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Rafał Nadolny

Voivodeship Department of Historical Monument Protection, Poznań

The olęder linear village of Boruja

Typical villages of the western Wielkopolska colonization period were characterized by wooden buildings, houses facing the street with their ridges, the yard front enclosed by farm buildings, and barns located on the field side. These settlements are undergoing rapid transformation. Conservation services face problems related to overseeing the changes in the spatial structure of these villages, controlling their direction, preservation of as many architectural elements as possible, and conservation of the village spatial layout. Conservation is a complex process. In addition to enforcing certain legal provisions included in the Cultural Heritage Protection Act and duties of the historic monument owners, preservation requires bringing the value of the old, wooden buildings to the attention of the owners.

The village of Boruja will provide an example of changes that occur in village structure and problems related to protection of historical buildings. Similar problems occur in all villages associated with the Olęder colonization, for example, Tuchorza Nowa with almost entirely preserved original structure and Tuchorza Stara with considerably transformed buildings. The condition of historical buildings of the village of Boruja will also be presented. We will focus exclusively on issues associated with linear, densely built-up villages because in the case of the dispersed villages (including such villages as: Boruja Ko¶cielna, vicinity of Nowy Tomy¶l, S±top, and Chmielinka) the structural changes are difficult to observe and describe, precisely due to the dispersed character of these settlements.

The region of Równina Nowotomyska was an object of intensive colonization since the beginning of the 18th century . The colonization process had two stages: Initially, villages were founded on previously unsettled territory, and subsequently, the existing settlements were granted the Olęder law.

The village was mentioned for the first time in 1409 in relation to a lawsuit regarding the land division between the villages of "Boruya", Bylęcin (present day Belęcin), and Tuchorza . At the time, the village belonged to the Jan Głowacz's (from Zb±szyń) widow, Mrs. Głowaczowa, The Głowacz family owned the village until the end of the 15th century. Among the owners were: Abraham (1424), his son Stanisław (1456), Stanisław's widow, Małgorzata, Stanisław's son, Abraham, Abraham's brothers, Piotr and Marcin (1489). In 1497, the village was granted a right to clear forest and to graze animals on pastures that belonged to Zb±szyń. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the village belonged to the Zb±ski family. In 1531, the Zb±ski brothers, Piotr and the Poznań canon Jan, divided the estate. Jan received half of the estate including the village of Boruja, including an inn. According to the sources, in 1605 or 1606, the village was ravaged by a fire, which consumed 1/3 of its buildings. After the partition of Poland, Boruja was a domain of the Prussian state. The village was granted the Olęder law in 1785 and the first wave of colonizers arrived that year. However, the colonization reached its peak in 1820s and 1830s, when the settlers established 40 new homesteads. In 1880, there were already 101 houses and 601 residents, including 298 Evangelicals, 283 Catholics, and 10 Jews.

The village of Boruja is located in the northeastern section of the Siedlce district, ca. 11 km to the northwest from the county capital, Wolsztyn. The settlement was founded in a flat area, in place of a cleared forest, along the small Szarki river. Initially, the village was a small settlement comprising only several homesteads. According to documents from 1566, at the time, there were 8 farmers, 5 craftsmen, and 3 landless tenants, who cultivated the total of 7 łans of land. We can assume that the buildings were arranged around an oval-shaped village plaza, whose remains are detectable in the northern section of the village. This original layout was preserved until the end of the 18th century, when, as a result of colonization campaign initiated by the state, 40 new colonists settled in Boruja. The new plots had a shape of a narrow and long rectangular and were located on both sides of the southbound road. This enlargement changed the settlement orientation (to longitudinal) and the village assumed a layout of a typical linear settlement with an original open plaza on the northern side. Further, less dynamic development occurred at the end of the 19th century; the village was expanded in the eastern and northeastern directions. At that time, a dozen or so small farms were established along the roads to Stare Szarki and KuĽnica Zb±ska. The original plaza was also partially developed at that time.

The spatial arrangement established during the Boruja expansion in the 19th century is clearly detectable because the 20th century build-up is minimal and has no impact on the clarity of the settlement layout. The architecture is characterized by considerable uniformity in respect to both the homestead layout and the extant historic buildings themselves - their materials, structure, and types. In the majority of homesteads, the house is located in the front of a long and narrow residential plot. In the oldest homesteads, which were erected before 1850, the house faces the road with its gable, while in the homesteads established in the second half of the 19th century the house faces the road with its ridge. Farm buildings are situated along the sides of the plot and face the road with their gables. The yard is enclosed by the barn, which is frequently located at a considerable distance from the homestead. Trees that accompany each homestead are a characteristic element of the landscape. These were usually two limes planted by the entrance gate.

Changes of the historical architecture in Boruja have two reasons: the first is related to the technical condition of the buildings, while the second, to the social and economic transformation. In most cases, the existence of the oldest houses, those erected at the beginning of the 19th century, is threatened. The largest number of abandoned houses date from the first half of the 19th century (6 out of 13 from that period). After two hundred years the wooden structure is in poor condition as a result of deterioration of the mechanical properties of wood. Lack of renovation and running repairs as well as the fact that the house is uninhabited considerably accelerate the process of bio-degradation of the structure. Moisture, fungi, and woodworms additionally contribute to the destruction. There are cases, when a section of a house was no longer usable, it was either abandoned and demolished or was left unprotected and collapsed by itself. This way, a house was taken down in stages. However, paradoxically, despite the poor condition, the oldest buildings have survived in the least-modified form with original elevations, door and window frames, as well as thatched roofs. The reason is that these houses ceased to satisfy the modern demands and living standards of the owners relatively early. These buildings were not suitable for modernization due to their sizes, low room height, and lack of adaptation possibilities. This process began in 1980s. The homeowners erected new houses nearby and abandoned the old ones. There was even a case when the residents of homestead no. 30 converted a masonry farm building into a residential building. The majority of the buildings erected in the second half of the 19th century are inhabited and precisely those houses are undergoing the greatest transformation. Replacement of roofing is the most visible aspect. Roofs of many houses were covered with asbestos tiles, which was very popular in 1970s and 1980s. Furthermore, many houses are covered with overlapping cement tiles. In recent years, homeowners also have begun using tile-like sheet metal as a roofing material. This solution, through its substitute form, introduces certain visual and aesthetic artificiality to the appearance of the buildings. Installation of new window frames is another interference in the appearance of the old cottages. The owners usually install large, two- or three-section, factory-made windows, which are ordered from a catalogue and are larger than the original frames. There are also cases of planking the frontal elevation; this way the original wall structure is covered. The house interiors also have lost their original structure. The owners install secondary partition walls and disassemble centrally located chimneys. These changes result from civilization needs and cultural factors; it is impossible for a modern family (even with fewer members than in the previous centuries) to cohabit in one or two rooms. There is a need for a separate room for children, a bedroom for parents, a living room, and additional rooms for members of the older generation. Furthermore, a space must also be allocated for a bathroom. Additionally, when the family becomes multigenerational, the buildings must be extended. In order to raise living standards, the interiors are being plastered and the planked floors are being replaced by tiles. Upon entering such a house, one has an impression that the old external structure hides a completely different, modern home, which was forced inside. However, gradual exchange of the building structure is even a more serious issue. Technically, it eliminates the historic construction of a house. The wooden walls are gradually replaced by brick walls. It is often the case that the elevation layout, including location of door and window openings, is retained. Sometimes even the gable remains in place. This way, the building's shape and size remain the same, but its material structure is no longer historical.

For example, there are several houses in the nearby village of Tuchorza Nowa whose elevations were plastered and rusticated already in the interwar period. The owner of one of the houses replaced (from inside) the entire wooden structure with bricks causing no significant damages to external plaster. From the outside, it was impossible to determine whether the building still had the wooden structure.

The character of the village architecture is also affected by the appearance of new houses. In Boruja, there are several examples where a new house was built within the historical homestead, very close to an old cottage. New buildings, especially those erected in 1970s and 1980s do not match the style of the surrounding architecture with respect to their sizes and the elevation appearance. Lack of finish and unplastered elevations even increase this dissonance. Due to an extensive usage and the owner's intention to minimize the design-related costs, these buildings were constructed based on ready-made catalogue designs. Therefore, houses built at that time had more than one storey, flat roofs and were not traditionally situated in relation to the street. This problem was a result of the situation in the single-family home construction industry, in which the future homeowner was unable to obtain a custom-made house design; only variations on the same design were available: cubic shape, flat roof, and typical windows often used in apartment blocks. It is obvious that when a new home was completed, the old cottage was doomed to gradual destruction (in the past, such a building would have been demolished; but now, the Voivodeship Historic Monument Conservation Agency does not issue permits for disassembly). The classification of a building as a historical monument is not tantamount to its preservation, and such classification only delays its destruction and protects it from being taken down. This way, the building is protected by law, but it still cannot be saved. The administrative renovation orders are not effective because the owners are not willing to repair an unnecessary and unused building; furthermore, the owners usually lack financial means to carry out renovations.

Erection of a new house in the direct proximity of a historical cottage rules out any other solutions. For example, such a cottage could be converted into a summer house, but from a geodetic point of view, it is very difficult to section off and sell a plot of a reasonable size that would include such a cottage. It is much easier in the areas with dispersed homesteads (e.g. surroundings of Boruja Ko¶cielna, Nowy Tomy¶l) because it is easier to mark off larger plots. In that area, much larger number of cottages or even entire homesteads changed their owners. However, in spite of increasing chances for saving the building, the parceling in itself is not the best solution from the conservation point of view because it disintegrates the layout of a homestead as a whole. In general, the buyer is not interested in using the farm buildings.

Due to the structural features, a wooden building may also be saved by disassembling and moving it to a different location. This process, however, is harmful to the spatial structure of a village because, in that case, a building would be devoid of its original context. Furthermore, this way a village looses its original architecture and importance of such a loss is equal to a collapse of a cottage or its demolition. Furthermore, the financial costs of such an enterprise are considerable.

A conversion of a building or entire homestead into a summer house also has an effect on the transformation of the homestead's character. It is true that buildings would be renovated and maintained in good condition, but they also would be transformed according to the owners' tastes, who would spend only their leisure time there. Summer visitors develop their surroundings according to their misconceived notions about rusticity, which results in a certain idealization of the space. As a result, the building and its immediate vicinity are transformed and often resemble a recreational allotment in the suburbs. A yard is transformed into a meticulously mowed lawn with paths and stones. The around-the-house vegetation includes conifer trees and decorative plants. Even though the buildings retain their original character, a homestead, which has been transformed in such a way, becomes a culturally foreign element in the structure of a village. Summer residents-owners rarely are aware of the cultural value of a building.

Regarding the numbers of preserved buildings, we can be conclude that currently in the village, there are 26 wooden houses, including 16 houses from the first half of the 19th century and 10 from the second half of that century, 7 half-timbered houses, 23 wooden barns, and dozen or so farm buildings of other types. However in 1981, there were still 36 wooden houses, 42 barns, and 20 cowsheds with stables. The most significant decrease in numbers of buildings occurs in the case of farm buildings, which is a result of changes in methods of land cultivation and animal husbandry (e.g. much greater numbers of animals) In the past 20 years the number of wooden houses was decreased by 10 examples (that is almost 30%). The wooden structures of 8 houses were replaced with bricks without significant changes of the shape and size of the buildings. We can say that since 1880, when there were 101 houses in the village (at that time there were no masonry houses; they began to be erected in last years of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century) 25% of the original buildings have survived to the present day, including 50% of houses from the initial stage of the colonization that is from the beginning of the 19th century. Currently, the existence of the oldest houses is threatened and they require interest and care.

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