The monumental brick building located at 15 Górczewska Street has a granite plaque from 1923 with the following inscription: “To Hipolit and Ludwika Wawelberg, the founders of the cheap apartments institution, on the 25th anniversary of its establishment 1898-1923”.

Hipolit’s grandfather was an ordinary porter, and his father, Henryk, while working as a cleaner, learned how to read and write on accounting books. He borrowed money to establish a small exchange office, and his undertaking quickly developed into a big bank. On the 50th anniversary of its establishment, his son – Hipolit Wawelberg, offered a considerable amount of 300,000 rubles for building cheap apartments for the working class. In 1898, he obtained a permit from the Russian authorities to establish the Hipolit and Ludwika Wawelberg Foundation of Cheap Apartments (Polish: Fundacja Tanich Mieszkań imienia Hipolita i Ludwiki Małżeństwa Wawelbergów). Stanisław Rotwand, Hipolit’s brother-in-law, who was also financially involved in the work of the foundation, became its president. The houses built on the initiative of the Wawelbergs may be called the first workers’ colony in Warsaw, with a rich welfare programme. They provided cheap accommodation for workers. Later, the Warsaw Housing Co-operative (Polish: Warszawska Spółdzielnia Mieszkaniowa) and the Workers’ Estates Association (Polish: Towarzystwo Osiedli Robotniczych) continued the work of the Foundation.

The first two buildings were erected in one year. They consisted of 178 apartments, 60% of them having two rooms. However, they turned out too expensive for the workers. Therefore, the following apartment block, completed in 1900, had 131 smaller apartments. The Wawelbergs, aware of the need of education, established also a school there. Unfortunately, the school building was destroyed a long time ago. There was also a public bath in the district, decorated with pseudo-medieval pinnacles. It was pulled down several years ago.

The residents of the apartments in Górczewska Street were both Poles and Jews. The neighborhood was poor, built up with wooden huts or the so-called brick annexes with numerous lean-tos. Against them, a firm brick four-storied building looked magnificent[1.1].

It was designed by Edward Goldberg (1842-1928). He was granted the title of the 3rd class construction engineer by the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg in 1868. From 1883 onwards, he lived permanently in Warsaw, working as a construction engineer for the technical and construction engineering committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Polish: Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnętrznych). He was also a lecturer of building constructions at the Hipolit Wawelberg & Stanisław Rotwand Engineering School. Goldberg designed, among other things, the building of the Merchants’ Association School of Commerce for the City of Warsaw at 14 Prosta Street (corner with 2/4 Waliców Street), which continued the tradition of the School of Commerce established by Leopold Kronenberg[1.2].

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