Vul. Mentsynskoho, 3 – residential building

ID: 2475

The building was erected in the first half of the 20th c. In the second half of that century it was owned by Pessel Bałaban, a publisher. Its present-day appearance is a result of a reconstruction in 1912-1913 under a project designed by Karol Boublik, who was commissioned by Maurycy Wurm. This architectural monument (protection no. 768) features a unique interior staircase decorated with mosaics and artificial marble.


The first information about the vicinities of this street dates back to the mid-15th c. In the place of the houses no. 5 and 7 there was a wooden church of the Annunciation of the Lord, which was dismantled in 1802.

During the first half of the 19th c. the street was built up with two- and three-storied townhouses in Empire and Biedermeier styles. At that time it was called Brygidska and from 1895 Kołłątaja street. Before the Second World War this street was an important center of Lviv tailoring, inhabited chiefly by Jews. Nearby, in the courtyards of the townhouses number 5, 7, and 9, a long two-storied passage building can still be seen: it was the so-called "Lviv's Berdychiv" (Мельник, 2011). From the old pl. Smolki (now Henerala Hryhorenka) square it could be accessed via the Grüner passage connecting the courtyards of the house no. 5 on the Henerala Hryhorenka sq. and the former Jewish gymnasium on vul. Mentsynskoho, 8. In the Soviet times the street was called Vyacheslava Menzhinskogo, after the name of a Cheka officer, in the 1990s it was renamed in honor of Modest Menzinsky (Mentsynskyi), a famous opera singer, whose name sounded similarly.


The present-day building no. 3 was constructed in the first half of the 19th c.; at that time it was marked with conscription number 143 2/4. The first documents concerning the building plot date back to 1845 when projects of the wings were approved, a three-storied lateral one and a two-storied rear one. Near the stairs in the lateral wing toilets were designed with their drainage way reaching the courtyard of the house no. 5, where apparently there was a sewer already. In the drawings, one can also see an unbuilt boundary wall (with the house no. 1) on the other side of the courtyard (DALO 2/1/6408-II:39).

Thus, the building had three floors at that time already as it was adjoined by the three-storied wing. In 1887 the adaptation of a storage room for a joiner's workshop was approved. As appears from the location drawing, the boundary wall of the house number 1 was already partially built at that time. In 1889 a project was approved for the adaptation of the storage room for the caretaker's apartment in the lateral wing at the boundary wall with the house number 1, from which it is clear that at least this part of the wing had only one floor (DALO 2/1/6408-II:37,38).

The first owner of the real estate, mentioned in the archival file, was Pessel Bałaban, a publisher who also owned a print shop (Machzor Lemberg, 1867; Antique Sefer Krovot Hu Machzor, 1889); it is she who appears in the case of the wing roof reconstruction (DALO 2/1/6407-I:9). Permission was issued in July 1899. In March 1899 the owner applied for permission to build a new two-storied wing with a storage room (permission issued in April 1899, DALO 2/1/6407-I:18), which was built in July 1899.

In February 1902 the owner of a small grocery shop, located in the building, Saul Barb, requested the Magistrate to approve a project of a shop window on the main façade. In May 1902 the Magistrate informed Laura Baran, the owner, about permission to install it (DALO 2/1/6407-I:29).

In June 1912 the real estate owner, Maurycy Wurm, applied to the Magistrate for approving a project of the three-storied building reconstruction and the construction of a new lateral wing in place of the old one, as well as the addition of the third floor to the rear wing; the Magistrate gave their permission in July. Later that month the owner submitted an additional drawing to the previously submitted project, which involved the addition of the fourth floor (DALO 2/1/6407-I:52,56,59). In July 1912 the Magistrate gave permission for this renovation, some drawings were approved four months later. On the approved transverse section the lateral wings are depicted as four-storied, in accordance with the main house, but this decision was not implemented (DALO 2/1/6408-II:16,25,28).

In November 1913 the Magistrate approved the additional drawings with a change in the location of toilets (DALO 2/1/6407-I:66). On all the drawings both from 1912 and 1913 one can see the seal of the reconstruction architect, Karol Boublik. The architect developed several detailed options for the layout with different locations of utility premises and some windows on the rear façade. A detailed drawing of the façade with the fourth floor was produced (DALO 2/1/6407-II:30). The design of the vestibule and of the unique staircase does not appear on any of the submitted section drawings, which show only the structure of the flight of stairs (DALO 2/1/6407-I:85; DALO 2/1/6407-II:36). There is no mention of the staircase decoration in any text documents either. Thus, the authors of the mosaic panels and forged fences, as well as the factory which manufactured the mosaic and artificial marble for the staircase coating, remain unknown.


In April 1929 the Magistrate applied to the owner of the house Maurycy Wurm demanding to inspect the wet and rotten beams in the apartment of his tenant, Dr. Herschthal (DALO 2/1/6407-II:4). In April 1932 the Magistrate, according to the proposal of the property owner Wolf Marel dated February 1932, issued permission for the alteration to the layout of an apartment on the third floor and for the replacement of beams in four rooms (DALO 2/1/6407-I:71).

In May 1935, Adolf Freud, who owned an iron goods wholesale store located on the ground floor, asked permission for the change of his shop's windows according to a proposed sketch (DALO 2/1/6407-II:13.35).

In July 1936 the owners, Sabina Fisch and Chaja Stanger, asked for permission to replace the wooden beam ceiling in the apartment of the Singers with a reinforced concrete one (DALO 2/1/6407-I:74). The reconstruction project, approved in December 1938, was designed by engineer Leon Nadel.


Today the building has retained its function as a residential one, with its layout relatively preserved (two apartments on each floor). On the ground floor, there are shops and a pizzeria. The wings' upper floors are occupied by apartments, which are renovated to a significant measure. The premises of the lower floors are adapted for offices.

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The building is located in the street's row housing consisting of townhouses in the styles of Neo-Classicism, Historicism, "decorative" and "rational" Secession. It directly borders on three-storied buildings in Biedermeier style (Mentsynskoho street 1, 5, 7).

The building was originally constructed as residential, that is, its premises were rented for housing on the upper floors and for offices or shops on the ground floor. It has four floors and two tracts in plan and is covered with a gable roof. The building is located on an ​​irregularly shaped plot, which narrows from the main building in depth. Together with the plot of the house no. 1 it forms almost a regular rectangle.


The gate in the center of the façade leads to a wide passage and then to a large courtyard of irregular shape, built up with three- and four-storied wings.

Originally, the townhouse's ground floor was occupied by numerous shops, eight in each tract. The entrances to the shops were arranged from the main façade and from the courtyard and from the passage. At present, most entrances are walled, and premises are merged into larger ones.

To the right in the depth of the passage, there is an entrance to a spacious staircase, square in plan with a somewhat larger circle inscribed in it, where the stairways are located. The staircase volume is cylindrical, with an internal round opening for viewing and ventilation. The first three floors have a height of 4.15 m; the added fourth floor is lower, with a height of 3.5 m.

From the landings one can enter balcony galleries encircling the main building's rear façade and the wings' façades. At the ends of the landings there are, in a mirror position, entrances to the apartments. The staircase shift to the right part of the house led to each floor division into two apartments of different size. On the second and third floors the larger apartment has five rooms, with a large kitchen and a pantry, a bathroom unit and a separate toilet with an entrance from the hallway. The other apartment has five rooms too, but it is much smaller, has a small kitchen and a bathroom unit. In both types of dwellings the kitchen is located on the rear façade, and the bathroom units are inside the apartment, unlit. From the kitchens of both apartments a balcony facing the courtyard can be entered. On the fourth floor there are two three-room apartments and one four-room apartment with small kitchens and bathroom units. The entrance to the apartment, located at the boundary wall of the house number 1, is from the balcony. As was traditional for the contemporary architecture of Lviv, all rooms are communicating.

The entrance to the attic was arranged from the fourth floor landing via a ladder through a hatch.

In the wings, there are an average of five two-room apartments with kitchens and bathroom units on each floor. One can get there through the balconies, accessible both from the main house and, via three staircases, from the courtyard.


The eleven-window façade is symmetrical. According to the Neo-Classicist composition principles, the main axis is additionally emphasized by the central part with a massive balcony on the second floor and decorative arches above the windows.

The ground floor plane is segmented by relief rustication and separated by a cornice. The second and third floors are united by massive fluted Corinthian pilasters topped with an entablature. For a harmonious combination with the neighbouring three-storied façades the fourth (added) floor is designed as an attic one. It is notable for the use of the theme of stylized Renaissance attic formed of obelisks and volutes, for example, like the Black Townhouse (pl. Rynok, 4). Pilasters between the windows serve as stylized obelisks.

All openings are rectangular and designed concisely. All windows are the same size (except for larger shop windows and smaller windows of the fourth floor). The fourth floor windows as well as the gate have profiled trimmings.

The leading idea of the façade décor is an ornament composed of scrolls and leaves of several kinds of plants. Between the second and third floor windows between the pilasters, there is a wide stucco frieze with alternating ornaments of two kinds with stylized poppy and acanthus leaves, small rosettes and scrolls, interconnected by moulded clamps (like those used in smithery). On the avant-corps, there are decorative arches with archivolts instead of the frieze. Their tympanums are filled with reliefs of scrolls, acanthus and grape leaves. The spaces outside archivolts are decorated with moulding in the shape of vines. Below all second floor windows, there are Neo-Renaissance garlands. At the fourth floor level the scrolls appear in the frieze's wavy meander, in the stylized Ionic capitals, and crown the pilasters with massive palmettes in the shape of counter volutes with royal lilies. The balcony fencing's forged ornament in the Neo-Renaissance style is also based on the combination of scrolls. The fencing consists of eight parts. Horizontally, it is strengthened with metal strips; that is why a broad band with a kind of meander of scrolls was formed in the bottom, while above one can see a narrower band of stylized arrows with flowers (an Empire-style borrowing). Clamps for connecting forged elements are made in the form of royal lilies.

The balcony slab is supported by four massive white stone consoles with volutes and typical Empire-style poppy leaves. The consoles, characteristic of Lviv's houses of the first half of the 19th c., must have remained from the Classicist-style façade. Apparently, this décor served as a base to create new ornaments for the entire façade in 1912-1913.


The stylistic study of the townhouse's façade suggests that the reconstruction of 1912-1913 changed (and added) only some part of the décor, while preserving the authentic dimensions of all structural elements and the typical Empire-style composition of the façade. Comparing the façades of the houses no. 3 and 5, one can see similar compositional devices: similar central avant-corpses, fluted pilasters and decorative arches above the second floor windows. However, all the decorations on the façade of the building no. 5, which has been preserved without restructuring, is concentrated only on the central avant-corps, according to the Neo-Classicist hierarchic principle. Perhaps the façade of the house no. 3 had once a similar appearance.

The passage interior has retained a structure, typical of the mid-19th c., with a roadway paved with small ocher-colored tiles and with wide stone sidewalks on each side. In the passage walls, there were portals of entrances to shops (now walled). The passage has identical wooden gates with wickets at both ends. The walls are divided by pilasters with double consoles supporting decorative beams. Square spaces between the beams are decorated with recessed panels, there are decorative ovals with volutes in the corners and bronze hooks for lamps in the center. The spaces between the pilasters are divided into two recessed panels with a stylized cartouche with scrolls and a sequin ornament between them. The design of the passage walls and of the staircase is typical of the rational Secession; however, this elegant design is distorted by the modern painting of the walls with an unprofessional imitation of marble and by tubes and wires laid overhead. The lower part of the walls is being ruined.

A wooden double door leads from the passage to the staircase, cylindrical in plan. For lighting of the landing a large window is arranged, which has retained its authentic woodwork. The staircase design is unique for Lviv. The stone stairway begins with a massive stone pillar, which was once crowned with a lantern. The stairs have a forged fencing with brass handrails. On the steps one can still see brass hooks for sticks, which fixed the carpet. The fencing is divided into squares, with dynamically treated forged calla lilies inscribed in each. The sections are limited on the sides by mirrored scrolls. The floor is covered with terrazzo tiles in a combination of grey and black colors.

The lower part of the staircase wall is separated by a high base, coated with pink and beige artificial marble plates and limited at the top and at the bottom by stripes of black marble. Along the whole wall the socle is   decorated with metrically arranged mosaic panels, framed in pink; the spaces between the panels are coated with beige marble. The distorted plane of the wall creates a lot of light and color effects due to a combination of the shiny surfaces of marble, the glitter of the mosaic stones (especially that of gold smalt), and the dull surface of the top part of the wall. Thematically, the panels are typical of the Secession; the images of local plants like pansies, iris, and poppies can be seen there. The mosaics show the beauty of manual labor (as opposed to mechanized production) and the uniqueness of a work of art, as each composition is somewhat different. The flowers are depicted in a naturalistic way (some panels have over 30 colors), are located against a light background and framed with mosaic rows of contrasting colors (gold, black, green, brown).


The entrances to the apartments on the landings of the second and fourth floors are framed in black marble with molded overdoors. Some entrances have retained the authentic woodwork with bronze latches and hinges. Above the entrances to certain apartments some inlaid elements have been preserved, like cartouches and apartment numbers. There were mirrors beside entrances (have not survived), with frames and wide pedestals, which could serve as shelves for things.

All exits to the balcony galleries have retained their authentic woodwork.

In the center of the staircase ceiling, there is a round panel; the planes around it are divided into segments. On the staircase ceiling and on each landing, just as in the passage, bronze hooks have survived. Thus, the house had 11 bronze lamps (all lost).


Pessel Bałaban — owner of the building in late 19th century, owner of a printer's shop (from 1863) a book store in Lviv.
Dawid Bałaban (†1909) — resident of the building. At first he was the manager of the printer's shop, later its owner. He was Pessel Bałaban's husband or relative. His heir was Filipina Bałaban. 
Laurа Baran — owner of the building arounf 1901-1908. 
Saul Barb — owner of a grocery store in the building in early 20th century. 
Karol Boublik (cz. Karel Boublík) — a Lviv architect of Czech origin who designed buildings in late Historicism and Secession styles. He was the author of the building's reconstruction in 1912-1913. 
Sabina Fisch— owner of a half of the house around 1933-1938.
Adolf Freud — owner of iron products warehouse which was located on the building's ground floor in 1935.
Wolf Marel — owner of the building in 1932.
Leon Nadel — an engineer who designed new reinforced concrete floors in the building to replace old wooden ones in 1938.
Chaja Stanger— owner of a half of the house around 1933-1938.
Maurycy Wurm — owner of the building around 1910-1920 who commissioned the buildings major reconstruction performed by architect Karol Boublik.


1. State Archive of Lviv Oblast (DALO) 2/1/6407, v.І.
2. DALO 2/1/6408, v. ІІ.
3. Ігор Мельник, Краківське передмістя та західні околиці Королівського столичного міста Львова (Львів: Центр Європи, 2011).
4. Rosh Hashnah, Yom Kippur, Antique Sefer Krovot Hu Machzor / Yiddish Commentary (Druk Und Verlag Von, Pessel Balaban, 1889, Machsor Lemberg).
5. Machzor Lemberg (Lemberg: Druk Und Verlag Von, Pessel Balaban, 1867).
6. Księga adresowa król. stoł. miasta Lwowa, rocznik IV (Lwów, 1900).
7. Księga adresowa król. stoł. miasta Lwowa, rocznik VI (Lwów, 1902).
8. Skorowidz król. stoł. miasta Lwowa (Lemberg, 1872).
9. Skorowidz król. stoł.miasta Lwowa (Lemberg, 1889).
10. Skorowidz adresowy król. stoł.miasta Lwowa, rocznik II (Lwów, 1910).
11. Gazeta Lwowska, nr. 269, 25 listopada 1909, s. 10.
12. Szczęsny Bednarski, Materyały do Historyi o Drukarniach w Polsce a mianowicie o Drukarniach Lwowskich i Prowincyonalnych (Lwów, Nakładem i drukiem autora, 1888), 134

By Tetyana Kazantseva