History in the heart of Warsaw
The Opening of The Polonia Palace
The Polonia Palace Hotel, opened its doors for business in Warsaw, on the 14th of July 1913. Its founder Konstanty G. Przeździecki, chose the name to remind all Poles that, despite not being recognized as an independent state, Poland should always exist in hearts and minds of all its citizens. Without doubt, its presence in the heart of Vistula country, lifted the hearts of all Poles and the hotel's long history is deeply interwoven with that of Warsaw's. It has endured partition, world war and Soviet rule since its establishment and this year marked the 105th anniversary of its opening. Today a modern, bustling city can be seen from the windows of its luxurious interior.
The Essence of Luxury
From the very beginning, the hotel provided the height of luxury, offering many modern conveniences not available elsewhere at that time. Guests could avail of typewriters, telephones and fireproof safety deposit boxes, with the hotel also organizing transport solutions by operating a convenient shuttle service to nearby stations. The hotel was purposely located beside the main Warsaw-Vienna line thus becoming the first resting point for visiting dignitaries. One such VIP arrived in 1929 when the King of Afghanistan, Amanullach Chan, was awarded the Order of the White Eagle by the Second Republic of Poland. His visit confirmed that the facilities were literally- fit for a king. Every room had hot and cold running water and a central heating system operated throughout the building also servicing the existing garage of that time. In 1924 the garage was converted into a modern dance hall with the award-winning dancer Ralph Roy from Vienna becoming its artistic director. The Hotel already boasted one of the finest ballrooms in Poland which included amazing marble fireplaces and catered for the most eminent of guests. The Ladies café, extensive regional wine cellar, fashionable perfumery, hair salons and the chlorine free laundry service - meant it was at the forefront of luxurious accommodation.>
A Meeting place for Artists
Within the walls of one of three largest hotels in Warsaw, the Polonia Palace housed the Palais-Dancing restaurant which was inspired by Parisian architecture and was soon considered one of the most interesting and trendy places in the city. It was frequented by top actors, singers, artists, writers and politicians of the day. In 1924, the Author's Drama Ball, attended by Jan Lechoń, Stefan Żeromski, Kornel Makuszyński, Maria Pawlikowska and Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, took place to much fanfare in the Polonia Palace. Elite banquets in the hotel, included performances by the renowned tenor and actor Jan Kiepura. Up until World War Two, the hotel hosted the Polish Artistic Club which organized many prestigious events, the most famous of which was an exhibition of works by the avant-garde painter of Polish descent Kazimierz Malewicz (1927), which was his only exhibition in Poland. In 1929, the hotel showcased the first Miss Polonia competition which was won by Władysława Kostakówna.
Occupation and Miraculous Survival
The fact that the Polonia Palace Hotel survived the Second World War was almost miraculous in itself. Under occupation, German officers resided in the hotel and afterwards it served as a hospital and supply center for insurgents - who used the well-stocked food stores to feed their brave troops during the Warsaw Uprising. The hotel was not torched by fascists nor plundered by the Red Army, mainly due to the bravery of its loyal personnel who returned at great risk from their transit camps in Pruszków, to completely lock down the hotel. Because of these courageous efforts, the Polonia Palace was the only hotel in Warsaw to survive the war, therefore becoming the natural choice of accommodation for diplomats and embassies setting up in Warsaw after hostilities had ended. General Dwight Eisenhower, welcomed by the enthusiastic residents of Warsaw, was one such dignitary who stayed at the hotel in 1945.
The People’s Poland
From 1953, the hotel organized banquets for Eastern bloc diplomats both in the Polonia Palace and in other locations in Warsaw – such as the reception for the first leader of the People’s Republic of China - Zhou Enlai - organized in the Grand Theatre. True works of culinary art appeared on tables – live paintings made from pate and cold meat forming a six horse-drawn carriage or burning ice-cream boats complete with internal battery and lighting, dazzled all who witnessed their splendor. The hotel experienced a small transformation in 1955 when it hosted the 5th International Chopin Music Competition. The entire sixth floor was emptied of furniture and equipped with several grand pianos for the occasion. The pianos were used by the 23 year-old winner of the competition – the very handsome Adam Harasiewicz who was supposedly adored by all women in Warsaw.
There were many suggestions for a complete renovation of the hotel after the war: to remove the original stucco work, replace marble with terrazzo or other “modern solutions”, to update and enhance the entire Ludwikowska Hall. Fortunately, these plans fell through because, despite the fact that the plans were made when Gomułka was in control, for financial reasons the hotel was renovated under Gierek’s guidance when architectural design was so dependent on party approval. Thus the original appearance of The Polonia Palace has been preserved to this day.
WPT „Syrena” – Hotele Warszawskie “Syrena”
Due to the increasing influx of tourists seldom seen before in Warsaw, the mayor of Warsaw set up the Warszawskie Przedsiębiorstwo Turystyczne „Syrena” in 1974 . One of its branches was the Polonia-Metropol complex. The hotel had to adapt to the rapid, sweeping changes of the 1970's and renovated rooms hosted congresses of technicians, steelworkers, trade unions and book fairs. The guest-list was full of elite entries including famous Polish footballers - Zbigniew Boniek, Grzegorz Lato and Jan Tomaszewski. The most popular Polish bands such as “Skaldowie”, “Czerwone Gitary”, “Słowiki” from Poznań, and its annual performer – The “Śląsk” Song and Dance Ensemble. The hotel also held the reception for the commencement of operations by the first Polish community company in Warsaw.
Today, the Polonia Palace, Metropol and MDM are operated by the Hotele Warszawskie “Syrena group. The company came into being in 1991 as a result of the transformation of the WPT “Syrena” in accordance with the act of privatization of state enterprises. The name of the company is steeped in tradition and strives to maintain the highest managerial standards. For this reason, the hotel which experienced hard times in Poland in the second half of the 20th century, underwent major and partial renovations in 2004 and 2010 respectively. To save the historical integrity of the hotel, most of its elements were painstakingly restored while innovative solutions were also implemented so the hotel could offer its guests a new spacious lobby in place of the old underused courtyard.
Restoring Former Glory
The Polonia Palace has returned to its traditional roots of cultural life. In 2007, the hotel organized an exhibition of Kazimierz Malewicz’s original drawings on the 90th anniversary of painter’s stay at the hotel - his first and only exhibition in Poland. The exhibition was followed by a reception for artists and diplomats. The hotel has had strong bonds with diplomatic missions since its opening so it comes as no surprise that it now hosts numerous receptions organized by embassies and public organizations. The hotel has cooperated for many years with the Roma Musical Theatre with which it has had the great pleasure of organizing several premiere events. These included banquets for nearly 800 guests after the premiere of the musical “Pilots” and the inaugural performance of “The Phantom of the Opera”. For the latter, the hotel completely transformed its first floor. Each conference and banquet room were spectacularly designed to recreate theatre settings with stages to introduce guests to the musical. The banquets tailored various menus to tie in with the shows. Other very interesting events held in the Ludwikowska Ballroom in 2014 were two concerts by the talented pianist Lisa Nakazono. Guests were enchanted by performances of Chopin's best works by the kimono-wearing pianist.
The Polonia Palace Today
Today the hotel offers 206 elegant rooms and 10 conference and banquet rooms in which guests can hold numerous social events, business meetings and press conferences. In its elegant Polonia Restaurant and spacious Lobby Bar, guests can enjoy a view of the city center and delicious offerings of Polish and international cuisine. The hotel attracts thousands of tourists from Poland and abroad throughout the calendar. Renowned politicians and artists are frequent guests. The hotel’s interiors are used for shooting numerous music videos, commercials and films.
The Polonia Palace is a successful combination of tradition and modernity. By incorporating a tradition steeped in history, with contemporary challenges, the hotel has just written another chapter in its hundred year story. On the 4th of October 2018, The Ludwikowska Lounge - a new event space - was formally opened on the ground floor of the hotel. Traces of history can be enjoyed in the exceptional Ludwikowska Ballroom or in the English Apartment and on the other hand, modern interiors such as the new space in Ludwikowska Lounge will certainly become a background for numerous events and meetings which will undoubtedly live long in the memories of all its guests.
The final design of the hotel emerged from the collaboration of two architects: Józef Holewiński and Juliusz Nagórski. After Neo-Renaissance Bristol Hotel, Polonia Palace became the first building in Warsaw which was entirely inspired by Parisian style, starting with a characteristic mansard roof and finishing with Louis XVI style furniture in its French restaurant, where meals were served by French waiters.
Additionally the hotel offered such novelties as a telephone in each of 160 rooms and hot and cold running water, even if only six apartments were complemented with bathrooms. Other innovations included: central heating in the whole building including garages for cars (in fact - closed boxes), desks with typewriters, a fire-proof safe and auto-omnibus service transporting guests to all the capital’s stations.
There were also attractions like: ‘café with a room for ladies, hairdresser’s salon for ladies and gentlemen, perfumery with most fashionable specifics, wine cellar with excellent choice of wines from European and Polonia Hotels’ offer, and non-chloride laundrette’ with the newest imported appliances.