Buildings of the Bank of Lithuania

Symbolically, the Bank of Lithuania, which commenced operation in Vilnius in March 1990, is based in the buildings, that, for the first time in our country, were designed specifically for a bank (6 Gediminas Avenue). The buildings at the beginning of Gediminas Avenue, erected in the late 19th century, form an integral layout of the street. The first storeys of many surrounding houses have changed significantly over time and lost their authenticity, whereas the buildings of the Bank have preserved their original facade and even an authentic door. The heavy double-leaf oak door as if symbolizes the stability of this institution. It is decorated with carved wood appliques of order motifs, flower blossoms and acanthus leaves, inserts of glass and openwork metal lattices. The buildings constructed over a hundred years ago for the Land Bank currently represent the central part of the buildings complex housing the Bank of Lithuania, which consists of the buildings at 6 Gediminas Avenue and 2 and 4 Totorių Street. The oldest of these is the corner house at the junction of Gediminas Avenue and Totorių Street (the Money Museum is located in this building), whereas the most recent one is the five-storey house at 4 Totorių Street. The process of the formation of the complex took nearly a century (1874-1966).

While Vilnius is not a young city, Gediminas Avenue is not old. When Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1795, the Tsar’s edict, which had been effective since 1785, came into force requiring governorate cities to be developed according to perspective plans. In accordance with the said edict, perspective plans of the city of Vilnius were prepared in the first half of the 19th century. The Gediminas (the named Georgiyevski) Avenue was first mentioned in 1817 in the perspective plan of Vilnius developed by Bazil Guesti and Joseph Poussier. The plan was implemented scantily. A new route of the future st George Avenue was marked again in 1829.

A perspective development plan of Vilnius was under preparation, which was approved by Tsar Alexander II in 1875. The street being laid was very convenient for large-scale construction. As far back as the time of developing the plan of 1875, large houses with residential apartaments to let as well for commercial and public purposes began to be erected on the future street. In 1887, a spacious parcel of land sized 702 square fathoms (the fathom = 2.1 m) was purchased by the Join-Stock Land Bank from Helena Koranowska. The bank was established on 17 August 1872 by the St Petersburg Banking House of Joseph Gintsburg and Leon Rosenthal jointly with the following nobles: Duke Peter Wittgenstein, the owner of Verkiai, counts Nikolai Zubov, Adomas Pliateris, and others. After 15 years of successful operation the Land Bank hurried to settle in the new part of the city. The purchased parcel was half-vacant, with only a couple of wooden houses on it. From 1885 the Land Bank was headed by Jozef Montwilla (1850-1911), a public figure of wide interests, founder of construction bureaus, organizer of construction of living quarters at that time were called colonies, and philanthropist. At a guess, it was at his initiative that the Land Bank announced a competition for the development of design for the construction of the future Bank.  It was the first familiar architectural competition in Vilnius as 17 designs presented. The winner of the first prize was the architect Vikenty Gorsky (1848-1911) who worked with Land Bank as a valuation agent. Gorsky was among the most productive architects of the time with more than 70 different size buildings erected to his designs.

In 1899 the Vilnius City Construction Division approved the design for a two-storey Land Bank with a basement. The site of the Bank at that time was of an irregular plan, extending along the avenue for over 58 fathoms (about 120 m). Later on, on agreement with the surrounding owners, the boundaries of the site were regulated and it became a rather regular rectangular in layout. The construction gathered monumentum in the autumn of 1889. In November, the Bank’s maintenance costs were tenfold higher than in the beginning. The construction of the Bank’s houses was completed in March 1891. The building was laid in brick, to strengthen the woods floors, reinforced concrete was used, and the roof was covered with tin.

From the day of its construction the Land Bank let a part of its premises to the Vilnius Private Bank of Commerce, which was established in 1873. It is not clear how the two banks shared the premises. This bank’s operations hall was based at the east end of the first storey, in the columned hall.

During the I World War the Land Bank was removed to St Petersburg. Till 1920 the buildings were closed. In 1920 the Land Bank (Wilenski Bank Ziemski) was re-opened during the years of Polish occupation. Activity took action at the same building (8 Mickiewicz Street at that time). The Vilnius Private Bank of Commerce (Wilenski Privatny Bank Handlowy) shared the building like previously.

In 1928, the entrance to the Bank was redesigned and halfpace stairs were installed in the vestibule. Revolving door was also installed.  In the autumn of 1933, a masonry garage for four cars of the Land Bank and of its anti-fire service was built on the Bank’s empty site near Totorių Street.

During the World War II the bank was closed and after the war the buildings owned by the Land Bank and the Totori7 2 house were nationalized. The Lithuanian Republican Office of the USSR State Bank settled in the Land Bank’s building. A repair of the building was carried out hastily, destroying without remorse the layers of the old polychromy and “decorating” the interiors mandatory Soviet attributes.

The first large-scale repair of the former Land Bank was carried out in 1966. The repaired premises were redesigned and their purpose was changed. On the second storey above this operations hall, cashiers’ offices were equipped and the whole spacious hall was divided into compact cells. The extravagant former working premises of Bank Governor on the second storey were given to the Pension Payment Office etc.

In the same year 1966, a five-storey Bank house was erected in the neglected half-empty site at Totori7 4. The building of the pure geometrical forms of modern functionalist architecture is standing endways to Tototrių Street. A relief wall “The Progress” by the sculptor Regimantas Kavaliauskas seperates it from the street.

Shortly the Bank’s administrative staff moved to the new building at Totorių 4. For the administrative staff of the Lithuanian Republican Office of the USSR State Bank, spacious rooms, a large hall, and a stately entrance hall were equipped.

The Bank of Lithuania commenced operation in the buildings on 1 March 1990. Shortly afterwards. A repair of the central as well as of the other buildings of the complex began. The buildings got the primary look and new spaces.

In 1997, a cosy relaxation area was formed in the western corner of the inner yard of the Bank’s complex. Since the Bank of Lithuania’s monetary policy was still very young at that time, an equivalent to express its fragility was sought. The sculpture “Cloe” by Romualdas Kvintas became that equivalent. A small octagonal fountain was installed.

A few years after the reestablishment of Lithuania’s independence the Bank took over the Totori7 2/8 corner house as well. For some time the Bank occupied its third storey only. In the corner of the first floor in 2010 the Money Museum was opened (there was a pharmacy until 2006).