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History
The earliest history of the Grey House dates back as far as the mid-13th century, to the days of Boleslaw the Chaste, when the reform allowing the reconstruction of the fortified town of Krakow according to new principles enabled a wealthy burgher to erect a two- or three-storey stone house for himself on a lot 36 by 72 ells. Under King Wladyslaw the Elbow-High the building fronting onto Sienna Street was connected to the original house, creating a grand new seat with a characteristic L-shaped floor plan.  
In the 14th century the Grey House is thought to have been owned by Mikolaj Wierzynek the Elder, a close friend of King Kazimierz the Great, whose lover, Sara, was probably the namesake for the appellation by which the house became known. Another possible owner at this time was the equally prosperous alderman Gerlach. His successor had another storey built onto the main building, the ceiling painted, and new portals knocked through, and exquisite vaulting was added to the rear room of the Sienna Street wing of the building. During the Renaissance the house probably passed into the hands of the Zborowski magnate dynasty, and then, successively, to the Banczes, the Koziols, and the Krupeks. Its next owner was the imperial secretary Jan Ways, after whom the palace was taken over by the influential Myszkowskis and then the indecently rich Zebrzydowski family.
The Renaissance and its fashions produced a recessed roof with an attic (a beautiful, even useful attribute, but rather impractical in a temperate climate). Twenty years later, owing to large volumes of water standing on the roof (no drainage!!), the first signs of erosion became visible in the house. In order to save the wall, the building’s owners built an attractive buttress. Another problem was difficult neighbours, who waged a “carriageway war” with the owners of the Grey House, causing extensive damage. Renovation in the 16th century did little to rectify the problem, and it was only the Zebrzydowski family who undertook major construction work over the course of their 80 years as owners, transforming the Grey House into an early Baroque palace. The extended, two-storey rear wing, a huge hall with 10 windows, hewn fireplaces, decorated ceilings and beautiful stonework, an innovative sewerage and drainage system, and on the ground floor small stores rented by Jewish merchants – it is not hard to conjure up an image of the house in its heyday. But these halcyon days were not to last …
After the Swedish deluge, the whole city, and with it the palace, fell into decline and ruin. In 1673 the premises were taken over by the Czartoryski family as a rental property. The former Jewish colony was occupied by artisans. Over the years, as the Czartoryskis grew wealthier, they made a series of modernisations to the building, and the fame of the house was revived. The renovations were not even hindered by the Muscovite storm in 1768, and its new owner, Franciszek Zelenski, was proudly able to receive King Stanislaw August Poniatowski here in 1787.
The greatest hour of the Grey House was to come in 1794, when the official staff headquarters of Tadeusz Kosciuszko’s insurrectionist forces were located here.
After the partitions, protracted and ineffective building work blighted the building. The days when it belonged to the Zelenskis, the Wiszniewskis and then the Skarzynskis were not among its happiest, and the building fell into disrepair. To make matters worse, on an official decree it was then converted into a barracks! In 1846 the Grey House was once again used as the seat of the national (insurrectionist) authorities, the National Government of the Krakow Uprising. When the insurrection was put down, the Austrians, not to be outdone, billeted a detachment of engineers there, and later a primary school.
Fortunately, at around this time, one Stanisław Feintuch, a merchant from an assimilated Jewish family, saw fit to establish his shop selling colonial wares in the building. Thanks to his entrepreneurial spirit, 40 years later the Grey House had become the biggest store in the city. Feintuch changed his name to Szarski and undertook what renovations to the building he could. However, it was only his son Henryk who was to carry out the most vital work, under the eye of conservator Stanisław Tomkowicz. The building was decorated in the Young Poland style, with beautiful polychromy by Jozef Mehoffer on the walls, and a lift was installed. Unfortunately, errors committed at this time irrevocably destroyed some of the historical details.
In 1912 the Grey House was one of the gems of Krakow’s Main Square. During World War II the shop prospered, but in 1950 the Szarskis, burdened with an unfair levy of “back taxes”, wound up the business, so ushering in the most difficult period in the building’s history: its careless neglect – at times smacking of deliberate damage – by the incumbent authorities. The purchase of the house by private investors in the 1990s proved the saving grace of the noble building. Its new owners took the decision to bestow the property on the Grey House Szara Kamienica Foundation, which was to extend its protection to the restaurant, with its maxim “the best possible conservatism in action”. The building was restored to its former glory, becoming a place where professionalism, modernity and the best of tradition are combined.