History of the city of Elk (ger. Lyck) begins in 1396-1400,
when the komtur of Balga, Ulrich von Jungingen, built wooden castle
on the island on the Elk Lake (which later, in XVII century, became
a peninsula). That castle was guarding the borderline; from that castle also new wars
against Lithuanians were started. Polish army led by Ladislaus
Jagiello destroyed the building. The castle was rebuilt,
this time with mason, in 1497. At the same time a drawbridge
was also built, connecting the castle with a near city and the beginning of main street
of the city (ger. Hauptstrasse) (today Wojska Polskiego street). Legend says, that during
the construction, there was an underground passage built as well, connecting the castle with
the city. It is very likely true because Teutonic Order was using this kind of
solution very often, like it exists for example in Malbork.
Around the castle the colonists from Masovia were settling down;
German colonists chose more peaceful terrains - West Prussia. In 1425
Grand Master of Teutonic Order Paul von Russdorf (ruling in 1442-1441) started
a village on the south of the castle and gave it Chelmnian rights. The village owned
48 units of land (about 806 ha), and its first mayor was a settler from Masovia Bartusch
Bratomi. In 1435 the same Grand Master extended Elk's city's rights by
another 103 units of land and the right for a market once a year.
The city suffered a lot during Thirteen Years' War,
among others the castle was destroyed. The end of the war left Elk in Teutonic Order's power.
The Saint Catherine's parish was built in 1470 (at the former main street
- today Wojska Polskiego street). In 1483 the city received additional
65 units. The castle was rebuilt in 1497 and became a residence of the mayor.
In 1499 Elk became a village again; its population is about
600, it has own church and a school.
In 1536 prince Albrecht Hohenzollern (1490-1568)
(known from support for publishers) invited to the city Jan (John) from Sacz
(later known as Malecki, also as Jan Sandecki-Malecki),
a publisher and a writer from Cracow. Together with son Hieronim organized
a printing office, working in 1551-1558, as well as gimnasial school. He is also known as a translator of
New Testament in 1552. The son was a teacher and an editor of
religious magazines in polish language.
In 1541 to Elk came prince Albrecht
Hohenzollern, to solve a conflict with Poland concerning the borderline. Elk constantly develops.
In 1539 it is noted that the city has 24 taverns, and at the end of the century the number reaches 50.
In 1569 the city received a privilege of organizing market every week.
The parish church was rebuilt in 1547-1551.
The city was hurt by pestilences in 1559, 1563, 1572 and 1653.
During Swedish Deluge, in 1655 the city was taken
by the Swedes and ordered the city to pay high contribution. In October 1656 army of
mercenaries assigned to hetman (military leader) Gosiewski, consisting mainly Tatars
lead by Gaza Suban, after the battle of Prostki, was moving towards Elk, then destroying
it and taking its citizens into slavery. Legends say that some of citizens managed to hide
in the castle, burning the drawbridge behind. The Tatars considering the castle a hard to conquer,
didn't even try to. During the night the citizens went to city using underground passage,
quietly approached the Tatars camp, freed fellow citizens and safely went back
to the castle.
In 1657 the city was govern by Brandenburg, soon after
- the Kingdom of Prussia.
In 1669, The Great Elector Frederick William
Hohenzollern (1620-1688) gave the city a new right - the law to fourth market
in a year. At that time the city had 44 master brewers. In
1670 Elk received the status of the city.
In 1688 a great fire digested the city. The city lost the church,
the city hall and about 80 houses.
XVIII century is further, dynamic growth of the city. In
1720 there was a city school started; in 1764 - first pharmacy; in 1788 there was a garrison
in the city. In 1732 Elk had 1053 citizens. In 1794 through the city
marched soldiers of Kosciuszko uprising on their way to Prussia. In 1806 there was
a Polish teachers' school started.
During the Napoleonian Wars, in 1806 the city was taken by
Russians, a year after that, by the French army (forcing the city to pay high
contribution). At that time, the Elk's castle received a guest - a marshal of
France Michel Ney. Summer that year there were Polish stationing in the city.
French army marched through the city again in 1812, then in 1813 Elk,
represented by Tymoteusz Gizewiusz , welcomed Alexander I, Russian tsar,
with hope for peace.
In 1845 in the city stayed king of Prussia - Frederick William
IV, inspecting those lands and estimating the size of disasters.
Second half of XIX century brought the city further growth due to
building the railroad to: Konigsberg (Kaliningrad) (opened 12/8/1868), Goldap
(1879) and Pisz (1885). Elk earned also water supply system, sewages and electricity.
It also became important for pro Polish movements.
In 1888 the castle was rebuilt - it became a prison and had that function
until 1976. In 1958 during renovation of part of ther castle, under its walls,
there was a collapsed tunnel found.
During I World War, Elk was a part of the line of front,
from which it suffered sewerly, the city center was lost.
The II World War destroyed a quarter of the city. After
the war Elk became a part of Poland.
After 1985 the castle doesn't have nor any function neither
conservation care. So far, the city hall failed to find a new owner to restore
Also see: Old postcards