In 1889, at the junction of Niedpodległości alley and Obrońców Stalingradu street, a multi-function building was erected. At various times it housed stores, cafés (Monopol, Klotzman, Bismarck), the Zum Kronprinzen restaurant, an office for collection of income tax on crafts, as well as apartments to let.
The following persons were owners of the real property at 29 Bismarckstr. (since 1895 at 24 Bismarckstr.):
- Building master Carl Haase (1889 – August 1894),
- Restaurant – keeper Johann Klotzmann (until October 1894)
- Albert Seibt, a rentier of Berlin (until April 1896)
- Merchant Emil Amberger (until December 1906)
- Landscape painter Adolf Dittmer (one of the designers of the murals in the building of today’s Western Pomeranian Voividship Office) and merchant Karl Dittmer (until January 1918)
- Merchant Ludwig Fink (until June 1919)
- Otto Ponath (until 1933)
- Heinrich Ponath.
After the reconstruction, which continued from April to September 1929, the function of the building changed. Otto Ponath established a restaurant and entertainment complex named Haus Ponath there. The regional newspaper, Ostsee-Zeitung, wrote in its issue of 30 September 1929: “…Over the last few years we could have seen many a time how old restaurants or theatre premises were rebuilt and modernised and each time it was marvelled what could have been done out of an old, unfashionable place, when a brilliant architect set to it. The former “Kaffee Bismarck” started operating in a new attire. It was given new looks and a new name, after the owner’s surname. In its entirety, the structure creates an image of an elegant club and restaurant which can satisfy all, even the most sophisticated requirements”. The modernist style of the building was underlined by advertisements made in the latest (and most modern) technology in the world of “liquid fires” – neon lights.
Hous Ponath housed a café and club room, a restaurant and the largest in Pomerania billiard-room. Owing to the functional interiors, the wide staircase, the gas heating system in the building and used in the kitchen installations, the system of mechanical ventilation the facility was said to be the most modern in the city.
After World War II the facility tried to keep up its pre-war fame as Balti Palace. Opened most probably by the end of 1945, it survived until summer 1947. In the following year a PDT department store was opened in the building (26 April 1948). A Centralna café was established on the second floor and a Centralna restaurant on the floor above. The last New Year’s Eve ball was held there in 1956. Despite the fact that the facility was tremendously popular among customers, the building was excluded from use and its overhaul started.
The repair was necessary, because after the prior overhaul, which had been made in the forties, the building was just falling to pieces standing. The suspended ceilings were falling off. There was a problem with the stability of the floors. After nearly three years of continuing repair, Kurier Szczeciński of 12-14 November 1959 wrote it was “the greatest scandal in Szczecin”. That scandalously long overhaul took five years (!) to complete in April 1962.
The “largest and most modern” entertainment facility in Poland was created – the center of night life in Szczecin, Kaskada! The following singers, among others, performed there: Czesław Niemen, Ryszard Karczykowski, Helena Vondrackova, Anna Jantar, Farida, Irena Jarocka, Anna German, Ada Rusowicz, Halina Frąckowiak, Stenia Kozłowska, Ałła Pugaczowa, Wojciech Młynarski, Jerzy Połomski, Andrzej and Eliza, the Skaldowie group, the Filipinki group as well as the artists of the Szczecin Operetta and many, many others. And who did not perform there? Despite many efforts to maker her come, Wioletta Willas did not (the artist posed certain conditions, not financial ones, which could not have been met). In the Kaskada Restaurant Complex, artists from Germany, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Bulgaria, Hungary, Spain and even USA performed.
The Kaskada Restaurant Complex was four floors of entertainment!
- The ground floor
- The first floor
- The second floor
- The third floor
- the Kapitańska room
- the Rondo room
Kaskada was also lunches, including voucher lunches. Ready-made dishes, also for take-out. Shows and band competitions, a cabaret. However, Kaskada was, first of all, all sorts of night life, also the non-existing officially or forbidden ones. “Girls” flying at the throat of customers suspected of being competitors in the trade or cinkciarze, illegal money changers, whispering “something to sell, something to buy, dollars, marks, crowns to buy” were the darker side of the history of the facility.
On Monday, 27 April 19181 the facility and the building dramatically stopped to exist. 14 persons including six students of the Gastronomic School Complex in Szczecin died in a fire. The employees who tragically died in the fire were: Aniela Dubicka, Teresa Kipiec, Marianna Kowalczuk, Danuta Lewandowska, Teresa Nowak, Aniela Pyza, Janina Stępień, Elżbieta Wiktorko. The students who tragically died in the fire were: Tomasz Berger, Waldemar Cyż, Danuta Domagalska, Elżbieta Gryszkiewicz, Małgorzata Kondracka, Beata Tokarska.
The wound had to heal. The memory stayed. After thirty years, on 28 September 2011 life began again.
During the earthwork, relics of the 18th century retaining wall of the rampart of the Szczecin fortifications were found. By agreement between ECE and the Historical Monuments City Conservator, the best preserved fragment of that wall has been, after conservation, exposed in the shopping gallery interior.
(Prepared by Aleksy Pawlak. More on the history of the place can be found in the book by Krystyna Pohl and Sebastian Biela titled “Kaskada”.)