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Wooden homestead architecture in Nizina Sartowicko-Nowska (Sartowicko-Nowska lowland) in the years 1772-1920 and related conservation issues[*]

Maciej Prarat


The plains along the Vistula are famous for their beauty (...); they are inhabited mainly by people with Lutheran and German origins. Beautiful, large, wooden houses, big stables, barns and granaries, surrounded by gardens and old trees, form a pleasant and joyful view. This is how in 1912 Nizina Sartowicko-Nowska was described by father W. Wojciechowski in the first monograph of the Świecka land written in Polish[1].
The entire area is situated within the borders of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie voivodeship[2], in the Świecie nad Wisłą poviat, which is divided into four gminas: Dragacz, Warlubie, Nowe nad Wisłą and Świecie nad Wisłą (illustration 1, 2).
This land has always been interesting and surprising. It was periodically flooded and therefore it was difficult to farm but, on the other hand, it had the best soils and its peasants were among the richest of the Świecka land. For centuries it constituted an example of multi-cultural symbiosis of many nations: the Dutch Mennonites, the German Lutherans and the Polish Catholics, together known under the name of Olęders.
This colonisation started with the arrival of the Mennonites to the Republic in the middle of the 16th century[3]. Knowing how to drain and use the fertile but marshy land, they started settling on the territory of Żuławy Wiślane in the fifties of the 16th century. Moving along the Vistula, they reached Warsaw at the beginning of the 17th century.
The second stage of colonisation falls on the period after the 17th century wars. The emphyteusis - hereditary lease - was to encourage people to settle in the deserted regions. In this period, the notion of Dutch colonisation acquired new meaning. It no longer signified only the Mennonites, but it covered the totality of people colonising land under the right of perpetual lease. It often included the Poles and the Germans, and the colonisation itself adopted the name of 'Olęder' colonisation.
The most radical change came in 1945. The German-speaking population left those lands and farms were overtaken by repatriates from the East, having no emotional bond with this area. At present only wooden homesteads are material witnesses of the former residence of colonists.
The main stimulus to undertake the research was a relatively large number of the preserved homesteads that have never been subject of a detailed analysis and that are not covered by practically any conservator's protection. Another important reason was their state, worsening with each year.
The analysis covers the period from 1772, the beginning of the Prussian reign, to 1920, when the Świecka land returned to the Republic. It also covers the time when almost all the buildings dating from the 19th century were constructed.
The goal of this study is the architectonic analysis of all homesteads and its confrontation with the history of this region. The author will try to answer questions on who built those homesteads and what influence the economic and social relationships in Nizina Sartowicko-Nowska had on their shape. Also the conservation issues will be presented, aiming at the best preservation and exposition of the most valuable homesteads.
The point of departure for the reflection on the homestead architecture was preparation of a catalogue. The material was gathered by the author during the field tour in the spring and autumn 2005.

Here I would like to cordially thank Dear Professors: Marian Arszyński and Jan Tajchman for exciting my research curiosity and their precious remarks, Emanuel Okoń for professional help in writing this study, as well as Teresa Okoniewska and Jan Kalinowski for their help in obtaining materials without which this work would be much less complex.

[*] This article is a modified MA thesis of the author, entitled Rural wooden architecture in Nizina Sartowicko-Nowska in the years 1772-1920 and related conservation issues, written in the Conservation Institute of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, under the direction of professor, Ph.D. Marian Arszyński.
[1] W. Wojciechowski, Świecie Nadwiślańskie niegdyś a dzisiaj, Grudziądz 1912, p. 59.
[2] Poland is divided administratively into voivodeships (province), poviats (county) and gminas (disctricts)
[3] Mennonitism is a religious movement created in the mid-16th century. It developed on the basis of the Anabaptism, being one of the Reformation manifestations. It was founded by Menno Simon (1498-1559). The Mennonites share with the Reformation the negative attitude to sacraments and with the Anabaptists - their pejorative attitude towards the baptism of children, the office, the sword and the oaths. It was essentially an anti-intellectual movement and was addressed mainly to peasants. People, gathered in rural enclaves, led a reserved life. The persecutions forced them to leave the country. They appear in Gdansk around 1530. Compare: K. Mężyński, op. cit., p. 185-255; S. Inglot, Z dziejów wsi polskiej i rolnictwa, Warsaw 1986; E. Kizik, Mennonici w Gdańsku.., op. cit.

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