Polish engineer Boleslaw Mikhalowski
Squares, streets and buildings (residential, public or industrial) create a unique image of each city. Turning into reality their thoughts, architects may well at the same time lay the foundations of the urban rhythm of life, the nature of its inhabitants, who day after day work, rest and dream, contemplating urban architecture. Or is it maybe vice versa? Do developers design their masterpieces, being influenced by the nature of the city and its inhabitants? One way or another, but the architecture of Kharkov still retains the imprint of the Polish architectural engineer Boleslaw Mikhalowski (1830-1909), whose buildings remain pearls of our city.
Boleslaw Mikhalowski was born in 1830 in the city of Vilno (now Vilnius) in the Polish noble family. In 1849 he graduated with honors from the Construction School in St. Petersburg. Having acquired experience as an architectural engineer in Tver, Poltava and Vladimir, Mikhalowski moved to Kharkiv in 1873. Already next year, having adopted the proposal of the Kharkiv City Council, B. Mikhalowski took up the post of a city engineer and a teacher of mechanical technology, geodesy and construction art in the 1st nonclassical secondary school. In 1880 he became one of the founders and a member of the Council of the Kharkiv Department of the Imperial Russian Technical Society (KD IRTS), whose general objective was to promote the development of industry and technology. As a member of the Council of KD IRTS, B. Mikhalowski took an active part in the work of special commissions that studied various issues. In particular, it was about the development of fire-resistant buildings, the technical factors of paving the streets, the preparation of training programs and courses for technical teaching facilities, etc. In 1898, he was elected as a chairman of the architectural department of the KD IRTS.
The works of B. Mikhalowski are performed in the style of Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Baroque. The activity of this Polish architectural engineer in our city fall at the time of its transformation into a large cultural, scientific and industrial center of the Russian Empire. Kharkiv needed a visual confirmation of its new status, which was reflected in its accomplishment and the development of the central part. Upon the projects of B. Mikhalowski, eight wooden bridges were built on the rivers Kharkiv and Lopan; later they were rebuilt. Mikhalowski designed also the equipment of the streets with rainwater pipes, managed the construction of water drainage, horse-drawn railway, paving of streets, the arrangement of sidewalks, and the layout of parks. B. Mikhalowski took part in the development of the general plan of the city in 1895-1897 (its co-authors were G. Strizhevsky, M. Shevtsov, F. Shuster, A. Kondratovsky, M. Brandtner). This Polish architect is the author of essays on paving of cities (in particular, Kharkiv) and polemical articles on housing development and accomplishment published in local newspapers.
Apparently, the most significant building of B. Mikhalowski, preserved to this day, is the Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Malosumska street (now Gogol Street 4), built during the 1887-1892 in a Neo-Gothic style with a high bell tower. The first Roman Catholic Church in Kharkiv was consecrated on the 1st of October, 1832, in honor of Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, over time, the Catholic community of the Kharkiv region increased. In 1886, it numbered about 3000 parishioners, not to speak of 1500 military Catholics. The unsatisfactory condition of the old shrine and the financial pointlessness of its repair were also significant.
In this situation, B. Mikhalowski volunteered to plan and manage the construction of a church free of charge. His decision was gratefully received by the local Catholic community, since the construction was carried out solely at the expense of collected donations. At the same time, the parishioners expressed their desire to provide the architect with a remuneration of 500 rubles, which should compensate his expenses for “travelling and distraction from other issues”. On the 1st of December, 1891, the senior priest of the Polish Roman Catholic church Pyotr Kisarzhevsky consecrated the new temple in honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Upon the projects of the Polish architectural engineer B. Michalovsky, the following buildings of our city were also constructed:
– building of confectionery and noodle products factory of merchant D. Kromsky on Kontorska Street 29 (1875);
– Rayevsky mansion on Chernyshevska Street 6 (1877);
– house on Klubny Lane, 5a (1885);
– the building of the City Council on Mykolaiv Square 7 (now Constitution square, 1883-1885, reconstructed, now – Kharkiv City Council);
– the mansion on Kontorska Street, 3 (1887);
– residential buildings on Sumska Street 2 and 41 (the end of the 19th century);
– a commercial apartment building on Mykolaiv Square 11 (1900);
– House of the Council of the Congress of mining industrialists of South Russia on Sumska Street 18/20 (1902, reconstructed, now Kharkiv Radiotechnical College).
Under the direction of B. Mikhalowski were also reconstructed:
– the house of the Commercial club with an opera hall in which the Kharkov opera company worked, on Rymarska Street 21 (1885-1891, later the building was repeatedly reconstructed, now there is the Kharkiv Regional Philharmonic in this building);
– the building of the City Theater on Sumska Street 9 (1893, with the participation of another Polish architect Z. Kharmansky, now Kharkiv State Academic Ukrainian Drama Theater named after T.G. Shevchenko);
– the house of the Department of religious affairs (brethren’s building of the Assumption Cathedral) on Mykolaiv Square 12 (1900, with the participation of architect M. Lovtsov).
It is worth noting that the reconstruction of the City Theater took place in a hurry. As a result, due to the noteworthy remark of the correspondent of the local newspaper South Region, who attended the first perfomance of “Woe from Wit” of A. S. Griboyedov, there was an increased humidity and dampness in the air. However, before the next performance, the directors of the theater took the necessary measures to provide the premises with heat insulation.
Unfortunately, not all masterpieces of B. Mikhalowski have survived to this day. In particular, the Trading house on Mykolaiv Square (built in 1880-1881) was destroyed in 1928 during the construction of the tram line. The building of the student dormitory, later – the medical faculty of the Kharkiv University on Sumska Street 39 (was built in 1880 at the expense of philanthropist P. I. Kharitonenko) was destroyed as a result of battle actions during the Second World War. At the same time, the educational building of the 2nd Girl’s high school was destroyed on Voznesenska Square 8 (built in 1882-1885 in the vicinity of Feuerbach Square). The main building of the Kharkov Institute of Railway Engineers was built on the foundation of this building. The wooden building of the Opera House, which appeared in 1874 at the intersection of Katerynoslavska Street und Lopanska Embankment, has not preserved.
According to the memoirs of his contemporaries, B. Mikhalowski devoted himself to his profession wholeheartedly. For years of working in Kharkiv, he never used the annual leave, which was provided to the employees of the City Council, and rested only during the 10-day Easter holidays, because at that time, construction and other works ceased. A few months before his sudden death, Mikhalowski filed a petition to the City Mayor O. Pogorelka, in which he wrote about the deterioration of his health, and asked for retirement (proposing to do so in four months, in order to find the worthy candidate for vacant post) and a pension, which he had earned during the 35-year work in the Kharkiv city administration on the post of engineer. He noted that “due to poor health and elderly age, it would be very unlikely that he would burden the city for too long.” This letter, as well as the deeds of B. Mikhalowski, characterizes him as a decent, hard-working and humble person.
It is known that the City Council satisfied the request of the architect. But his forebodings still came true and on the 22nd of March, 1909, on the eve of his 80th anniversary, Mikhalowski died. In an effort to preserve the memory of the prominent Polish architect, the Kharkiv City Council established a scholarship named after him in an industrial school, and portrait of B. Mikhalowski was placed in the hall of the City Council. Buildings that were built or reconstructed by him still decorate our city as architectural monuments of Kharkiv and are unlikely to leave us, contemporaries, indifferent!
Sources of information:
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Prepared by Tetyana Kovalenko.