Works on Plac Trzech Krzyży in September were briefly paused after a pre-war cobbled pavement was unearthed underneath the asphalt, as well as fragments of a tram track that once ran down the street.
Impressed by the nature of its condition, the Conservator of Monuments immediately announced plans on Facebook to protect the discovery. “The pavement is well preserved,” said the statement. “We will do everything together with City Hall and the Municipal Roads Authority to ensure that it again enjoys the eyes of Warsaw’s residents.”
Covered since the 1960s, updated plans for the PLN 16 million project were revealed confirming more greenery and further research to be undertaken concerning the protection of some of the historic elements that were uncovered.
Yet whilst these recent finds have served to fascinate the public, Warsaw has plenty of other such traces that have doggedly survived…
Not to be confused with the football team, the Arsenał building just north of Pl. Bankowy once fell next to Nalewki – commonly judged to have been the epicenter of pre-war Jewish life, it was here that all walks of life met in a confounding collision of noise and bustle. “Such crowds,” wrote Henryk Nagiel in 1911, “all gesticulating, arguing and accosting each other. To break through this human swarm was impossible! And in the middle, ran tram with loud bells, their heavily loaded carriages rattling.” With the area obliterated during the destruction of the Ghetto, and subsequently remapped, the one surviving element is a tram line that ghosts past Arsenał and runs adjacent to Krasiński Gardens.
The first tram connection between the city center and what was then the village of Wola debuted in 1882 – around half-a-century after Chopin took this route out of town to enter permanent exile. Electrified in 1908, this tram route gained infamy during WWII when it continued to operate despite being flanked on either side by ‘small’ and ‘large’ Jewish Ghettos. The route was revived after the war, but was cancelled for good after a parallel line of communication was constructed as part of the W-Z highway project. Last used on November 22nd, 1948, traces of the tram track can still be seen running to the side of the church on Chłodna.
As a center of pre-war Jewish, Russian and Polish trade, Pl. Grzybowski was long seen as a major communication node. Triangular in shape, it was bound by tram lines – though trams officially ceased running here in 1956, the tracks remained and were often used by both breakdown crews and film units. On the side of the Cosmopolitan tower, rails remain in place – the other two sides, meanwhile, have had the former tracks symbolically re-laid in colored stone as part of Grzybowski’s renovation.
Perhaps no street has played a more central role in the regeneration of the once-maligned Praga district. It’s unique flavor is underscored by the Neo Gothic gates of the former Koneser Vodka Factory, the peeling street art, shadowy inner courtyards and dark, murky bars that dot the road. But also playing a role is the disused tramline that runs towards Targowa. Essential to the atmosphere of the street, it lends a sense of history to this gentrifying road.
Snuck discreetly between the bombastic Pl. Konstytucji and the wedding cake pomp of the city’s Polytechnic (famed alumni: the fictional Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld!), Śniadeckich street feels like one of Warsaw’s hidden secrets – a picturesque place lined with elegant pre-war buildings. Between these, find a set of perfectly preserved tramlines that were rediscovered in 2005 – nearly sixty-years after they were last properly used.