Maritime Post Office is officially a monument. The Port of Gdańsk, the owner of the building, has been planning its renovation

Maritime Post Office is officially a monument. The Port of Gdańsk, the owner of the building, has been planning its renovation

The Pomorskie Provincial Heritage Conservator (PWKZ) has entered the building of the Overseas Post Exchange (Maritime Post Office), located on Wiślane Quay, into the register of monuments. This monumental edifice, built when Gdańsk was a free city, is home to many interesting stories. Apart from the Polish post office, it housed a school for U-boat crews manufactured in Gdańsk shipyards and the ‘Vistula Barracks’ of the Kriegsmarine.

People sailing down the Martwa Wisła River on the white tourist boats often wonder what this magnificent building located in the heart of the industrial port buildings actually is. Although the building today needs renovation, it is still impressive. For many years, the Port of Gdańsk Authority has been striving to upgrade and adapt it to serve as office and service facilities. Various obstacles have stood in the way of them achieving this goal. However, finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Port of Gdańsk Authority hopes that the Pomorskie Provincial Heritage Conservator’s decision to enter the Maritime Post Office into the register of historical monuments will expedite this process.

Shipping overseas

In the opinion of the heritage conservator, the facility has above-average cultural and historical value. The building, which was the seat of the Polish post office between 1927 and 1939, is located at the junction of the Kashubian Canal and the Martwa Wisła River, right next to Wiślane Quay. Its creation is linked to the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 and the Polish-Danzig Convention of 1920, which granted Poland the right to organise its own postal and telegraph service in the Free City of Danzig. The Polish state established a total of 3 post offices in Gdańsk during the interwar period, among them the Maritime (Port) post office, opened in 1920. Seven years later the post office was moved to a newly constructed building situated by the port channel. Unlike the other two offices, the Maritime Post Office did not serve individual customers, instead it focussed on the sorting and dispatch of overseas mail.

In January 1940, the building was taken over by the German Main Trustee Office for the East – Reich Post Office Directorate Danzig. During this period the building was also leased to the Kriegsmarine, the Third Reich’s navy, and served as the ‘Vistula Barracks’. But these are not the only connections of the building with the Third Reich. During the Second World War it housed a school for the crews of the U-boats manufactured in the Gdańsk shipyards. Only after the war did the building again become the property of the Polish Post Office, which used it as an office, storage and housing facility. In subsequent years, the building was used by the Port of Gdańsk. Currently, due to its poor technical condition, it is no longer in use and is looked after by the Port of Gdańsk Authority.

Classicism by the canal

This impressive building, facing the port channel, was designed by the architect Czesław Świałkowski, a social activist who contributed significantly to the people of Gdańsk and was one of the few Polish architects working in the Free City of Danzig. The building was erected in the style of academic classicism, popular among constructors of public buildings in the reborn Polish state. The architects constructing the facilities crucial for the development of an independent Poland deliberately reached for such forms to express the strength of the reborn state.

The facility has a partial basement, one floor with a usable loft and an attic. The ground floor houses rooms originally used as offices (including a room with a safe), storerooms, toilets and a reception. The loft space was used for residential purposes. Two freight lifts are still present in the building.

‘It is in the public interest to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the region for future generations, as it is the property of us all. The Maritime Post Office building is the history of Polishness in the Free City of Danzig. We are determined to stop it from deteriorating further and to impress the residents, visitors and our business partners who operate in the Inner Port’, says Dorota Pyć, President of the Port of Gdańsk Authority.

Let’s save the Maritime Post Office!

The Port of Gdańsk has been trying to obtain a construction permit for many years. It plans to convert the premises into offices. As the borders of the Port of Gdańsk are at the same time the borders of the maritime border crossing, back in 2017 the Maritime Branch of the Border Guard reported the need to move some staff from the building located on Kasztanowa Street to the premises of the Port of Gdańsk.

Unfortunately, there were stumbling blocks. The then provincial heritage conservator first issued an opinion in December 2019, which formed the basis for the design documentation for the reconstruction and renovation of the building. He then apparently changed his mind, because in October 2021 he issued a decision in which he disagreed with the building design and changed all the guidelines, and also imposed restrictions on the interior of the building, even though it was not listed on the register of historical monuments at the time.

Due to the unfair character of this decision, PGA filed a complaint with the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, who in 2022 referred the case back to the heritage conservator for reconsideration.  In June 2023 the conservator issued another decision, refusing to accept the construction project. PGA filed a second complaint with the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. As a result, the design work was stopped and the administrative decision granting permission to carry out the works was suspended.

Further degradation of the building, the deterioration of its technical condition, now abysmal, forced PGA to shut down the building and to incur more costs to secure it.

‘The entry of the building into the register of historic monuments, and the dialogue we have already started with Dariusz Chmielewski, the current Pomorskie Provincial Heritage Conservator, gives us hope for a new beginning. All of us should strive to prevent the building from deteriorating any further. Once the Overseas Post Exchange building has been entered in the register of historical monuments and the new guidelines have been issued, PGA will have the opportunity to return to preparing design documentation for the redevelopment of the building, followed by relevant administrative decisions. Once the final decision on the construction permit has been obtained, allowing the construction works to be carried out, a tender procedure for the execution of the works will be initiated, and PGA has already allocated budget funds for this purpose’, adds Stefan Rudnik, Director of the Investment Division at the Port of Gdańsk.