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There are some two hundred and fifty workmen's residential estates in the Slaskie voivodeship, of which forty have been listed and eighteen are protected by law, but two of them, Nikiszowiec and Giszowiec, are particularly attractive. Although they are situated close to each other, each has a different character: Nikiszowiec is a typical urban development, while Giszowiec - often referred to as "garden town" or "garden village" - has a unique spatial design and a varied, rural type, architecture. Though so different, they complement each other and they were planned by the owner, the "Giesche's Heirs" company, as one administrative unit.

We can ride to Giszowiec on the "12", "30", "674" bus, and our walk around the estate, which was listed in 1978, will have the following route: Myslowicka Street - Przyjazna Street- Mila Street - Pod Kasztanami Street- Dzialkowa Street - Pod Lipami Square � Goscinna Street - Myslowicka Street.

Giszowiec was established in 1906-1910 upon the initiative of Director Anthon Uthemann as living quarters for the employees of the "Giesche" mine (today "Wieczorek"). It was designed by brothers Georg and Emil Zillmann of Charlottenburg, outside Berlin . The architects, who were also employed by the "Giesche's Heirs" company to design other places, produced a layout of a rural residential estate (Gartendorf), that was modeled on Sir Ebenezer Howard's idea of a "garden town".

The miners' "garden village" was established in a rectangular clearing in the forest, sized 750 m x 1000 m . Some trees were left in to provide for natural green. The central part of the village was the Lime Tree Place (Plac Pod Lipami); most of the public utilities were grouped around it: the 3 schools, a co-operative store, an inn with a theatre hall, the forest administration. The workmen's houses, accommodating a total of 600 families, stood in little gardens in the streets which radiated out of the central place. The houses were built for one, two or three families, and there were 42 different types of them. All of them had electricity.

There were also hostels for single workmen and for the engineering staff, supplemented with a canteen. There was no sewerage; water was supplied by the street pumps, spaced every 100 metres, and sewage was collected in barrels which were disposed of during the night. There was a central laundry and a bath for the women and children (men took their baths at the mine), so that the moisture from bathing or washing would not damage the houses. There were also several bread ovens for those who wanted to bake their own bread or cakes.

The by-law of the estate was very rigorous. It even specified such detail as: which plants could be grown in the front gardens, which was the permitted shape of the trellises to support the climbers, or which animals could not be raised in the sheds (goat, for instance, were prohibited).

Giszowiec lost its original shape in the seventies and eighties of the previous century, when a new residential estate was built for the miners of the "Staszic" mine, and the Western and North-eastem part of the older estate gave way to eleven storey highrises.

We begin our walk at the bus stop in Myslowicka Street , next to the gag station; we walk down Przyjazna Street to Mila Steet. On the corner stands a modern complex of the Frederic. Chopin Primary School No. 51, called the "dream school", built in 1993 after a design by Stanislaw Niemczyk, Anna Pienkowska-Kuszewska and Marek Kuszewski.

We turn to Mila Street , and walk on to Pod Kasztanami Street . On the left side, at No. 34, is a barber's shop which houses a gallery of paintings by one of the founders of the Janowska Group, Ewald Gawlik. During business hours (Monday -Friday from 8 am to 5 pm, Saturdays 7 am -12 am) the owners proudly show the collection, gathered by Ludwik Lubowiecki, to visitors, Ewald Gawlik (1919-1993), born in nearby Nikiszowiec, painted from his early years. He took drawing lessons from Pawel Steller, went to the Drawing and Painting School in Katowice , and for several months in 1940 enrolled for a course at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden . He had to give it up because of the war. As he came back from the war in 1947, he took a job at the "Wieczorek" mine and joined an amateur painter' s club at the local community house. He retired in 1975 and painted in his atelier in the "Silesian Chamber" in Giszowiec, till he died in 1993. As he professed, he was trying to document the fading Silesian landscape, its genre scenes and customs; as he had very good command of his craft, his paintings met with critics' acclaim and are now present in many galleries. The largest collections are exhibited in the barber' s parlour and in the Silesian Chamber of Giszowiec.

The former shape of the residential estate has been preserved in Pod Kasztanami Street and Dzialkowa Street where we will now turn. We go down Dzialkowa Street , cross Przyjazna Street , and approach the cluster of trees around the "Karczma Slaska" � the farmer inn. This is the most eye-catching building in Giszowiec; apart from the restaurant, it houses a ballroom, a bowling alley, a pub and an amusement arcade. The eyesore nearby is the ruin of an old wooden bandstand.

Just outside the "Karczma Slaska" is the Lime Tree Place (Plac Pod Lipami). It used to be the central place and a fairground of the village, now there is a highrise estate right behind it. In the middle of the place grows a solitaire beech of a girth of345 cm. As Director Uthemann developed the estate, he planned to put a monument to Chancellor Bismarck in the middle of the central place, but the war, and the subsequent political decisions as to the future of Upper Silesia , thwarted those plans. The Lime Tree Place neighbours on three farmer school buildings, an elongated building with shops inside, and the forest administration building, today a kindergarten.

As we continue down Goscinna Street , we pass the Rehabilitation Centre for special care children, built in 1986 on the initiative of the general manager of the "Staszic" mine and Dr. Maria Trzcinska-Fajfrowska, named after the latter. The facility, whose architecture matches the historical surroundings, was the first of its kind to be built in Poland . A little farther away, at the back of the "Karczma Slaska" is a little house (a former stable), the "Silesian Chamber" containing a minute museum (branch of the Historical Museum of Katowice) and a gallery of paintings by Ewald Gawlik, who had his atelier here. The exhibition includes old household goods and costume (it is open: Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a .m. to p.m., Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesdays from 9 a .m. to l p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.).

Further down Goscinna Street , we pass the farmer laundry and bath, now the seat of the fitness club "Tytan 92"; on the corner of Przyjazna Street we see the tiny post building from around 1920.

Near our starting and finishing point, i.e. in Myslowicka Street , there used to be the terminal of the goods-and-passenger carrying narrow gauge railway line, called "Balkan" by the locals. Since 1914 it had carried the miner s and officers of the "Giesche's Heirs" company on the route Giszowiec -Nikiszowiec � szyb "Wojciech", till it was decommissioned in 1977.

Initially it only carried the workers, but from the mid twenties it also served the residents of Giszowiec, Nikiszowiec and Szopienice. The train made 23 trips a day, and the ride was free of charge! This is how the residents of the rather secluded Giszowiec "stayed in touch with the world", this is how they traveled to church in Janów, and later, in Nikiszowiec .

At the end of our walk around Giszowiec let us just mention same landmarks which are just a bit off our proposed route. These are, first of all the church of St. Stanislawa Kostka built in 1948, the new St. Barbara's church built in 1994 and the old residence of Director Uthemann in the "Staszic" Park at Pszczynska Street .

Text: Edward Wieczorek

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