‘Cursed’ town hall regains grand 17th century look after a ‘string of misfortunes’ including fire, lightning strikes and war
Left as a skeletal ruin after WWII, the town hall in Strzelin has been resurrected following a painstaking reconstruction process.
Blown up during the German retreat in 1945, work on the hall was initiated in 2020 and is set to be completed by November when Strzelin will celebrate its 730th anniversary of being granted its city rights.
Costing a cool PLN 19 million, the project was authored by Maciej Małachowicz, an architect who has previously overseen several historical reconstructions, among them the castle in Będzin and the Pod Złotym Psem tenement in Wrocław.
According to the mayor, Dorota Pawnuk, the investment will represent a marriage between old and new: “The external appearance of the town hall will refer to its 17th century look,” she said, “while the entire interior will be designed with modern times in mind and will be fully adapted for disabled visitors.”
Changing form several times over the course of the centuries, the first town hall to occupy the city’s Rynek is thought to have been built at the beginning of the 14th century.
Rebuilt in Gothic style between 1520 and 1526, it burned down in 1548 following a catastrophic fire.
Rebuilt the following century in Renaissance style, it is this look that has been replicated.
Subject to numerous calamities, few buildings in Poland can lay claim to having a worse run of misfortune.
In 1619, a fire in the town left the building’s tower severely damaged; subsequently rebuilt, it’s reputed that poor workmanship led to the collapse of its upper section in 1648.
Another fire ravaged building in 1706 leaving the town hall and tower partially destroyed – taking 13-years to fully restore, its next setback came in 1817 when a bolt of lightening struck the tower. Five-years later, it was time for another fire to sweep through the building.
After this, Neo Gothic details were added and Renaissance trimmings removed.
Unbelievably almost, all of this paled significantly compared to what awaited.
Having enjoyed much prosperity the previous century thanks to its flourishing granite quarries, WWI skirted Strzelin and the town continued to thrive. In WWII, however, it was not so lucky.
Thousands of POWs were interred nearby, including Polish, Russian, French, Belgian, English and Yugoslav combatants; as the front approached, the town was evacuated and the German mayor ordered the town hall and tower’s destruction as part of a scorched earth policy aimed at depriving the Red Army anything of use.
When the first tanks rolled in on March 27th, 1945, they were met by a sea of devastation – methodical in their task, the Germans had destroyed 90 percent of the town. Fires, it is said, continued to rage for weeks after.
In the years that followed, an ugly residential estate was built to replace the pretty merchant houses that once framed the Rynek.
The central square, though, was left untouched by development and a small park was established in its place.
Somehow, the base of the tower had survived the maelstrom of 1945, and between 2010 and 2011 it was fully reconstructed.
Crowned with a dome it peaked out at 70-metres.
Now, finally, the tower will no longer stand alone after being absorbed into the reconstructed town hall.