Lithuanian Writers’s Union Hall

The land on which the Lithuanian Writers‘ Union Hall now stands once belonged for several centuries to Carmelites of the Churchof St. George the Martyr. In 1778, the monks sold some of the land that had been given to them by Jeryz Radziwiłł to Vilnius merchants. The lot changed hands among different merchants. In 1839, one of them, EdwardWojnicki, began to erect a new two-story building designed by Karol Gregotowicz.

The home took thirty years, with disruptions, to be built, and was finished in 1868. Over that time period, the owners changed three times. The last of those, A. Manasewic, started a new plan in 1863, and in five years the rearose a large building of two-three stories with an enclosed courtyard. This was then purchased in 1882 by Count Ignat Karo Korvin-Milewski. He turned this property composed of rented apartments into a private residential palace.

For the reconstruction, the count hired the engineer Feliks Jasinski (1856–1899). The northern building of the complex was given a third floor, and the west wing was rebuilt. The count had amassed a collection of 250 late 19th c. European art works which he planned to house in the western building. Jasinski decorated the exterior of the future gallery with decorative neo-baroque forms.

The interior was newly designed with a two-floor stairway/gallery and vestibule. Both floors had roomy halls with entrances on both sides, black marble stairs with richly or namented bannisters, and the caisson ceilings were decorated with geometric plant motifs. In the halls themselves, the walls at the bottom were covered in carved wood panels, while the upper walls sported a wide stucco band. The caisson ceiling plafonds were surrounded by complex relief drawings. The halls were also given elaborate neo-baroquetile-stoves and fireplaces.

Jasinski left Vilnius in 1888. There novation of the palace was finished by the engineer Julian Januszewski (1857 – sometimeafter 1914). To the right of the main door she built a new arcade for access to the courtyard that could belocked with metalgates. In 1892–93, the count’s living quarters in the eastern building (by Sirvydas street) were finished according to  he design of architect Tadeusz Rostworowski. The facade of this building was re-worked to match the southern one.

In 1893, CountKorvin-Milewski moved to Krakow, taking his entire collection of paintings with him. The new palace was sold in 1894 to Count Anthony Tyszkiewicz. The latter only lived there for fifteen years. During that time,the interior of the eastern building was altered (Tyszkiewicz’s coat of arms was integrated above the doors). Subsequently, the impoverished count’s property was sold at auction in 1909. The palace was then purchased by Duchess Maria Skórzewskich Ogínska (1857–1945), owner of the Plungė manor. She owned the palace until the Second World War. Dr. Nijolė Lukšionytė-Tolvaišienė believes that it was this owner who ordered the latticed staircase railing and engraved metal chandeliers (“with no analogues in Vilnius”) in the vestibule. The decor of the facade was also changed, according to Ogínska’s wishes, including now the duchesses initials.

After the Second World War, the palace, nationalized during the war, was given into the hands of Lithuanian SSR Soviet Writers and Lithuanian SSR Soviet Composers Unions (established in 1940). Subsequently, the editorial offices of the monthly Pergalė (from 1945) and the weekly Literatūra ir menas (from1946) were located here. For two years, the writer and writers’ union director, Petras Cvirka, lived in the eastern building. This turned out to be an important fact that enabled the granting of the building the status of a national monument: in 1973, it was listed in the register of  Lithuanian cultural monuments not only for the local significance of the architecture but also as a historical monument.

Byaround 1966, the complex was solely occupied by writers. The buildings were renovated from 1970-73 by the architect Antanas Kunigėlis. The wall stucco and lacework oak paneling were rebuilt according to authentic remains, and a cafe was established in the basement. The complex was renovated again on 1986.

Morta Baužienė

Translated by Rimas Užgiris