Today’s afternoon will be devoted to Żelazna Street. Mirów is an estate on the grounds belonging to two different quarters of Warsaw: Wola and Sródmieście. It used to belong to the old jurydyka of Wielopole; the estate’s name is a nod to a commander of a regiment of GKK (sometimes called Mirowska), a Scottish general who created the mirowski barracks, Wilhelm Mier. The estate is located between the following streets: Aleja Soldinarności Street, Orla Street, Elektoralna Street, Chłodna Street, Chłodna Street and Żelazna Street. The last one of those has a long, albeit sad, history. It now extends from a viaduct on Aleja Solidarności Street to Nowolipki Street. It’s nearly two kilometres long and is estimated to have been established in the second half of the XVII century. An additional fragment was added to it in the beginning of the XVIII century.
After that, in 1770, the street was regulated and officially named. The name was borrowed from Żelazna Karczma, an inn located on the crossroads of two streets, currently known as Sienna Street and Twarda Street. During the occupation, Żelazna Street was inside of the Warsaw Ghetto. The building which is of interest to us is situated at 66 Żelazna Street. It’s a townhouse, built before the beginning of World War I, in the years of 1910-1911, just a year after the parcel had been purchased. The building was designed by Henryk Stifelman. Its first owner was Haim Kielmanowicz Gerkowicz, who was also in possession of a neighbouring house at 46 Krochmalna Street. According to our research, he was additionally the proprietor of a townhouse at Jagiellońska Street.
The Żelazna Street had a big-city air, and so the aforementioned townhouse fit the overall character of the place perfectly. The building is three-storey high, triangular, and sits close to the crossing Krochmalna Street. What makes it remarkable is the corner of the triangular building, placed in a bay window. The gateway is also worthy of interest: it has beautiful, ceramic decorations on its walls. The original black and blue tiles with a delicate pattern are visible through the gate’s grille. Close up, one can notice that there are actually two patterns of the tiles, one on a lower level, one on a higher one. The original design is mostly gone, but there are two consoles on the top of the gate, which itself is new, put in place after the war. The façade used to be artistically decorated: both the ground floor and the upper storeys were ornamented with bossage, which is a decorative technique, dating back to ancient Rome. Nowadays, the façade is stripped of its previous elegance. The balconies on the side of Żelazna Street are placed on the second axis, on all of the storeys other than the ground floor.
What draws the eye of the beholder are the fine banisters of the balconies, some of which remain to current day. From the side of the Krochmalna Street, the building has 6 axes, with balconies placed on the penultimate one. From this side of the building, one can see a single-axial avant-corps of the staircase, with windows significantly larger than in the rest of the townhouse. The second entrance is located in the right gateway. The building is decorated with an ornamental cornice. The façade on the side of Żelazna Street bears a writing, now illegible, resembling some sort of initials.
The original layout of the townhouse was slightly different. There is no longer an annex at 46 Krochmalna Street. Additionally, the yard once had an adorned, metal water well. The building is currently unfit to use and, sadly, deteriorates year by year. The ground floor was once filled with commercial premises, but the storefronts were later on walled up, as well as the entrance of the staircase on the side of Krochmalna Street.
In a pre-war address book, we found information that the address once housed:
-a soapstore of Janina Bajda
-a sportswear producer, Em-Zet
-an upholster’s workshop
-a printery, Kometa
After the war, the address was taken over by: a drugstore, a clockmaker’s workshop and - on the corner - a shop selling brooms and brushes.
Finally, a cherry on top: one of the townhouse’s residents was Mieczysław Wajnberg (1919-1996). He was born in the very townhouse, whereby he spent his childhood and his youth. His father, Samuel, was a musician and a theatre employee, so Wajnberg’s musical talents and traditions came from his family home. His father was also the head of a music band in the famous, pre-war, Jewish Scala theatre (11 Dzielna Street), which was on of the most celebrated theatres in the Warsaw Ghetto. Samuel Wajnberg additionally managed the music department in a phonographic company Syrena Record (66 Chmielna Street). Mieczysław Wajnberg frequently assisted his father during rehearsals, he therefore knew the ins-and-outs of the art world. He studied in a Warsaw conservatory and, just like his father, worked in revue theatres and in dancing parlours. The outbreak of World War II found him in Warsaw, but he managed to escape to Belarus, where he spent two years. He then left Minsk for Taszkient and later on, in 1943, moved to Moscow with his wife. He remained there until his death. Wajberg is the author of numerous pieces. Before his departure from Poland, he composed music for a pre-war comedy Fredek uszczęśliwia świat (Fredek makes the world happy); he wrote symphonies, solo concertos, piano sonatas and cantatas. He also wrote music for operas and movies, both narrative and animated ones. Wajnberg is sometimes called a “triple-identity artist”; once forgotten, he is now being rediscovered and is becoming quite popular. You will be able to hear some of his music in this year’s WarszeMuzik festival.