Vilnius 700. Historical bank buildings in Vilnius

This year, Vilnius, our nation’s capital city, celebrates its 700th anniversary — in 1323, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Gediminas, mentioned the name “Vilnius” for the first time in his letters to Western Europe. Since then, Vilnius has experienced many ups and downs, stories were created here, and the city itself made its own stories. We, the Money Museum, also want to talk about Vilnius. This time we're going to talk about a topic important to us — banks. When we walk through historic buildings in Vilnius, we don't think about when or for what purpose they were built. Of course, mostly residential buildings were built, but there were also many public buildings. One of the types of public buildings is banks. There are quite a few buildings specifically built for banks, some of which still operate today. What are those buildings?

It must be said, however, that the first banks were formed, and their buildings built, when the name “Lithuania” was not even on the map. At the end of the 18th century, the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was divided — most of it went to Russia (including Vilnius), while the smaller part, Užnemunė, became part of the Prussian state. In the 19th century, credit institutions began to be established. The emergence and formation of banks are linked to the development of capitalist relations in major cities, and, therefore, the headquarters of the banks were formed where industry and capital grew. The main focus in the history of the development of credit institutions is on the three largest cities of Lithuania: Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipėda. In other cities and towns of our country, there were only branches of large banks or small local credit institutions.

Banks in the territory of Lithuania until 1918 

Until 1918, the most active development of banks was in Vilnius and Klaipėda (only one building specifically dedicated to the bank was built in Kaunas during that period). The first credit institution in the territory of Lithuania was established in Klaipėda, which belonged to Prussia in the 19th century. There was a well-organised credit system — banking branches, credit societies, cooperatives, savings lending companies, and other credit organisations. In 1826, a city savings bank was established in Klaipėda — one of the oldest such institutions in Eastern Europe. In 1858, the first building specifically dedicated to a bank — a branch of the State Bank — was built here. 

In the Russian empire, the development of banks was somewhat slower, which led to the establishment of banking institutions here later than in Prussia. Vilnius attracted the most attention of all the current territory of Lithuania because it was the governorate centre, and the governor-general resided there. The first credit institutions had been operating since the mid-19th century, but special buildings were first built at the end of the 19th century. 

Vilnius Land Bank (now the building of the Bank of Lithuania in Vilnius)

On 17 August 1872, the Vilnius Land Bank was established. Its core capital (1.2 million roubles) consisted of 4,800 shares each of 250 roubles. The founders of the Bank — Duke P. Wittgenstein, Count N. Levashov, Duke A. Bariatinski, St Petersburg’s bank houses of I. Gincburg and L. Rosenthal, counts A. Pliateris and N. Zubov, and other famous people. The Bank provided long-term and short-term loans to the governors of Vilnius, Kaunas, Grodno, Mogilev, and Pskov. The bank stayed on the rented premises for some time until it was finally decided to build a building specifically dedicated to the bank. In 1889–1891, the building of the Vilnius Land Bank was built in the neo-renaissance and neo-classicism styles (now the Bank of Lithuania, Gedimino pr. 6). In Vilnius, this was the first building built for a bank and one which had modern cash vaults with special equipment. This building, like dozens of other houses in Vilnius, was designed by the famous architect Vikentiy Gorskiy. It was a rectangular, two-story building with a basement, a spacious staircase, and halls. Its main façade was symmetrical, with a protruding plinth. The middle of the façade was emphasised by a wide projection, on the second floor of which was a balcony with a balustrade. The collections of the Money Museum of the Bank of Lithuania are currently stored in the old money storage in the basement of the building with original 36-centimetre-thick shelf doors made in Berlin. 

The Bank of Lithuania has been operating here since 1990. Since the Vilnius Land Bank also operated in the interwar period, it is one of the few historical buildings in Vilnius the purpose of which has not changed from its construction to the present day. 

 Sniadecki palace (now the ISM University)

The mansion of the landlord A. Sniadecki (Gedimino pr. 7), built in 1886, was specially adapted for banks. At the end of the 19th century–early 20th century, two banks rented it — branches of the Russian State Peasants Land Bank and the State Nobles Land Bank. This palace was designed by the architect J. Januszewski (1857–1914), who in 1884 had graduated from the St. Petersburg Institute of Civil Engineering. The neo-renaissance-style three-storey building occupies an entire quarter separated by small streets; its architecture stands out for its solidity and massiveness, emphasizing the wealth of the institution. The plan of the building is irregular in shape, the main façade is symmetrical, and in its centre are columns embedded in a niche. The balconies in the centre and on the sides of the second floor of the façade have not survived. Inside the bank was an oval staircase. The palace of A. Sniadecki is one of the most impressive buildings of the historicism period. In this building in the early 20th century, a branch of the Northern Bank operated for a short time, while during WWI, the German Soldiers Home was located here. 

After WWII, the building was significantly reconstructed, and in 1969 it was turned into the central post office of Vilnius (according to a project by the architect brothers Nasvytis). In 2022, the building was reconstructed again, and in 2023 the ISM University moved here. 

A branch of the State Bank of Russia (now the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences)

The Vilnius branch of the State Bank of Russia was established back in 1865 (the Kaunas branch of this bank was established in 1883). For some time, it rented the premises on Aušros Vartų Street (now the location of the St. Palace Hotel, Aušros Vartų g. 6). The bank accepted deposits and provided loans for trade, industry, and construction development. Later it was decided to build its own building. Like for many other important institutions, the most representative place seemed to be Georgijaus Avenue (now Gedimino pr.). On the basis of the project of the Vilnius architect and engineer Mikhail Prozorov, in 1906–1909 the modern-style palace of the Vilnius branch of the Russian State Bank (Gedimino pr. 3) was built, costing 370 thousand roubles. The exterior of the building is a modified form of classicism. The palace consists of a two-storey main building and, perpendicular, a two-storey T-shaped main hall. The representative façade of the main building is located alongside the main avenue. It is farther away from the street and its central part is decorated with columns.

The interior of the lobby and the former bank operations hall is luxurious. Wide white marble staircase handrails with wrought metal grilles, decorated with plant leaves, rosettes. For the overlay of the bank’s operations hall, the architect chose an elliptical reinforced concrete vault, which had not yet been seen in Vilnius. The hall was illuminated through large arched side windows. It was considered to be the most luxurious bank building built in Vilnius before World War I. 

During World War I, a German military hospital operated here, after that — the first Lithuanian Trade and Industry Bank (later moved to Kaunas) was established. The building now houses the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences and the Research Council of Lithuania. 

Palace of the Russian State Peasants Land Bank branch (former VILNIUS TECH complex)

It is unclear who was the author of this modernised neo-classicism palace project on Didžiosios Pohuliankos Street (J. Basanavičiaus g. 28). It was a two-storey building with a semi-basement and an attic above the central part, asymmetric configurations with three protruding street facades. The main building was equipped with the operational halls of the bank, and the office premises were installed perpendicularly in the yard’s risalto. The entrance and staircase were not designed to be in the centre, but to the side right of the protrusion; the portal was decorated with dorian columns. The branch of the State Bank of Bajorai also moved to this new building together with the branch of the State Peasant Bank of Russia.

In our time, the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University operated here for a long time. 

Other buildings of the Russian Empire
Banks were established not only in specially built buildings, but also in commercial buildings, such as the branches of the Azov-Don Commercial Bank and the Russo-Asiatic Bank. The Azov-Don Commercial Bank was located on the second floor of the L. and R. Zalkindas shopping house on Didžioji Street (now the second building of the Radisson Blu Royal Astorija Hotel, the intersection of Didžioji and Rūdninkų Streets). The Bank Operations Hall, designed by M. Prozorov in 1910, did not survive to this day.

Prozorov also designed the premises of the Russo-Asiatic Bank. The bank’s own trading house at the intersection of Didžioji and Andrejevskajos streets (now the intersection of Didžioji and Savičiaus streets), once owned by a Carmelite monastery, was rebuilt into a three-storey modern building in 1913. The arc of the elliptical section, adapted for the construction of the branch of the State Bank of Russia, was also applied to the double-storey operations hall of the Russo-Asiatic Bank. During World War I, the building operated a branch of the East Bank of Germany (Ostbank). 

Various banks at different times rented the building of the monastery of the Holy Spirit in Aušros Vartų Street (now — the St. Palace Hotel, Aušros Vartų g. 6).

Interwar Vilnius bank buildings

During the Polish occupation (1920–1939), Vilnius was a provincial city with a moribund local industry. Economic stagnation also affected the development of the city. In the 1920s, there was little construction in the city. The existing credit institutions were generally satisfied only with small building reconstruction and repair works. Many credit institutions that re-registered their institutions continued to operate. The premises at City Hall were rented by the Vilnius Credit Bank in the 1920s (Pol. Wilenski Bank Kredytowy).

In the 1930s, construction in the city intensified and several credit institutions were established in new buildings.

Vilnius City Credit Society Building (now the Competition Council of the Republic of Lithuania)


According to a project prepared in 1930, the building of the Vilnius City Credit Society (architect and engineer M. Cholem) was built on Jogailos Street (Jogailos g. 14). The building was in a rectangular plan, with two floors and a granite slab-covered sub-basement. At the beginning of 1939, the Technical Department of the Vilnius City Magistrate authorised the reconstruction of the building and the construction of the third floor. The works were carried out that same year under the project of architect and engineer I. Smorgonskis, reconstructing in part the façade of the building.

It currently hosts the Competition Council of the Republic of Lithuania.

Postal Savings Bank (now SEB Bank headquarters)


The Postal Savings Bank was a banking institution established in 1919 by the Polish Head of State, Juzef Pilsudski. The purpose of the bank was initially to convert Polish marks into Polish zlotys and then to carry out normal banking operations. The bank’s headquarters were located in Warsaw, and branches were initially established in major Polish cities, later in smaller cities, as well as in Vilnius. In 1936–1937, on A. Mickevičiaus Street (now Gedimino ave. 12) a new modernist builfing was built. It was believed that the building was designed by the Warsaw architects Z. Pugetas and J. Žuravskis. The construction was led and maintained by the engineer J. Borovskis, who signed the projects. The building stood with its rear northern façade facing the avenue next to the residential building built around the same time (now a hotel). 

The five-storey palace did not have an accented main façade. All the façades repeat the same means of expression. There was a main entrance from the avenue. The façade in the West was enlivened by the windows of the bank’s Operations Hall over two floors. The western and northern façades were covered with Polish sandstone, the basement was covered with granite slabs. The composition of the building was very simple, but the influence of classicism could be felt.

Building of the Polish Regional Economic Bank (currently various institutions)

Next to the building described above, there was another example of pure modernism — the building at the address of Gedimino pr. 14, where the bank Next to the building described above, there was another example of pure modernism — the building at the address of Gedimino pr. 14, where the bank also operated during the interwar period. It was built between 1937 and 1938 and was a branch of the Polish Regional Economic Bank (Pol. Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego). 

The bank was established in 1924 at the initiative of Polish Prime Minister Vladysław Grabski. The Bank was created by merging three Galician banks into one. The Bank’s main tasks were providing long-term loans covered by bonds from municipalities, railways, and other state institutions, lending to other credit institutions, etc. This bank helped to strengthen the Polish economy, invested in strategic state objects, and even contributed to the development of the military industry. It was one of the largest banks in Poland during the interwar period. Its network was wide, the divisions were modern, equipped with specially-built buildings. Such a building was also built in Vilnius. Previously, the activities of the bank branch were also carried out in a nearby building, the historic Sniadecki Palace (now the Writers’ Union is located there). The project was prepared in 1936 by the Warsaw architects J. Pankovsky and S. Golenzovsky, and the works were led by the aforementioned engineer J. Borovski. 

On the instruction of the Vilnius Voivodeship Construction Commission, this building should have been stylistically adapted to the Postal Savings Bank building, which had been built a little earlier, and moved away from it by 14 metres. They were two rectangular buildings connected at an angle. The north façade of the four-storey building faced the avenue, while the two-storey building stretched deep into the plot. The building was located farther from the street, and in front of it was a square, where a monument dedicated to A. Mickiewicz was supposed to appear in the future. In 1938, according to the same architects’ project, a garage was built in the yard.

The Bank’s Operations Hall was located in the courtyard building, with the stairs to the upper floors of the street-building — in a spacious lobby connected to the Operations Hall. The premises were located on both sides of the corridor. Only the façade of the building facing the street was accentuated, other façades were not as expressive. 

Today, a cosmetics shop and other institutions are located in the former branch of the Polish Regional Economic Bank.