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These unique postcards show golden-age Lviv in all its glory

Educational institution of scholarum Piarum. Lithograph by Karl Auer, 1858. Built in 1765-1776, the institution fas designated for the education of youth, including from poor families, according to the mission of Piarum fathers. The building became a hospital later – the function it retains until nowadays.
These unique postcards show golden-age Lviv in all its glory

Contemporary Lvivians often view the “long 19th century,” from the first partition of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772 until the breakout of WWI in 1914, as the golden age for Lviv, then Lemberg. More than 50% of city’s architectural heritage comes from this period when it was ruled by the Habsburg empire and was the capital of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria.

The Kingdom was populated by Polish and Ukrainian peoples (now its territory is split between these two countries) with a significant Jewish minority. Similar was the population of Lemberg: Poles dominated, followed by strong Jewish and Ukrainian communities.

The city became especially developed during the rulership and reforms of emperor Franz Joseph I (ruled in 1848-1916) who personally inspected the development of the city five times. Each time his visit was a significant event for locals. Both Ukrainians and Poles tried to secure the first appointment to the emperor to attain more rights for their community.

The terms “uncle Joseph” and “grandma Austria,” as the locals sometimes still kindly say, doesn’t mean it was all good in the Austrian period for Ukrainians. However, this time was at least marked by the absence of massive violent political conflicts, possibilities to freely develop Ukrainian culture and language, along with other cultures of the region, and even represent Ukrainian interests in local and national parliaments (although only by a few MPs).

150 years of generally peaceful development without suppression of ethnic identity is a unique exception for Ukrainian modern history.

The postcards and photos below show the life in Lviv prior to WWI, mostly in 1890-1914. They are taken from the Lviv Center for Urban History of East Central Europe. Those interested in urban history can find thousands of unique landscapes in its library from 1600 to 2021 that covers several Ukrainian cities and towns.

Lviv survived both WWI and WWII, so most of the buildings depicted below are still there, although landscapes and fashion have changed.

Pelchynskyi Pond, 1914. Postcard is based on a lithograph by Karl Auer from the album “Galicia in the Pictures” (1840). This biggest in the city pond is mentioned for the first time in 1523. In 1820, at the initiative of the General of the Cavalry Fresnel, the pond located at the foot of the Citadel, began to be used as a military pool, soon opened as swimming school available to civilians. Russian troops destroyed the pond in 1915 and it was leveled with the ground in 1921.
Karla Ludwiga street (now Svody avenue – central in the city), coffee shop and “Bullevue” cinema, 1909. In 1907, Melchior Meiblum, one of the most successful film distributors and film owners of the early period of cinema in Lviv, opened one of his cinemas at the Bellevue Café. It existed until WWI. Now the building hosts Opera Passage trade center.
Karl Auer, Fair near St. George’s Cathedral (1846), Litograph. This 18th century Cathedral was and remains the main Ukrainian cathedral in Lviv. Firs Orthodox church stayed on the place since 14th century while the modern cathedral was built in 18th and became the residency of Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops (uniates). Annual fairs on the square near the church were very important for the development of local economy.
Akademichna street (Shevchenka avenue now), 1906.
Sokol horse riders on the Shevchenka avenue, 1905. Sokol (Falcon) Gymnastic Society was the Polish offshoot of the Czech Sokol movement, and the oldest Polish youth movement organization.
Kopernyka street, 1906, with the view on iconic Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and town hall on the Rynok square.
Austrian military exhibition of 1916.
Cinefon Cinema in the Mikolasz passage, 1907. The Mikolasz Passage was a shopping gallery located between Copernicus and Kruta streets. This first secession object in Lviv was built in 1898-1900 by the architectural and construction firm of Ivan Levynskyi according to the project of Ivan Levynskyi and Alfred Zakharevych. The whole gallery was covered with a metal glazed structure.
Cableway at the general regional exhibition. 1894.
The city power plant on Persenkivka is one of the most interesting examples of industrial architecture in Lviv in the early twentieth century. In 1907, on the initiative of the director Yuriy Tomitskyi, the architect Adolf Piller created a project of a new power plant. The City Council provided a loan of 10,000 crowns for the construction of a new building. The power plant was designed for city lighting and electric tram tracks, 1910.
Part of a small power plant in Lviv, 1900.
City shooting hall designated for the training of city defenders in 1789, Litograph, 1847.
Pavilion of the city of Lviv and American pavilion during the 1894 exhibition.
Karl Ludwig street in 1906. Svobody avenue now.
On 1 November 1850, earl Agenor Goluchowski decided to open a branch of the Second German Gymnasium. In 1857 it was named the gymnasium of Franz Joseph. 123 students have been studying already in the first year. Every year more students were studying there, so in 1876, specially for the gymnasium, a new building was built on Batoriy street (now Kniazia Romana) according to the project of the architect Juliusz Hochberger. Now the building houses the Research Institute of the National University of Lviv Polytechnic. Date of the picture – 1906.
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