Warszawa - the William Lindley Filter Station Complex, Warszawa
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Warszawa - the William Lindley Filter Station Complex

Warszawa

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William Lindley, an English engineer, and Sokrates Starynkiewicz, a tsarist general acting as President of Warsaw (in years 1875-1892) who also happened to share the vision of technology that could be put to a common use, are the people about whom the positivists wrote that they “pulled Warsaw out of the 18th century almost by force”. The Central Waterworks Station, commonly referred to as the Filter Station or “the Filters”, erected on a vast plot of land located between Koszykowa and Filtrowa streets, became an impressive sign of technological progress. The water tower surrounded by greenery, the machine halls, administration buildings, underground containers, auxiliary and residential buildings as well as the preserved machinery and technical devices together form an industrial monument of the highest order. The water supply system in Warsaw is the only fully preserved complex of industrial architecture of its kind anywhere in Europe; furthermore, it is still a fully functional plant, supplying water to nearly 1/3 of the city to this day. Owing to the meticulous attention to detail and the highest quality of the building materials used (bricks fired in a specific manner which made them resistant to moisture, the underground section of the station (the interiors of slow sand filters, sedimentation tanks for raw water and containers for clean water) as well as many other parts thereof look the same as when the plant was first commissioned. There was no need to replace any parts of its structure.

The presence of a sewage system and healthy, clean water supplied to individual apartments may seem rather obvious today, yet in the 19th-century Warsaw the idea of a new waterworks was fiercely opposed by some, even though most realised that the existing water supply systems could no longer keep up with the rapid development that the city was experiencing. The public, however, objected to a number of things, including the nationality of the designer to whom the Municipal Council entrusted the project, the costs of the said project as well as the alleged infringements of the rights of ownership that the implementation thereof would entail. Neither Lindley nor Starynkiewicz spoke Polish, however, and so they ignored these objections, working on a project envisaged for a city with half a million inhabitants, even though back then the population of Warsaw was approximately 300 thousand. In 1876, a contract was signed with Lindley for the preliminary design of the water supply system and sewage system; after two years the finished concept was submitted to the authorities at the City Hall. The advantage of the presented design was the possibility of extending the station’s capacity in order to meet the rising demand for water. In the same year, the Committee for Construction of the Sewerage System and Water Supply System was appointed, and the municipal authorities prepared a contract for the first stage of the works, which was finally concluded in 1881 with William Lindley’s son, William Heerlein, since his father decided to retire in 1879. The filter station in Koszykowa street were built in years 1883-1886, when the first stage of the project was completed, allowing water to be delivered straight to the customers’ houses and apartments at long last; the opening of the River Pump Station in Czerniaków, where water was drawn from the river, complemented the entire effort. The public expected nothing short of a miracle. As Bolesław Prus wrote, “And so we shall now breathe with greater ease, pharmacists will abandon their trade in favour of the supply of wines and spices, undertakers shall have no choice but to take up ballet dancing, while those engaged in the manufacture of coffins will be jailed for debts”. Warsaw would now joined an exclusive club of six other cities in Europe which had a sewerage system, the others being Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Gdańsk and Wrocław. In 1886, the population of Warsaw was 432 000, while its public sewerage network was 17.6 km long; however, in 1888 a mere 55 houses were actually connected to the sewerage collection system, as the decision on whether to build the connections remained a “personal matter” of individual landowners. In 1900, the year that William Lindley died, the length of the sewerage system reached 234.4 km. The cost which the city had to incur was about 17 million rubles, while its annual budget amounted to 2.5 million rubles. The water supply system in Warsaw was being extended along with development of the city (in 1933, the Rapid Filter Plant was put into use, designed in the Art Deco style), although the original core of the filtering plant remains in constant use. The maps drawn up during the implementation of this revolutionary project formed a mere by-product thereof, albeit a priceless one. Section plans were prepared in years 1883-1915 (on a 1:250 scale); today, they remain among the most outstanding works of cartography in the world. Precision goes here hand in hand with elegance, accuracy of drawing and the highest class of cartographic art. The sculpted bust of president Starynkiewicz, funded from public donations and unveiled in 1907, was meant to remind the future generations of this great achievement, as its still does today, having been put on display once again in 1996. After 1918, the traces of Russian dominance in Warsaw were being meticulously wiped out, yet the sculpture remained intact. It was later destroyed by the Nazis. From 2011 onwards, William Heerlain Lindley has a monument of his own, erected on the Castle Grounds (Podzamcze) in Warsaw, whereas his father was commemorated in 2008 through the erection of a monument in Hamburg.

General information

  • Type: technical monument
  • Chronology: 1883 - 1926
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Koszykowa 81, Warszawa
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district Warszawa, commune Warszawa
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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