The charming neo-Gothic palace in Podewils is literally disappearing before our eyes.

The following article was translated with permission from Zwiadowca Historii concerning the dilapidation of a once-beautiful former manor house in Pommern. It chronicles its history in Belgard to modern times as Podwilcze in Zachodniopomorskie. Unfortunately, this is not the only historical structure to be laid to waste through neglect. Please note that that words “palace” and “manor” are used interchangeably here. The German word for this place was a “Schloß.” Insofar as could be found, the residence was more closely aligned with the definition of a manor.

As an editor’s note, I sought permission to republish this article to raise awareness for this issue. It has been permeating my news feeds as picture after picture depicts more historic buildings disappearing into the ether. Some have been neglected. Others have been purchased to sell pieces as scrap materials–quickly stripping buildings of their original pieces for cash. Podewils is the place my great-great grandfather Dewuske was born in. While it holds sentimental value to me, the reality is that if this history is not preserved in the near future, it is doomed to collapse and weather away.

I participate frequently in online forums dedicated to the former area of Belgard. While there are many in the area who are concerned for its fate, there was at least one person who criticized wanting to save what he called, “German crap” or gównie in Polish. The opposing viewpoints criticized salvaging what he considered to be belonging to a war criminal or German fascist–though without any evidence or proof of this claim. Many came to the defense of preserving this cultural monument, not as German or Polish, but as a vital part of history.

Ruins of the Podewils palace in the West Pomeranian Voivodeship. Photo by Roman Lewiński

This object is one of the few in the present West Pomeranian province of early Baroque manors with a characteristic shape covered with a hipped roof. It is distinguished by high-class, harmonious architecture. In the middle of the palace, baroque stucco ceiling decorations have survived.

History of Podewils and Its Palace

The first records about Podwilcze belonging to the Podewils family dates back to 1362. The village remained in their hands for the next five centuries. It was probably at the end of the 17th century that a brick mansion or a palace was erected.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the owner of Podewils was Major Georg Joachim von Podewils, after which in 1720 this property was inherited by the adviser of state, Franz Wilhelm von Podewils.

Exactly in 1762, Podewils was inherited by the female line to the von Wendland family. The male Podewils line was rebuilt by Samuel Christian, who in 1804 bought the entire estate(the German word here would have been “Gut.”). From that time, it belonged to the family until the 1880s.

Just before 1890, the estate was bought by Max Hewald–a rural landlord from Berlin who, as a reward for his charity work for the orphanage in Leipzig, was elevated to nobility. He undertook modernization of the palace and erected new buildings in the nearby farm. It is assumed that at his request in 1895, the palace was rebuilt as evidenced by the date and the initial “H” is visible on the façade. As a result of the transformation in eclectic forms similar to Neo-Gothic, he obtained a more impressive architectural shape–a picturesque shape, decorative elevations and rich interior design. From the north side, a new side wing was added.

The owner Max Hewald died in 1908. After his death, the estate belonged to Gustav von Holtzendorff, who died in 1941, leaving the estate to his wife, Maria née von Podewils and his children. Hewald’s son and son-in-law, von Holtzendorff, were sent to a concentration camp for their contacts with the organizers of the attack on Hitler. At the time, the property was managed by Elisabeth von Wiedebach, née Holtzendorf.

In 1945, the Russians entered the village, then occupying the palace. From 1954, it was actively used as an orphanage. Then, from the late 1960s, the Territorial Defense Army was stationed there. In 1972, the mansion was turned into a summer camp for a mining company in Polkowice.

Later, from 1981, the palace was owned by the Commune Office in Białogard that, in 1987, removed the courtyard. It was then sold in private hands and has since fallen into a state of complete ruin and disrepair in the absence of any reaction from the services appointed to protect monuments.

Comparison photos of the palace in Podewils today its state eight years ago. Unfortunately, it is only getting worse instead of better. Photo by Roman Lewiński

Description: Location of the Property

The palace complex in Podewils is located in the northern part of the village on the western side of one of the two intersecting roads. The estate is composed of a palace, located to the north. West and south of the park are farm buildings. Access to the palace is led directly from the road through a magnificent gate, which has been preserved to this day, and further through the representative courtyard.

Entrance gate to the palace area. Photo by Roman Lewiński

Facing the eastern facade of the palace, there is a lawn with trees in front. The entire area of the park was fenced with a stone wall. There are numerous bogs in the area. A distillery used to function in the immediate vicinity of the palace. Water for its needs was drawn from deep wells.

The palace in Podewils has neo-Gothic elements; it was made of brick, plastered, set on stone and brick foundations. The roof is covered with slate. The palace built as an L-shaped formation. It has a colorfully fragmented shape and has basement buildings. The body and wing were covered with gable roofs. They have attics in both its parts, which were covered with separate roofs transversing to the main ones. Before the main entrance on the ground floor, the palace has an attractive vestibule with a terrace on its roof.

A photo of the palace in Podewils from 2011. Photo by Roman Lewiński

Currently, the building is unfortunately in ruins with the threat of collapsing. The front façade has fragments in wall sections. The walls were damp and partially deprived of plaster; a leaky roof has numerous holes in coverage. Many of the window openings lack woodwork. A large part of the openings in the walls, as well as the walls themselves are simply falling apart, creating a risk of bricks falling. If one decided to see it again, remember to take care and do it at your own risk. The palace’s surroundings are neglected. Currently it serves as a parking lot for tractors and agricultural machinery. However, information appeared on the internet that the owner was cleaning up work there. The palace park was completely run down with numerous defects in the walls of the fences.

It is sad to see how another beautiful palace goes into oblivion. The state authorities and institutions, as well as the law being the focus of the current problem with the protection of immovable monuments, are responsible for this. There are even people on the side of archaeologists who can create some strange provocations, or spy on online forums for hobbyists. Testifying later against them in court, trying to convict on the basis of unreliable expertise with, for example, an aluminum spoon from the communist period, or a piece of wire are archaeological monuments. These were acquired though illegal excavations, pretending to be an apparent struggle to protect common heritage and culture, and claiming that detections are the greatest threat to them, allowing it to passively disintegrate, be stolen and devastate numerous objects entered into the register of monuments during one’s lifetime. Leading archeo-business on road investments and other apparent archaeological sites are dictated by the contractor along with the investor.

The Palace is Only Accessible to Visitors  from Outside

Maps with the location of the town and the palace itself along with the pre-war map of the nearest area

The image above reminds viewers of the manor’s once-beautiful exterior and the extent of the damage caused by neglect. A link to the original article and a larger photo gallery of its past and present state can be accessed below.

Uroczy neogotycki pałac Podwilcze w zach-pom. dosłownie znika w oczach! (GALERIA)

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