Silvio Benigno Crespi (1868–1944)
Silvio Benigno Crespi was principally responsible for the building of Crespi d’Adda the most spectacular industrial community in Italy.
The cotton mills at Crespi d’Adda, established by his father in 1878, were powered by a canal that ran alongside the River Adda. Crespi graduated in law at the University of Pavia in 1889 before embarking on a tour of Europe during which he studied cotton manufacturing in France, Germany and England. While in England he worked for a spell at Platt Brothers, Oldham near Manchester, then the world’s largest manufacturer of textile machinery. He then joined his father and was responsible for many of the buildings for which Crespi d’Adda has become famous, including the family residence, a ‘castle’ built in 1894-97 to the design of Ernesto Pirovano, which has an octagonal tower overlooking the works rising above crenellation and gargoyles. Pirovano also designed houses for managers in the 1920s which combined elements both from castles and traditional Alpine chalets.
The River Adda is notable for a succession of early hydro-electric plants and in 1909 a hydro-electric plant was installed at Crespi d’Adda itself. Crespi himself had a profound understanding of electrical engineering, and developed financial interests in other hydro-electric generating stations, in electricity distribution companies and in the use of electricity in smelting metals. The textile business at Crespi d’Adda prospered during the First World War when it specialised in the manufacture of canvas for aircraft. By the time of its golden jubilee in 1928 the plant employed 3600 people, had a spinning capacity of 69,000 spindles, and 1200 looms.
Crespi, like many Italian industrialists, was active in politics. He was a Senator, and signed the Versailles Treaty in 1919 on behalf of the Italian government. He proposed a system of international container transport as early as 1928.