Historic town center of Pasvalys
Pasvalys town's history is inseparable from the Roman Catholic Church settlement and activities in the town. It is believed that at the end of the 15th century in a place of a current town, at a confluence of the Rivers Lėvuo and Svalia was an economically convenient area to settle. In 1497, Lithuanian Grand Duke Alexander issued a privilege to the Pasvalys presbytery and it, as well as its subsequent reaffirmation in 1535, was a legal foundation of the Pasvalys church – and thus the town. At that time, churches were not built in unpopulated areas. At the nearest place by the church, beside the Kaunas–Riga road, there was formed the town center with market square.
There is no authentic data about the initial plan of Pasvalys in the first half of the sixteenth century – the network of streets and its square form. There is a reason to believe that almost four decades since the establishment of the town in 1497, many of his estates, especially in the center – all around central square – should have been built in harmony with the area of the former road and the junction shape. The former several routes of the location should become the town streets. Thus, in 1535 or even late, when a new measurement form was introduced,apparently, it could be done a little more regular form to central square and in accordance with the new land reform regulations (Volok Reform a volok – land unit of about 21.38 hectares), urban plots were measured.
On the 2nd May 1580, under the privilege of Stephen Bathory, Pasvalys became a part of the Chapter of Vilnius.
In 1589, Pasvalys was firstly described in details. According to this inventory and other data, based on the subsequent plans, there was formed a retrospective diagram of the end of the sixteenth century. It shows that by the time, Pasvalys spread and because of the new streets, a radial spontaneous development was substancially distinct. Only the form of rectangular square in the center witnesses a regulation made in the first half of the sixteenth century. Judging by subsequent data, houses stood on the three sides of central square, and the fourth – at the churchyard – was empty. Although fires often ravaged Pasvalys, the town grew – in 1623, there were 113 houses with 77 inns. In 1678, there were already 133 houses, of which 12 were located beside square, it means that the town increased and shows that the town was not destroyed in the war of the middle of the seventeenth century or losses were small.
Until the end of the seventeenth century, the growing town not only expanded from the center aside, mainly in the northeast and southeast, but also changed. Such a conclusion can be drawn from a market square perimeter change. In 1611, this square, surrounded by houses from three sides, has a perimeter of 392.12 meters; in 1623 it was 367.2 meters and in 1654 its perimeter was 380.16 meters. Consequently, the size of the town, and perhaps a shape, changed. These changes took place in the town center – in a place that was the most attractive in commercial terms.
Pasvalys was devastated by the Great Northern War, there were a few residents so in order to settle more people in the town, they were exempted from taxes for 8 years. In 1731, the Vilnius Chapter holding in Pasvalys increased. According to a description of the inventory in 1735, there were 114 homesteads in the town. All homesteads around cental square (12) belonged to Jews. For the first time little shops ("kromai") were mentioned. Judging by the 1786 town plan, these shops stood in the middle of central square. As a result, Pasvalys square area reduced significantly. In addition to shops, beside square (on Vilnius and Svalia Streets corner) there was manor’s inn, you could enter it from central square side, through a large gate bound with metal.
In 1744, a number of houses and plots located in each of the four sides of square was mentioned for the first time. Thus, the houses already stood on the churchyard side, where during the end of seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth century, they were not yet. In the middle there were two rows of shops. It can be concluded that after the reduction in central square (where part of the space was taken for trade rows) a commercial area in the town was also reduced and had to compensate in spreading along Svalia Street, beside the churchyard. From the town plan of 1786, we can see on the both sides of the river, at the bridge, radially converging streets. Five streets there went like irregular quadrilateral square. Previous Square already lost its original form because it was reduced at least on two sides. At the southeastern side of the churchyard another square was formed.
The streets, forming a clear radial plan, turned into square freely, well aligning in the area. The town’s people parcels were of various sizes (the smallest were around the center of square), because of it the buildings of the streets were uneven all around.
In 1824, compared with the previous descriptions, we can see the plots in the town, especially in the center, became smaller: around square, there were already 18 plots and 20 shops in square.
During the period of 1857–1870, there were made some almost identical town plans. They show that Pasvalys mainly expanded along the River Lėvuo (from southwest to northeast) and to the southeast. There was formed a new street connecting Biržų and Vilniaus Streets. In the center there also appeared some new streets, buildings were closer to each other and the plots were reduced. Previous Square to the northeast from the church had been further reduced, but the new one in Svalia Street increased and actually became independent square on the south-east side of the churchyard. Both squares were separated by a group of commercial buildings, which stood to the east of the church.
From 1907 to1909, a bricked two-storey belfry was built beside the church and at the confluence of the Rivers Svalia and Lėvuo, on the land of a parish priėst, separated from the churchyard by the bridge, there was built a red bricked single-storey hospice. In a photo of about 1910 we can see new buildings and between them a former bridge.
On the 22nd July 1920, the town was devastated by a fire: about 100 houses, all the town center, all Biržų Street and a half of Vilniaus Street burned down. About 500 people became roofless. Immediately, a new project of Pasvalys (its author was Mr. E. Peyeris) was started and it was approved on the 10th June 1922.
This project did not provide any substantive changes in a town plan; there was a previous street network, but new major market square was planned between the houses of Biržų and Vilniaus Streets. In a valley of the River Svalia, there was a new Park.
In 1928, the fence of the churchyard was demolished; a two-storey parsonage as well as the gateway to the churchyard was built beside Svalia Street and market square. As a result, this square space became more defined, visually reduced.
In 1931 there was prepared and approved a Pasvalys "brick houses district" project, according to which in entire Vytautas Didysis Square and in its middle there were allowed to build new or rebuild existing buildings only with bricks and tile or tin roofs.
However, in 1932, it was stated that the condition of the buildings and the image is bad, so it was decided to demolish them according to the law. Perhaps it soon had be done – the street had to increase significantly, and two parts already named individually like two squares (Vytauto Didžiojo and Nepriklausomybės) were reunited, the downtown view had to improve.
In 1934, there was started a new marketplace, on old square edges were planted trees provided in a project of 1931. New concrete sidewalks were laid and the old ones were repaired. Several new streets were built and the old ones were enlarged. In 1939, the Second World War started and, in 1940, the Soviet Union forcibly annexed Lithuania. That development stage was difficult and fundamentally different from the previous Pasvalys development stage. In Soviet times, the conversion work carried out in the center of the town destroyed Vytauto Didžiojo Square and the historic center of Pasvalys lost its significance.