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Regional route Silesia | Poland

Silesian Voivodeship can boast the highest number of historic industrial buildings in Poland. Their uniqueness and authenticity enrich the region, reflecting its specificity and cultural identity. They also constitute an integral part of the European cultural legacy. Industrial development in Europe in ... more

Industrial history of the Silesian voivodeship

Silesian Voivodeship can boast the highest number of historic industrial buildings in Poland. Their uniqueness and authenticity enrich the region, reflecting its specificity and cultural identity. They also constitute an integral part of the European cultural legacy.

Industrial development in Europe in the 18th Century brought significant socio-economic and ecological changes in Silesia. The region, previously peripheral from the European perspective, became one of the leaders in the industrial era. Appointing the Higher Mining Authority in Wrocław, with Graf von Reden designated as its head, was an important step in the development of industry. The activities run by the authority allowed Silesia to bring in new technologies, machines and qualified staff. The areas rich in raw materials became strewn with mine shafts, slag heaps and metallurgical furnaces. Also new towns were appearing.

Among Silesia’s industrial barons were aristocratic families such as the Henckel von Donnersmarcks, the Ballestrems, the Schaffgotschs, the Hochbergs and the Hohenlohes. Major middle-class industrialists were engaged in the zinc industry, such as the “the King of Zinc” Karl Godulla and Franz von Winckler, the founder of the city of Katowice.

Mining played a key role from the very beginning, with ores being extracted since the middle ages. Hard coal mining was the fuel base of the other branches of industry. The second strongest branch was metallurgy, whose development was triggered by the construction in 1796 of a large coke oven in the Royal Cast-Iron Foundry (KOZG) in Gliwice. Another steelworks founded by the Prussian King was the “Royal Steelworks” in today’s Chorzów. Following the pattern of 19th century governmental plants, private steelworks were appearing, with adjacent coal mines. Throughout the 20th century, Silesian metallurgy, integrally connected with mining, in terms of technological progress was one of Europe’s leaders. 

Industrial development led to the expansion of the infrastructure, to meet the needs of developing transport of both raw materials and ready products. The most important investment was the Kłodnicki Canal, the construction of which started in 1792. The canal joined the mines of Zabrze with the Royal Cast-iron Foundry (KOZG) in Gliwice, and, via the Oder, with other areas of Prussia. The 19th century also featured a rapid development of the rail network. In 1846 Mysłowice–Wrocław railroad was launched, in 1855 the Bohumin–Oświęcim railroad, and in 1859 a branch of the Warsaw–Vienna railroad.

Bielsko was the symbol of industrialisation in the Austrian part of Silesia, where textile factories were predominant. Also in the 19th century Częstochowa and Sosnowiec, which were a part of the Russian Empire, launched multiple spinning mills, weaving mills and dye houses.

In the Silesian Voivodeship many historic food industry monuments can be found. The most numerous group consists of breweries, which are still in use. In rural areas a separate group form "small" technological monuments such as mills, smithies and granaries. Particularly worth attention is a trout farm in Z³oty Potok, established on the Wiercica river by Edward Raczyñski in 1881. It was the first lowland trout farm in Europe.

Because of the 19th century concentration of industry, as well as the trends in the Polish economy post 1945, at the end of the 20th century many historic plants with old machines, devices and entire technological systems were still in operation. The process of adjusting the region’s economy to the conditions of the free market, started in the 1990s, caused numerous industrial plants to lose the economic base to ensure their further functioning.

The authorities of the Silesian Voivodeship did bear in mind the significance of monuments for the history and identity of the region. A project consisting of creating a network of the most interesting monuments connected with the industrial culture, in terms of history and architecture, was put into implementation. Thus was established the Silesian Industrial Monuments Route – a "branded" tourist product and Poland’s most interesting route as far as industrial tourism is concerned.

The Silesian Industrial Monuments Route

The Industrial Monuments Route was created in October 2006, as a theme motoring tourist route. It comprises more than thirty monuments connected with the traditions of mining, metallurgy, the power industry, railroads, communications, water production and the food industry. Each monument is either a real place or complex of machines or exhibits which in past centuries witnessed the Industrial Revolution. Museums and heritage parks are both presented there, as well as operating production plants, public utilities and workers’ settlements.

All monuments on the route are marked with a signboard written in three languages, including a description of the monuments and information for tourists. Particular objects belong to Local-Government authorities, private persons and companies.

Thanks to their diversity, the monuments of the Industrial Monuments Route form a multidimensional picture of the bygone eras and perfectly complement one another. Just like a time machine, the Route offers the visitors travel throughout the centuries, guaranteeing at the same time an incredible adventure and unforgettable experience.

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ERIH Anchor Points

Tarnowskie Góry | Poland

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Member Sites ERIH Association

Chorzów | Poland

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Rybnik | Poland

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Bielsko-Biala | Poland

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Cieszyn | Poland

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Czeladź | Poland

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Częstochowa | Poland

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Częstochowa | Poland

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Dąbrowa Górnicza | Poland

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Gliwice | Poland

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Karchowice | Poland

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Mysłowice | Poland

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