The Hohenstein Castle was built around the mid-14th century as the seat of the Teutonic Order bailiff, near the border of the Ostróda commandership with Mazovia. These areas were then sparsely populated and overgrown with primeval forest, and the stronghold guarded the border and the trade route from Masovia deep into the Prussia. The initiator of the construction was Gunter von Hohenstein, Teutonic commander of Ostróda from 1339, from whom the castle and the settlement took the name.
In 1410, after the battle of Grunwald, which was fought several kilometers from Olsztynek, the castle was taken over by the townspeople and handed over to Polish king Władysław II Jagiełło. After returning to the Teutonic Knights, it was damaged during the Polish-Teutonic War in 1414 and during the Thirteen Years’ War. After the secularization of the Teutonic Order in 1525, the town was annexed to Duchy of Prussia, and the castle was designated as the seat of the administration of the prince’s governor. At the end of the 18th century, Prussian offices were set up there, and then part of the medieval buildings were demolished. In the nineteenth century, the remains were transformed in the neo-gothic style and turned into a gymnasium. After the destruction of World War II, the rebuilt fragments of the castle were incorporated into the school building.
The castle was built on a small hill, protected from the west by the Jemiołówka River, and from the south – west bordering the town. It was separated from the settlement by only a small outer ward of the castle, which walls were connected with urban fortifications. The castle consisted of a four-sided complex of brick and timber houses, surrounded by a defensive wall. The main, north-eastern house, 10×28 meters in size, was probably a three-story building. Its foundations and lower parts of the walls were made of stones, the higher parts of bricks. The external façades were decorated with a burnt zendrówka brick. The preserved cellars of the main house consist of three spacious rooms with rib vaults. In the south room vaults are based on two brick pillars with cut corners. From the medieval inspections of the castle, we know that it had a kitchen, bakery, armory (probably located in the grounf floor) and pantries, most likely located in the cellars and the highest storey-defense floor. The representative floor housed a chapel, a refectory and a bailiff’s chamber. At the height of the latter, granite brackets of the former toilet are preserved. Probably the stronghold also had a gatehouse tower, perhaps it is visible on the Hartknoch engraving from the 17th century, above the roofs of the castle. The castle also had a brewery, a malt house, a mill and a farm. From the south, a small outer ward was adjacent. The stronghold was included in the system of town fortifications, but kept autonomy towards the city.
To this day, the original fragments have survived only to the height of the first floor in the northern wing and cellars with gothic, rib vaults. The neo-gothic reconstruction from the middle of the 19th century seriously obliterated the medieval character of the castle. Currently, the seat of the High School and the Vocational Schools are located here.
Garniec M., Garniec-Jackiewicz M., Zamki państwa krzyżackiego w dawnych Prusach, Olsztyn 2006.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.