Šiauliai city municipality, Vasario 16-osios St. 62, is established in three historic buildings: the former court building, Liaudies namai (the People’s House) and the building of Šiauliai branch of the Trade and Industry Bank of Lithuania.
The Former Court Building
Already in 1783, the two-storey brick building of nobility courts, built according to J.Sakas’ urban design, stood on the eastern corner of the Market Square not far from the church. Once Šiauliai became the centre of the county, the most important institution of county administration and police – the police board of the county – was established here, which from 1837 used to be simply referred to as the court. In addition to police functions, it performed other functions like supervision of economic activities, organisation of sanitary services and health care in the county. Police functions were performed by the “gorodnich” and the board under his leadership, appointed by the governor. During the interwar period the building housed the administrative office of Šiauliai city and county, the office of police station I and III and Šiauliai office of state security and criminal police. After World War II, the executive committee of the deputy council of working people was established here. Having re-established Lithuania’s Independence, this building was started to be used by Šiauliai city municipality.
Liaudies namai (The People’s House). Cinema Theatre
In late 19 century, the Tsarist government started organising propaganda for people, which took the form of lectures. This activity was usually performed by temperance societies. They prepared lectures in the Russian language, arranged readings illustrated by slides, set up libraries and tea-shops. In 1897, this wave reached Šiauliai County too and the temperance society was set up. At that time, there was no hall for larger meetings and theatre performances in the city, so it was agreed with the businessman Ventraubas that he would built the hall on his plot. Later the hall with the most necessary annexes and ancillary rooms was named Liaudies auditorija (the People’s Room). The hall of Liaudies auditorija, which could contain 500 listeners, was rented for 12 years for the annual payment of 1,200 roubles. In addition to the hall, there were the tea-shop and the reading room here. Liaudies auditorija was opened on November 7, 1902. It used to be rented for lectures, meetings, performances. On Fridays and Sundays, on the initiative of the Russian temperance society people’s readings were organised here. Although slides that were shown during readings attracted many people, particularly young people, from the moral standpoint such meetings had negative effect rather than positive. The audience in the hall had to be seated on two sides according to gender, like in the church. It was attempted to organize readings for children but they were a success for only one day, when gifts were distributed at the Christmas tree. On May 7, 1904, the day of repeal of the press prohibition law, Šiauliai residents Steponas Žiupsnys, Stanislava Jakševičiūtė-Venclauskienė and Povilas Višinskis obtained the permit to hold a public Lithuanian eve, during which it was decided to perform J. Vilkutaitis-Keturakis’ comedy “Amerika pirtyje” (“America in the Bath”). The play was performed in Liaudies auditorija on October 31, 1904. The director of the performance was S. Jakševičiūtė-Venclauskienė; K.Venclauskis, P.Pundzevičius (invited student from Riga), S.Jakševičiūtė-Venclauskienė, M.Rudyte, A.Povylius, etc. played the main roles. During World War I, the cinema hall was equipped here. On January 1, 1919, the Soviet power in Šiauliai was declared in this hall. In 1925, the company “Kultūra” (“Culture”) took over the only Ventraub’s Liaudies auditorija theatre with the cinema hall in Šiauliai from Šiauliai Jewish businessmen and founded Liaudies namai (The People’s House), to which the majority of the company’s offices were moved. It housed Liaudies namai cinema; meetings and performances were held. The section of Liaudies namai began to take care of theatrical matters: in the beginning it organised performances, shows for various organisations on its own and later swung at seeking establishment of a permanent theatre. The beginning of the theatre is associated with Mikas Petrauskas, who having been invited by the company “Kultūra”, in June, 1925, staged the opera “Birutė” and the operetta “Kaminkrėtys ir Malūnininkas” (“The Chimney Sweep and the Miller“) in Šiauliai. This work has led to the loss of two thousand litas. In April, 1926, the meeting was held at Liaudies namai regarding theatre organization. B. Dauguvietis proposed and it was decided to set up local amateur and professional actors’ theatre, which would be maintained by the city municipality while the company “Kultūra” through its clubs would help to organize its tours in surrounding villages. However, this idea was suspended and has never been implemented due to lack of funds. Besides, B. Dauguvietis and other actors were invited to the state theatre. Despite these setbacks, further attempts were made to use Liaudies namai for artistic affairs. The cinema orchestra was set up, which used to play pieces of W.A.Mozart, F.Schubert and other composers during showings; operettas and performances were held, higher level artistic films were shown, such as “Mykolas Strogovas”, “Ivanas Rūstusis” (“Ivan the Terrible”), etc. Once even the famous reciter V.Kachialov, the old resident of Vilnius, gave a performance at Liaudies namai, where he recited passages from F.Dostoevsky’s, W.Shakespeare’s, M.Gorky’s works with great success. Šiauliai particularly lacked special buildings for cultural institutions, as premises of Liaudies namai no longer met the needs of the theatre or cinema. Having liquidated the company “Kultūra”, Liaudies namai was given over to people of culture: K.Venclauskis, I.Urbaitis, J.Naujalis, who were determined to use the company’s revenue fund for building a modern theatre. This was partially implemented, particularly thanks to robust culture figure A.Ulpis. In 1944, upon liberation of Šiauliai from German occupation, this building housed Kultūros namai (The Culture House) until the new building in Aušros Avenue was built, leaving the cinema theatre “Šviesa” (“Light”) in the previous building. Later the city municipality was established in the building, and in 1977, the building was joined with the former court building.
The Building of Šiauliai Branch of Trade and Industry Bank of Lithuania
Between 1922 and 1935, Jonas Šliūpas, the doctor, the writer of “Aušra” (“Dawn”) and public figure lived on the first floor of this building. In 1922, he began working as a director of Šiauliai branch of Trade and Industry Bank of Lithuania. In 1923, Jonas Šliūpas addressed the Šiauliai city restoration committee, asking for a permission to set up “Titnagas” (“Flint”) printing house. The printing house was established in the basement of this house and was one of the most important and largest in the entire Samogitia region during interwar period. J.Šliūpas did not seek to get profit from the printing house. Based on the experience gained in America, the owner of the printing house aimed at setting up the base for production of cultural values – newspapers, books – and tried to widely disseminate culture, national consciousness, popularize science, and fight with inefficients. In summer of 1926, in the national exhibition of agriculture and industry “Titnagas” was awarded the gold medal and diploma for its high quality production. For a long time the printing house was issuing magazine “Kultūra” (“Culture”), the magazine for children “Žiburėlis” (“Twinkle”). J.Šliūpas’ brother veterinarian Rokas Šliūpas edited and published the newspaper “Šiaulių naujienos” (“Šiauliai News”) here. Most of publications and textbooks of the company “Kultūra” were printed in this printing house. The owner of the large bookshop Liudas Jakavičius printed calendars, dream-readers, other brochures here. Here J.Šliūpas printed several of his free thought books and brochures. Due to the economic crisis in the 4 decade of the 20 century the Trade and Industry Bank of Lithuania, which belonged to J.Šliūpas and his son-in-law M.Yčas, went bankrupt. In return to the bank’s debts for the state the Bank of Lithuania took over the building and the printing house, located in the basement of the house. Šiauliai branch of the Bank of Lithuania became the owner and the administrator of the said property. The bank rented the ground floor to the commandant’s office of Šiauliai city and county. Later the building was used by the headquarters of the Infantry Division and the tax inspection of Šiauliai city and county.