Benchmarks in Lviv: How Elevation Was Measured in the Past

A benchmark is geographic point whose elevation has been measured and recorded to a high level of accuracy. The height of a benchmark is calculated relative to the heights of nearby benchmarks in a network extending from a fundamental benchmark (a point which records a height to extreme accuracy.) Benchmarks are used by such professionals as surveyors, engineers, and map makers.

In 1880-1888, the Department of Geodesy of the Lviv Polytechnic created the first leveling network in Lviv consisting of 18 benchmarks. The network was used for the construction of Lviv’s first sewer. (The Galicia state leveling network was created by the Military Geographical Institute in Vienna between 1888 and 1892.)

Lviv’s fundamental benchmark was installed on the wall of the main building of the Lviv Polytechnic in 1880 by famous astronomical surveyor, rector of the Lviv Polytechnic, Professor Dominik Zbrozhek. The height was determined by barometric surveying from the level of the Adriatic Sea with the help of a highly skilled international commission.

Here is the first benchmark with a plaque in honor of Dominik Zbrozhek.

“Z. W.” stands for “znak wysokosci,” which is Polish for “height marker.”

Wall marker
а – brass frustum in the wall;
б – iron plate labeled Z. W. (Znak wysokosci);
в – modern look.

Benchmarks were often located on churches and other public buildings. Only a handful of the original 18 benchmarks are still visible in Lviv’s landscape. The rest are either under plaster or have been removed.

I have found a few of the original benchmarks (in addition to the one on the university), as well as the place where one used to be.

The next batch of benchmarks (or so I am guessing, and I am also guessing they were installed during Austrian times) are round and also have the initials “Z. W.” One is on the former Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, another is on a building that I believe was some sort of governmental building (as there is Lviv coat of arms on it), and the third one is on the old Lychakiv train station (built in 1906, rail line has been closed for decades).

I walked by this next one thousands of times before I noticed — it is located right on the Lviv’s City Hall.  The benchmark reads “znak wysokości (Polish for “height marker”) and has an eagle (Poland’s coat of arms) and the letters “P. N.” It’s possible “P. N.” stands for “Polska Norma” (Polish Standard) or “Poprawka Normalna” (Normal Adjustment).  As it features the Polish coat of arms, it dates from the interwar period when Lviv was part of the Second Polish Republic.
image from here

My guess is that the third batch of benchmarks was the small circular metal ones with numbers, which are still found on many on buildings in Lviv. I beieve these were also from the pre-Soviet era.

Then there are a few different kinds from the Soviet era. These generally have some sort of letters (abbreviations) and often numbers as well.

УКР ГИИНТИЗ (UKR GIINTIZ) = Russian abbreviation for Ukrainian Geological-Engineering and Technical Surveying. (For example, a GIINTIZ institute would include the subjects geology, geodesy, geophysics.)

ПОЛИГ (POLIG) = short for “polygonometry” – method of establishing geodetic networks
ГУГК (GUGK) = the Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography
3072 = number of the marker in the registry with the geodesic description of its location

See also: German-Language Benchmark in Lviv

8 thoughts on “Prewar Painted Stripes in Lviv

  1. Thank you Areta for another important and timely blog post on the challenges and issues of Jewish heritage and recovery of memory. We are hopeful that soon the headstones used as basement steps in a courtyard in Lviv (Hałycka Płoszcza 15 / Galitskaya 15) will be recovered. The Lviv Volunteer Center is working behind the scenes to make this happen, with the support of the Lviv Jewish community and others.

  2. This is the part that blows my mind: “During periods of transition, the records occasionally show the use or mix of two languages—Church Slavonic and Latin, or Latin and Ukrainian…”
    SO COOL!
    Thanks, Areta!

  3. > The largest and best-preserved fragment of Lviv’s medieval defense structures is the Hlyniany Gate (1618)

    Areta, Hlyniany Gate and wall around it have been renovated.

    There used to be some residential building in its place (behind the now-demolished fire station in the foreground)

    Building, close-up

    The wall looked like this

  4. Any idea what the Yiddish is on the hat sign on the right? I can make out most of the letters, but my Yiddish isn’t good enough to fill in the blanks. I used to pass by that wall frequently on my way to a friends house, but he has moved since then. It’s still my favorite ghost sign, though 🙂

  5. Kudos to you, Aretha. I came across your blog from a repost from one of your diaspora Ukrainian language from Pre-war Galicia words versus accepted and widely used Post-war words for a long list of foods. I too grew up in the diaspora in Cleveland. I was in Lviv in November of this soon to be last year. Although Lviv is my Dad’s ancestral city, I had family from Central Ukraine and grew up hearing both dialects. I think the blog was from 2014 or 2015. I wanted to leave a comment on your new blog and commend you for the interesting sociolinguistic and cultural discussions you have initiated. Nice to see that you are now in the field doing your research first-hand.

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