Wieniawa Bed&Breakfast

„Small hotel with its soul in the chimney” - history of the tenement house at ul. Chrobrego 34

In the monumental town of Leszno, at ul. Chrobrego 34 (street) a cosy bed and breakfast hotel was opened for tourists wishing to experience the old times. These and other stories about this building are often “hummed” by the old chimney which in the past heated the entire building and constituted the heart of this house which beat in the rhythm of the lives of its residents.

The history of this building is very rich. In the sources, it is quoted as the oldest building retained on this street. Initially, it belonged to a complex of building of the Unity of the Brethren, as the House of Polish Preachers. On a map of Leszno from 1793, after the last enormous fire of the town, the building faced the church yard with the shorter wall facing the street – at that time called ul. Kupiecka (street). Such building orientation is also confirmed by the relicts of the oldest foundations from the 17th and 18th centuries located in the area of the barrel vault cellars.

Most likely in mid 19th century, the tenement house was expanded and adjusted to the new Prussian building requirements which recommend to erect houses with the shape of a prolonged rectangle, positioned with the ridge towards the street. At that time the free-standing two-storey building was erected made of masonry bricks and most likely plastered, a five-axis, two-bay structure with a hall leading all the way through, with tall hip roof covered with fish-scale plain tiles which was on top of a two-storey attic.

Today, the building survives and is in quite good condition, retaining the relicts of the previous construction phases. The oldest structures are in the cellar area and the round stairwell with a well-preserved railing as well as the splendid wide chimney which gives this building a unique character. In the roof part it joins the arcade to create an ogee arch.

The newest part of this facility is constituted by a 20th century (from before 1915) connector with an adjacent tenement house in the form of a single axis, two-storey addition from the north side coved with shed roof.

Throughout the years, the name and numbering of the street changed. The former Comenius Straβe no. 36, became ul. Bolesława Chrobrego (street) after 1945 and that’s also when the numbers of buildings were changed while this tenement house received number 34.

The renovation works completed this year with full pedantry and while observing the building art and the conservation requirements not only restored the initial appearance of the building but also added a new value. The discreet colour of the facade retaining the architectural elements, the vertical and horizontal divisions in the form of friezes, ledges, simple plaster bands as well as replacement of windows and smaller divisions while maintaining the entry door which is in perfect condition make the building an elegant one.


However, the biggest attraction of this building is its interior. In the roof part adapted for a living space, a large suite was developed with an outstanding plan which brings back the old times. Entry to the suite leads through the “chimney” or actually the arcade on an ogee arch – which everyone has to touch for good luck and to come back here some day. What also draws the attention is the maintained woodwork of the old roof truss system. The structure itself is a real example of splendid carpentry craft where the original queen post was left uncovered.

The modernisation, additional lighting of the roof part, innovative equipment and design of the rooms, bathrooms and the suite does not disturb the aesthetic value of the building and at the same time increases the living convenience of the hotel.

Znamienici  mieszkańcy

Already the 1st residents of this building in the 17th century, the preachers, belonged to an intellectual elite of our town while the nearby Unity middle school with its most famous rector between the years of 1635-1642, Jan Amos Komeński, was at that time called the “new Athens”.

Perhaps with time, we will find out about other famous names on the list of people who used to reside at the initial structure of this tenement building. Similarly to 2010 when the big news in our town was about Leo Baeck, a Jew who was born and raised in this 19th century expanded building which belonged to an Evangelical Reformed Church. Selection of this place of residence by the well-educated father, Samuel Baeck (1834 – 1912), doctor of philosophy, writer, and the chief rabbi of Leszno was most certainly not accidental.

This respected family having rabbi roots for centuries came from the Moravia and initially resided at Comenius Straβe 12. In August 1871, after 6 years the family moved a few houses down, to our current tenement house. They lived here for 30 years until the beginning of the 20th century. Later, the Baecks family moved closer to the synagogue, to the building of the Jewish Sachs Foundation where also the Talmud school was housed, at the current ul. Narutowicza 5 (street).

Our tenement house became famous as the place of birth of Leo Baeck who was born on May 23, 1873 as the seventh child among the 11 offspring, after: Friederike (born in 1863), Ernestine (born in1865), Louise (born in 1866), Anne (born in 1867), Alfred (born in1869) – the later buyer, Roeschen (born in 1871), Leo (born in 1873), and then Salo (born in 1875) – a doctor in Gliwice, Richard (born in 1878) – a doctor practicing in Leszno and the twins: Karoline and Martin (both born in 1879) – a dentist in Leszno.

Leo Baeck lived here until completing his matriculation exam in 1891 which he obtained at the J.A.Komeński Royal Middle School (where his father was a teacher of religion and the school inspector). Then he started studying theology and philosophy in Wroclaw and Berlin where in 1895 he obtained the title of doctor of philosophy. Most likely, before moving to different places he visited his family in Leszno but he spend his life initially in Opole as the chief rabbi in 1897 – 1907  (10 years), then from 1907 he was a rabbi in Düsseldorf (5 years) and then he was a rabbi of the German capital, Berlin from 1912 for the longest tine of 30 years. After the tragic war circumstances he moved to London where he passed in 1956 and was buried on the Jewish cemetery in Golders Green.

This prominent intellectualist, philosopher and theologian, the leader of progressive Judaism became acknowledged among the Jewish people as well as among Christians. After the war, scientific institutes in New York, London, Jerusalem and even an asteroid were named after him. 

The family home of Leo Baeck is located on the tourist route entitled “The Royal Leszno”(Leszczyńskie po królewsku), while the family souvenirs can be viewed in the local museum. In 2013, a memorial plate was uncovered on the building at ul. Chrobrego 34 symbolically by Marianne C. Dreyfus, the granddaughter of Leo Baeck who came from the US. The plate was blessed by her daughter-in-law, Rabba Ellen M. Weinberg-Dreyfus, the president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis in assistance of the German rabbi, professor Walter Homolka. Rabbi Walter Homolka, rector Abraham Geiger Kolleg, president of the Leo Baeck Foundation and the member of the board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism is also known for being active in the Jewish and Christian dialog which is a continuation of Leo Baeck’s activity.

Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam Shehecheyanu Ve’Kiyemanu Ve’Higianu La’Zeman Hazeh. Amen

(Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.) This prayer, the Shehecheyanu, is said whenever we experience something new, good and beautiful; something which makes us happy – this can be the happiness related to this place.  

Prepared by: curator Mirosława Maćkowiak


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