Łódź - a Multicultural Landscape of an Industrial City, Łódź
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Łódź - a Multicultural Landscape of an Industrial City

Łódź

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Łódź, much like Manchester, the mining cities of the Ruhr district, or many Spanish ports, came into being as a result of rapid economic development that occurred within a short time-span. In 1820, it was considered to be a factory city; in 1821, areas for the construction of industrial buildings were designated. A number of government-funded settlements for weaving craftsmen originating from Silesia, Greater Poland and Germany were built there; these included the New Town, a clothing manufacturing centre (located alongside the northern section of the Piotrków-Łęczyca road, later renamed as Piotrkowska street) and the Łódka settlement, specialising in cotton and linen fabrics (located alongside the same road). Single-storey, wooden or brick houses were erected. Larger structures were built on the estates situated along the valley of the Jasień river (e.g. the bleaching plant built in years 1824-1825, currently known as the Kopisch Bleachery). Conditions for the settlement of Jews in Łódź were also specified at that time. The city experienced a period of remarkable growth. In 1820, the number of its residents was a mere 800; in 1864 that figure skyrocketed to 38 thousand, reaching a staggering 280 thousand in year 1900. Factories and grand edifices as well as working class houses and makeshift buildings for the poor expanded rapidly into areas formerly occupied by fields and wastelands. In 1841, Łódź obtained the title of a governorate city, which was considered a mark of distinction.

The Government of the Kingdom of Poland made efforts to attract many wealthy investors by granting them preferential credits. Even before 1830, the fabrics made in Łódź were being exported to Russia and China. Following the market slump which occurred after the November Uprising, textile factories in Łódź have managed to regain their markets (including the Russian market) in the mid-19th century. Among those who came to do business in Łódź from other places, one needs to mention Ludwik Geyer from Saxony, who introduced modern weaving and spinning techniques to the region of Łódź. In 1837, mechanic looms and a 50-horsepower steam engine were brought to his factory (the so-called White Factory, today used as the Central Museum of the Textile Industry). In 1850 these plants, employing 650 workers, produced goods worth half a million Russian rubles. When customs barriers between the Kingdom of Poland and Russia were abolished in 1850, the percales manufactured in Łódź began conquering the markets in the east and west alike. The establishment of a railway connection with Koluszki in 1866 facilitated export; subsequent railway lines connected the city with Warsaw, Kalisz and Zgierz. In order to meet the growing demand, enormous factory jurydykas (settlements located near the city, enjoying a substantial degree of independence from municipal laws and remaining under the jurisdiction of the private individuals who chartered them) were built. A caste of multi-millionaires was rapidly rising to power.

After the year 1870 Karol Scheibler built a spinning mill in Księży Młyn, near his palace and an older factory known as the Central Plant; the spinning mill, known for its octagonal towers in which staircases were located, was later joined by a housing estate for factory workers, featuring an unusual design that was very modern in its day. The villa designed for Scheibler’s daughter and her husband, Edward Herbst, was also built nearby, its design attributed to H. Majewski. In 1878, Izrael Kalmanowicz Poznański erected his own spinning mill - a building featuring exposed brick façades and elements of the neo-Renaissance style. It was often remarked jokingly that any of those two industrial tycoons could buy the Kingdom of Poland - if they only wished to. The palaces of the Poznański family, including the mansion in Ogrodowa street, are an excellent proof of their enormous wealth. The building was designed by the most distinguished architects of the era (J. Jung, D. Rosenthal, A. Zeligson (?)); the final result remains an impressive achievement to this day. Legends abounded about the Łódź factory owners and their mansions, including one about grand rooms decorated with golden rubles. Today, Łódź features the largest of all surviving complexes of buildings designed in the historicist style anywhere in Poland, an impressive array of tenement houses (including those on Piotrkowska street) as well as the grand residences built for the textile tycoons of yesterday, which have become the city’s hallmark. Most of these buildings were built in the eclectic, neo-Renaissance or neo-Baroque style. In the beginning of the 20th century, motifs characteristic for the Art Nouveau style have started to appear on the façades of tenement houses designed by G. Landau-Gutenteger.

However, the chasm between luxury and abject poverty in Łódź continued to widen; no other city in the Kingdom of Poland at the time has experienced such extreme differences in wealth. These contrasts led to riots and revolt, one example of these phenomena being the first general strike to be held in Poland (1892). The city of Łódź also bore witness to violent events in 1905 - the year of the revolution. Łódź was a place where Jews, Poles, Russians, Czechs and Germans lived side by side in relative harmony. This religious mosaic resulted, among other things, in the stylistic diversity of temples, the dynamic pace of development of the city being reflected in their number. The city’s multilingual press, literary salons, cafés, clubs, theatres and glorious collections of art - all this made up a magnificent and fully multicultural city; however, much of all those achievements would later be lost as the violent events of the 20th century came to pass. In the end, only the cemeteries remained: the Old Cemetery with Catholic, Evangelical and Orthodox sections as well as the New Jewish Cemetery. They serve as the best possible illustration of the words of St Thomas from Kempis, as applied to the history of Łódź: sic transit gloria mundi - from the monumental neo-Gothic mausoleum of Charles Scheibler to the pits in which people murdered in the ghetto were buried without a name. Today, it is down to us to protect the impressive architectural relics of the rich, industrial city, to document its outstanding history; however, nothing may change the fact that the world of Karol Borowiecki, Max Baum and Moryc Welt is now lost forever.

General information

  • Type: urban layout
  • Chronology: 1821 - 1939
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Łódź
  • Location: Voivodeship łódzkie, district Łódź, commune Łódź
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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