One of the most visible recent changes to this ever-changing city can be seen right in the heart of the old town where following decades of decay, Granary Island (Polish Spichlerze, German Spicherstetten) is being brought back into public use thanks to a series of huge construction projects. 2019 will see the next phase of the development opened to the public.
First a bit of background. Granary Island was the centre of Danzig/Gdansk trade for centuries and a major 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.
In the early 16th century, increased exposure to attack and fire saw the construction of earth and wooden fortifications on the eastern side. These defences were supplemented by dog patrols earning them the name Dog Ramparts (Psi Wał) and were located near what is today ul. Motławska.
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 Deo 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 Gloria and Wisłoujście, a building which had originally been called Blue Lamb (Polish Błękitny Baranek) date 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. Finally plans were accepted to develop the area and as we went to press work had progressed well converting 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.
Those who remember the skeletal remains of the granaries which stood largely untouched for 70 years following World War II, may remember a single, towering brick granary which was one of the few buildings on the island to survive relatively intact. That was the Deo Gloria and the neglect of the intervening years left it looking as a surviving broken tooth on the derelict island. It was difficult to imagine that it was even a survivor of the pre-war island such was its utilitarian appearance but it appears a chequered history was probably the reason it survived.
Granaries bearing the name Sola, Deo and Gloria (Glory to God Alone) can be traced to the 17th century but the building you see today was built in 1930 following a huge fire which claimed the life of one of the many Danzig firemen fighting it. The construction of the more sturdy and fire resilient Deo and Gloria granaries in the 1930s probably went some way to them surviving enough to be salvaged in the years following the war.
They now find themselves with new neighbours and the beautifully renovated building serves as the centrepiece of the Słony Spichlerz (Salty Granary) development. Słony Spichlerz will play host to what is being described as a Restaurant Market and will follow the popular concept of offering a wide choice of cuisines in the first food hall concept to be created in the city. Due to open in early 2019, the Słony Spichlerz - Restaurant Market will offer food right through the day beginning with breakfast and serving lunch, dinner and late night meals as the day goes on. Already pencilled in are BŁOGO Cakes & Sweets, CHWA MOMENT [breakfast & bowl], CZERWONY PIEC [pizza], DELIFISH Grill + Tapas [fish & seafood], GWAR [Polish tapas & specialities], RAMEN & SUSHI by Mitsuro, BANGKUK by Thai Thai, SEXY BULL [beef burgers] and VEGEMADRE [vege & vegan].