The history of Brzezno in short

Brzezno has been a neighbourhood of Gdansk for merely one hundred years but its origins reach far into the past. Its proximity to the sea on the one hand and to the mouth of the Vistula river on the other had been crucial to the establishment of the first fishermen’s settlement. In the XIII century Brzezno together with other settlements of this kind such as Glettkau (Jelitkowo) and Sopot were incorporated into the Cistercian Abbey in Oliwa. The first written mention about Bresno as it used to be called then appeared in 1323 and in different documents it is also referred to as: Bresin, Bresen, Briesno, Brzeźno, Brösen.

Until the end of the XVIII century bathing in the sea was not practiced in Prussia. However, following the example of the British and the French also the inhabitants of Gdansk started appreciating its beneficial effect on health. The first bathing utility was opened in Brzezno in 1803 (and stayed open until 1806) but in 1807 Gdansk with its neighbourhood Brzezno were occupied by the Napoleon’s Army. The date marks the establishment of the Free City of Gdansk with Brzezno included in its territory. In 1808 general Rapp, the governor of the city encouraged by the medical officer Haffner gave order to erect bathing amenity, thus granting Brzezno the name of the oldest seaside resort at the Baltic coast (first such utilities in Sopot appeared no sooner than in 1819). The borough kept developing as a sea and health resort. In 1826 people taking rest in Brzezno and Sopot were addressed with the periodical “Kallisto”. During the November Uprising in 1830 the Russians bought out a plot of land owned by Bladau in order to erect several buildings there: warehouses for food supplies for the army and a sanitary station together with quarantine buildings necessary at that time due to the epidemic of cholera which broke out in Gdansk. In 1823 the former quarantine buildings and the building plot were bought out by Wilhelm Pistorius, the founder of the “Bathing Company”, who developed it with success, In the first half of XIX the sea resort used to be visited by 10 000 people a year. By the end of the century it was an only site at the Baltic sea coast offering natural water treatment developed by Kneipp. The method is still practiced in several renown health resorts in Austria and Germany.

The unique ambience of Brzezno was portrayed by the inhabitant of Wrzeszcz (another neighbourhood of Gdansk) and the Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass, who wrote in his “Tinker Drum” novel: “What is America in view of the nb 9 tram heading to Brzezno…”. The citizens of Gdansk, kept Brzezno in mind as a sea resort .. In 1936 the Post Office of the Free City released a stamp with the inscription 125 Jahre Ostseebad Brösen (“125years of the Baltic sea resort in Brzezno”) and a unique seal commemorating the anniversary.

After the WWII the specific nature of Brzezno began to change gradually losing its architectural flavor and harmony. The oldest sea resort and the former fishermen’s settlement was turning into yet another bedroom suburb. Still remaining old bathing amenities lost its function. Gradually the number of operating fishermen decreased until the total disappearance of the profession there. After the transformation in 1989 Brzezno started regaining the sea resort character. Unfortunately the structural changes in the land-use of the borough make the efforts to re-establish its pre-war climate hardly possible.

Written by Dorota Kuś

(Translated by Joanna Dąbrowska)