings, the sole exception being the decorative floor tiles in the hallways. A stone plaque from the Baroque period, adorned with a painted coat of arms of the city of Szczecin from the Swedish era, is embedded in the wall of the main hall, having been relocated here from the so-called New Gate which had once stood on the site of the existing Port Gate, having been erected there back in the year 1660.

The structure can be visited during the opening hours of the institution which inhabits it.

compiled by Maciej Słomiński, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin, 26-06-2015.

Bibliography

  • Kalita-Skwirzyńska K., Szczecin, Nowy Ratusz, plac Batorego 4. Historical and architectural documentation, Historical Monument Conservation Workshop (PKZ) Szczecin, 1980. Typescript available at the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Szczecin and in the archive of the Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin
  • Wehrmann M., Geschichte der Stadt Stettin, Stettin 1911
  • Architectural monument record sheet, compiled by T. Wolender, 1993, typescript available at the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Szczecin

General information

  • Type: town hall
  • Chronology: 2 poł. XIX w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Plac Batorego 4, Szczecin
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district Szczecin, commune Szczecin
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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