Granary Island (Polish Spichlerze, German Spicherstetten) was the centre of Danzig/Gdansk trade for centuries and a source of the city’s historic wealth. The first building to be established on the island was a slaughterhouse in the first half of the 14th century close to the junction between ul. Chmielna and Podwale Przedmiejskie and these were joined over the next century by buildings such as Ash Manor (Polish Dwór Popielny; German Aschhof) and Tar Manor (Polish: Dwór Smolny; German Teerhof). Carpentry workshops, timber yards and quality control points for products such as hops, flak, hemp and tar grew up on the island as business developed. The first 120 granaries were located near to a wooden pier used for unloading which was called the Long Shore (Polish Długie Pobrzeże; German Lange Brücke) as in Longshoreman – a manual loader/unloader of ships.
The New Motława canal was built in 1576 turning Granary Island into an actual island. By 1643 there were 315 granaries on the island capable of storing up to 250,000 tons of grain, servicing over 200 ships and which helped make Gdansk the largest harbour on the Baltic and one of Europe’s richest cities.
Some of the granaries had their own names with such colourful titles as Gloria and Bear Dance. Some of these names lasted longer than the granaries themselves as by the 19th century warehousing had replaced some of the granaries but kept the historic names.
The island was virtually destroyed during WWII with just three of the buildings surviving. Of the three, Steffen, Deo and Wisłoujście, a building which had originally been called Blue Lamb (Polish Błękitny Baranek) as far back as 1776. Most of the island remained a skeletal set of brick remains, although various developments have so far seen 36 restored.
For years plans to restore the ruined granaries repeatedly stalled, though a new embankment around the island succeeded in opening the island up to the public again. Finally plans were accepted to develop the area and work has begun to convert the area into a hotel with 180 rooms, 560 apartments, underground parking, restaurants, retail outlets, offices and a square. The development will also see new bridges built including one linking the waterfront opposite close to the Crane.
For the moment the island still remains a moving reminder of the devastation of WWII and a small display on the island shows its history and the plans for the new development. You can see those plans and follow how work is progressing here and read more about it here on our blog.