The Grey House (Polish: Szara Kamienica), housing offices and residential space, is one of the largest buildings on the Main Square in Krakow. On the ground floor, on the side facing the Square it houses the famous “Szara” (Grey) restaurant and an art gallery. Looking from the Sienna Street, you can spot several boutiques. The house was entered into the Register of Historic Monuments of Krakow in 1936.
The tenement was established in the 14th century as a combination of two separate buildings. Between the mid 16th and 18th centuries, it was a property of three families: the Zborowskis, the Zebrzydowskis, and the Żeleńskis, one after the other. In 1853, a new owner, Stanisław Feintuch, opened a multi-trade business that operated here for almost 100 years.
In February 1574, Henry of Valois, the first elective king of Poland visited the place after his arrival from France. He was hosted by noblemen Piotr Zborowski and his brother Samuel, who later caused a scandal during the official coronation. He got into a fight with a non-noble soldier and killed other nobleman who tried to separate the two rivals.
There are two memorial plaques on the façade of the building. One commemorates the headquarters in the Kosciuszko Uprising of 1794 that was located here and the other honours the National Government headquarters during the Krakow uprising of 1846.
In 1853 Stanisław Feintuch became the owner of the house and changed his name to Szarski, after the name of the building. He opened a shop in the Gothic hall on the ground floor and a warehouse in the yard. Initially, the company had a very wide range of products such as coffee, bricks, bread, varnishes, and much more. With time, the company has evolved into a well-known colonial store “Szarski and Son”. The twilight of the company began during World War II, when the Germans removed it from the front room of the house. In 1950, three years before the 100th anniversary jubilee, post-war owners Jan and Stanisław Szarski decided to close the company because of the gigantic, unreasonable tax, the so-called surtax, imposed on them.
Today, the Grey House is owned by the Grey House Foundation, which was established in the early 1990s, with a goal of recovering the historic complex. The foundation conducted major renovation of the building.
The interior of the store and the polychrome covering the ceiling was designed and made by Józef Mehoffer. The building has retained a columned portal from the 17th century, Gothic cross-ribbed vault with a polychrome on the ground floor, wooden coffer ceilings on upper storeys, and wooden beams decorated with more polychromes.