Żyrardów - 19th-century Factory Settlement, Żyrardów
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Żyrardów - 19th-century Factory Settlement

Żyrardów

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The “Żyrardów” company became a synonym of peerless quality of linen products, a brand recognised all over the world, having received medals at global and regional exhibitions from Saint Petersburg to Philadelphia. In years 1838-1900, the fabrics from Żyrardów were awarded 24 medals, including the Grand Prix of the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 (other products which received this distinction included the engine designed by Rudolf Diesel and the Campbell canned soup). The town itself, designed as a garden city, has also received praise, its harmonious plan and consistent realisation deemed worthy of a gold medal.

Żyrardów was an invented community. In 1829, the Association of Linen Products was established, and in 1830 the construction of a spinning mill commenced on land which formed part of the Ruda Guzowska village. The proximity of Warsaw, affordable prices of land and the agricultural infrastructure were all important, but the most significant factor were the skills and intellect of the first director of the plant, Philip de Girard, who came from France. The versatile inventor was operating in Poland since 1825 as an expert of the minister of the treasury in charge of development and improvement of industry. His track record included breakthrough inventions in the form of machines that could comb and spin flax, enhancing the process of the production of linen. In 1833, the linen factory commenced operations; however, difficult times which followed the failed uprising made it impossible for it to develop as rapidly as it could have done. In 1857, the Bank of Poland sold the plant, seized due to unpaid debts, to a company owned by the Austrian industrialists Charles Hielle and Charles August Dittrich. Together with the plant they have also taken over the earlier plans for the construction of a thoroughly modern Factory Settlement - a town worthy of the challenges of the age of steam. The centre of the complex was occupied by a four-storey building of the linen spinning mill erected according to the plans drawn up by Jan Jakub Gay. The historic network of roads in the form of the Wiskitkska street (today known as 1 Maja street) and Sokulska street (today known as Stefana Żeromskiego street) formed the basis of the new, purposefully designed street network of the Factory Settlement. The housing estate was designed on a grand scale, covering an area of 28 hectares of which 16.5 were owned by the enterprise which also owned the factory. In 1867, the settlement consisted of 27 residential buildings. They were small, free-standing two-storey brick buildings erected on a rectangular floor plan, with low gable roofs, modelled on the houses for weavers, erected during the 1st half of the 19th century.

Dittrich and Hille did not limit themselves to spinning mills, weaving mills and the bleachery. A railway station, hospital and a shelter for the elderly were also built. The enterprise funded two schools, an orphanage (along with a residential house for pre-school teachers), a Folk House with an auditorium as well as elegant club for officials and technical staff. With the passing of time, the town hall was erected, along with a fire station, the villas for the members of the Management Board and an Exchange Office, the latter serving as the place where the directors of the enterprise would meet. A library for the factory staff was also opened. In 1885-1890, a mansion of Charles Dittrich Jr. was built in the neo-Renaissance style, bordering with a landscape park with an area of approx. 5 hectares. The informal layout of the park (designed by K. Sparman) consistent with the spirit of the Belle Epoque, was based on a naturalistic arrangement of water courses, spanned by numerous small bridges. In years 1900-1903, a dominant structure in the form of a neo-Gothic church designed by J. P. Dziekoński was built. In contrast to the magnificently preserved residential complex, the industrial area underwent numerous changes in the 20th century (the damage sustained during World War I, the interwar period of neglect, chaotic economic transformation during the era of the Polish People’s Republic). Bricked chimneys disappeared from the landscape of the town, while the former factory halls were adapted to serve as modern lofts. However, the change of the function of the former factory buildings turned out to be a way of protecting the original structure of this historic industrial town.

The Factory Settlement is a unique example of an applied concept for the formation of a Polish industrial town, its rich functional programme and spatial solutions being similar to the vision of ideal towns of the 19th-century industrial Europe. In Żyrardów, the dreams of capitalists who happened to care about much more than just their own purse and who set out to create a town that could not only yield a profit, but also remain friendly to the working class men and women who inhabited it, came true at the last. The designers of the town knew that man was not just a cog in a great machine - one that could be easily replaced. In 1899, a note appeared in the press which initially was regarded as unbelievable - one which proclaimed that Charles Dittrich Jr. handed out a part of the money from sale of shares of the factory to the most distinguished of his workers. In fact, however, most of the said proceeds would be earmarked for charity.

General information

  • Type: urban layout
  • Chronology: lata 30. XIX - pocz. XX w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Żyrardów
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district żyrardowski, commune Żyrardów
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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