The former SuperSam where the Plac Unii Lubelskiej shopping mall now stands

A History of The Union of Lublin Square

Published: March 24, 2015

The Union of Lublin Square (Plac Unii Lubelskiej) is not actually square as the English translation would lead you to think, but a circular traffic roundabout located where the downtown district (Śródmieście) meets the district directly south of it, i.e. Mokotów. In fact, the square was even originally called Rondo Mokotowskie (or “Mokotów Roundabout”) when it was first built in the 1770s under the direction of the last King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Stanisław August Poniatowski. It was later renamed as “The Union of Lublin Square” (Plac Unii Lubelskiej) during the Second Polish Republic in 1919 on the 350th anniversary of the signing of the Union of Lublin in 1569, which brought together the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

At the beginning of the 19th Century, Union of Lublin Square served as the southern gateway to the city of Warsaw. Between 1816 and 1819 the Mokotowskie Toll Houses were built in neoclassical style. These two toll houses have survived until today and adorn both sides of the major traffic artery Puławska Street, which leads southwards from the Union of Lublin Square towards Metro Wilanowska.

Mokotowskie Toll House
Mokotowskie Toll House

In the 1890s the Dom Prasy press building was built on the triangular plot of land between Marszałkowska and Polna Streets. Home to the Polish news corporation Dom Prasy (“Press House”), it became the largest printing press in Warsaw in the 1920s and 30s. During WWII, the Nazis reappropriated the press to print propaganda – in particular Nowy Kurier Warszawski, which was the largest newspaper in German-occupied Poland. After the war, a number of newspapers were published at Marszałkowska 3/5 (the location of the Dom Prasy press building), including the prominent Polish national daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita until 1992. Today the popular “milk bar” (Polish: bar mleczny) Bar Prasowy, which originally opened in 1954, is located across the street. It derives its name from the former printing press.

A final landmark located at Union of Lublin Square is the Plac Unii City Shopping mall complex. Located on the southwest corner of Union of Lublin Square between Puławska and Tadeusza Boya-Żeleńskiego Streets, the shopping mall now dominates the traffic junction. The space where the shopping mall now stands, however, was long a grassy field until in the 1930s when plans were made to build the headquarters of Polish Radio on the site. Designed to be over 100 meters tall and thus the tallest building in Warsaw at the time, construction was interrupted by the Nazi and Soviet invasions in 1939.

The former SuperSam where the Plac Unii Lubelskiej shopping mall now stands
The former SuperSam where the Plac Unii Lubelskiej shopping mall now stands

After the war, the construction site was repossessed and in the early 1960s turned into Poland’s first self-serve supermarket. The enormous supermarket – known as Supersam (SAM in Polish stands for samoobsługowy or “self-service”) – was built with an innovative design and was an excellent example of Polish modernist architecture until it was demolished (despite protests to save it) in 2006. Now the high-end Plac Unii City Shopping mall and office tower complex (opened in 2013) stands in its place.

About the author

Josh Seale

Josh Seale is pursuing an MA in interdisciplinary German and European Studies at Georgetown University with a specialization in German-Polish relations. He holds a BA in Germanic Studies from the University of Chicago and has interned abroad in Germany and studied abroad previously in Poland. He is currently serving as an SRAS Home and Abroad Scholar in Warsaw, Poland.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Josh Seale