Saxon Garden in Lublin
Saxon Garden (Polish: Ogród Saski) in Lublin is a municipal park in Racławickie Avenue, created in 1837, in the English style, pursuant to the design by engineer Feliks Bieczyński. The name, first used in 1860, was a reference to Saxon Garden in Warsaw.
History of creation of the garden
In the 1810s, the government of the Congress Kingdom of Poland decided that the city of Lublin would be tidied up. At roughly the same time (in 1828), Ignacy Lubowiecki, president of Lublin Voivodeship Commission, came up with initiative of creating a public park. Feliks Bieczyński, the chief engineer of Lublin guberniya, was appointed as the designer. Piotr Vernier, a botanist from Puławy, was also employed for this task.
The initial proposal of locating the park on Czechówka river (between Lubartowska and Szeroka streets) was deemed faulty, given frequent devastating floods, closeness of the poor Jewish Quarter and considerable distance from the centre. Works in that area were stopped and the park by the river never came into being. New location was suggested in 1837 by Feliks Bieczyński. He decided to use the grounds that had once belonged to Dominican monks, situated beyond the so-called Warsaw tollhouses, near the town of Wieniawa. This idea was accepted on 17 February 1837. Rolling terrain and layout of the garden were meant to remind of the park in Puławy. The garden was intended as a place for ‘high society’. For the not-so-well-off Bieczyński designed a park in Bronowice, beyond the tollhouses on the road to Zamość. It was never built.
During the initial years of construction works, the area between Wieniawa road (a non-extant road within today’s park) and Warsaw tollhouse road (today’s Racławickie Avenue) was tidied-up. Terrain was shaped, plants delivered and the whole park was surrounded by a moat with gooseberry and ornamental bushes planted on its banks. Various buildings, gazebos and fountains were designed. Numerous conveniences for the citizens of Lublin were also introduced. In 1841, a macadam road between Wieniawa and the route towards Warsaw (nowadays Długosz Avenue) was constructed, allowing modifications to the layout of park alleys. Valuable plants were imported and planted, e.g. in 1851, the central flowerbed was created, boasting 700 roses from Hamburg. In order to reduce costs, one gazebo was leased to confectioner Andrzej Semadeni. However, an epidemic of cholera in 1855 led to a ban on selling ice cream and the profitless confectionery closed down. Efforts were also made to reduce various damages, e.g. in 1859 the moat that surrounded the park was deepened to prevent the garden from damages made by livestock grazing in that area.
All this work resulted in tremendous popularity which the park gained among the dwellers of Lublin. It was considered an attractive place for walks and leisure and thus it began to be referred to as Saxon Garden, by association with the Saxon Garden in Warsaw, to which, according to the locals, it was a match. This name caught on ca. 1860.
Following years brought significant damages and modifications to the park, e.g. a brick fence was constructed in 1890 and a small pond was arranged at the main entrance in 1900. Both the fence and the entrance gate were dismantled after the Second World War. Reconstruction commenced only in 2001 and was continued in 2007. Thorough revitalization of the garden was launched in February 2012. Those works consisted, among others, in constructing a new fence, replacing the pavement on the alleys, trimming the green, repairing the pond, constructing storm drain system and optical fibre network, providing wireless access to the internet in the park, installing CCTV, remodeling the children’s playground, restoring the amphitheatre and the public toilet. As of today, the repairs are still being carried out.
1828 - Ignacy Lubowiecki takes the initiative to create a public garden in Lublin;
1837 - works commence in the municipal park, beyond the Warsaw road tollhouse;
1838 - design by Feliks Bieczyński postulates adaptation of the old gunpowder magazine in the western part of the park. The design is not implemented;
1841 - Feliks Bieczyński designs a macadam road between Wieniawa and the route towards Warsaw;
1843 - Feliks Bieczyński’s design of a guesthouse, not implemented;
1843 - Feliks Bieczyński’s design of the Small Gazebo (non-extant);
1848 - construction of a well with pump (non-extant);
1848 - David Baird and Douglas Baird design the sundial for the park;
1855 - shutdown of Andrzej Semadeni’s confectionery located in the park;
1851 - flowerbed with 700 roses from Hamburg created in the central part of the park;
1859 - deepening of the moat around the park in order to prevent it from damages by grazing livestock;
1860 - the name ‘Saxon Garden’ appears for the first time;
1885 - wooden gazebo in form of a rotunda erected in the central part of Saxon Garden (no longer existent);
1887 - monument commemorating the date of foundation of the park erected;
1888 - Marian Jarzyński designs the Janitor’s Cottage at Saxon Garden;
1889 - Julian Ankiewicz’s design of the Main Garden Gazebo for Saxon Garden (dismantled);
1889 - design of the fountain for Saxon Garden (non-extant);
1890 - the park surrounded with a brick wall with cast-iron baluster and spikes at the top, the entrance gate designed;
1900 - a small pond is arranged in Saxon Garden;
1930 - design of an octagonal fountain;
1937 - brick wall replaced with a fence made of tubes mounted horizontally on a socle;
Ca. 1945 - the fence and the entrance gate completely dismantled;
2007-2008 - restoration of the fence around Saxon Garden;
2012 - revitalization of Saxon Garden commenced.
Vegetation and characteristics of the park
Initially, Saxon Garden in Lublin occupied ca. 13 hectares (32 acres) and had around 4396 trees, bushes and perennials. It was arranged in imitation of English gardens. Gardens of this type, popular since late 18th century, departed from symmetry, regularity and geometrized designs, blending natural landscape with romantic air and sentimentalism enriched with Gothic buildings. In Saxon Garden green areas were interspersed with islets of flowers and various bushes. Natural irregularities of the terrain had been retained. Alleys were laid with stone. Trees planted in clumps resembled a natural forest. A group of fir trees and spruces formed a health spot. Roses, many species of which had been planted, played an important role as well. The park was adorned with, among others, ca. 180 species of roses and numerous mulberry trees, popularized in the Lublin region by Feliks Bieczyński.
Historian Juliusz Willaume describes the vegetation in the garden as follows: In 1854, in Lublin’s public garden there were 391 species of ornamental trees and bushes, 94 varieties of dahlias, 20 species of flowering bulbs, 126 varieties of perennials, 230 species of annual flowers, 861 species in total. Four deliveries of ornamental trees arrived from Hamburg. They were then grafted or budded in plant nurseries set up by Bieczyński. The first delivery contained 450 plants of such varieties as: maples, oaks, pines, yews, cedars, ashes, beeches, chestnuts, juglandales, begonias, liriodendrons i.e. tulip trees etc.. Every plant had a metal plate with its name and order number written in oil paint.1
Objects in Saxon Garden
In 1838, Feliks Bieczyński created a design for adaptation of the old gunpowder magazine in the western part of the park, with purpose of using it as a gardener’s house, tool depot for mulberry plantation and textile spinning facilities. The design included significant expansion of the building and introducing features of Neo-Gothic architecture, however, because of depletion of funds, it was never carried out. Later, in 1843, Bieczyński designed the Guesthouse. It was a Neo-Gothic one-storey building with basement, laid out on a T-shaped plan. The interior was divided into guest rooms, billiard rooms, tool depot and gardener’s accommodation. This project was not carried out as well. Executed were, however, Bieczyński’s designs of: a well with lift-and-force pump (1848), monument commemorating the date of foundation of the park (created only in 1887, now almost forgotten, still located in the park) and Small Gazebo (1843). The gazebo and the well have not survived, it is only known that they were situated near the fountain and the sundial.
The sundial for Saxon Garden was made in 1848. It was a work of David and Douglas Baird from a Scottish foundry that operated in Lublin. Digits were made of boxwood, dial plate consisted of precisely arranged flowers and gnomon was in form of a cast-iron gilt spear, supported by a vertical pendulum with profiled base. The gnomon was destroyed in 1994. The sundial has been restored recently.
The former janitor’s cottage at 61, Krakowskie Przedmieście St., is also a part of the park. This small building on a square plan was designed in 1888 by Marian Jarzyński. It was situated in the corner of the park, near the main entrance, and formed an extension of the garden’s façade. In early 20th century its eastern part was expanded. It is preserved in almost unchanged form.
The fence around the garden has undergone numerous restorations and remodelings. Initially, there was a poplar- and bush-lined moat that surrounded the park. Ca. 1890, it was replaced with a high wall with cast-iron baluster with spikes at the top, protecting the park from devastation. The entrance gate was made of cast-iron openwork and flanked by pillars with decorative lanterns. It was closed every evening at 9 pm, which was signalled by janitors ringing hand bells. In 1937, the brick fence was dismantled and replaced with a structure made of tubes mounted horizontally on a socle. During the Nazi occupation, the gate was walled up and new entrance was built at today’s Długosza Avenue. After the Second World War, the entire wall was destroyed. It was restored to its original form, together with the entrance gate, only in 2007.
The chapel, now situated in Racławickie Avenue, is the oldest element of the park. It was built in 1736 in order to commemorate the bubonic plague that struck Lublin in the 17th century. Many legends regarding the chapel have surfaced. One of them has it, that the chapel stands on a tumulus that hides mortal remains of insurgents of 1863, while another claims that it was erected at the site of one-time gallows, nearby the Executioner’s House (Polish: Dom kata) at Długosza Av. According to the most incredible story, one of the entrances to the olden dungeons underneath the Saxon Garden was located next to the chapel. Corridors of those dungeons were believed to lead to the castle and then as far as to Sandomierz.
The rotunda-shaped gazebo, once situated in the central part of the garden, was built around 1885. The building was octagonal and was covered with a domical roof of complex structure. The central part, coped with a spire, was connected with three triangular pediments on the axes of the building. The entire structure rested on wooden posts entwined by vegetation. The gazebo did not last until present times.
In 1889, architect Julian Ankiewicz designed the cruciform Main Garden Gazebo for Saxon Garden. Its two-storey middle section was covered with gable roof, while side sections were in form of verandas with a view. That splendid building was used for ceremonial purposes. Drinking water was also being sold there. That gazebo no longer exists today.
Two fountains were also located in the garden. The first one, from 1889, located between the Main Gazebo and the sundial, was round with a hemispherical basin and richly decorated tripartite shaft. It was designed by master Czyżkowski and Master Balum2 and funded by Lublin Fire Brigade. Currently, that fountain no longer exists. The other one was erected in the inter-war period at the site of the octagonal gazebo, dismantled in 1930. It had distinctive octagonal shape and rich ornaments. Remodeled many times, it still exists today.
At the time of German occupation, Saxon Tavern functioned in Saxon Garden, located in the vicinity of today’s amphitheatre (built ca. 1950s). It was a rectangular thatched building. It was demolished after the war as a symbol of the occupation.
Compiled by Katarzyna Puczyńska
Translated by Jarosław Kobyłko
1 J. Willaume, Początki Ogrodu Miejskiego w Lublinie, „Kalendarz lubelski” 1961.
2 Names taken from: G. Kotyłło, Pamiętajcie o Ogrodzie, „Kurier Lubelski” 2001.
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