Crespi d’Adda, the industrial village
Crespi d’Adda is a fraction of the municipality of Capriate San Gervasio, in Lombardy, and is the best preserved workers’ village in Europe. Founded in 1877 by Cristoforo Crespi alongside his textile industry, since 1995 Crespi d’Adda has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site because this workers’ villages is one of the most complete and best preserved in South Europe,
This working-class village was born in 1876 at the behest of its founder, Cristoforo Crespi, who was looking for a place to set up a textile factory that produced excellent quality cotton. But the manpower also needed to work under the right conditions. He therefore had an avant-garde intuition for the time: to build a workers’ village in Crespi d’Adda that could accommodate its workers. Here then, over the years, workers’ houses (complete with garden and vegetable garden) are built, surrounded by structures and service infrastructures. Designed as an ideal small town, the workers’ village of Crespi d’Adda combined the useful with the beautiful, work with free time, fatigue with well-being.
The village arose, developed and began its decline in the short turn of half a century. In fact, the experiment lasted fifty years and ended in 1929. Today the factory is no longer in operation while the village houses a community largely descended from those who lived or worked here. Walking through the streets of the workers’ village of Crespi d’Adda is like to traveling through time.
Crespi d’Adda is a historic settlement in Lombardy, a great example of 19th century company towns built in Europe. It has been a World Heritage Site since 1995. (foto © Joaquin Ossorio Castillo / Shutterstock.com)
The practice of building individual houses, neighborhoods or even villages adjacent to the factories, spread in Italy from the example of British and French models in the last decades of the nineteenth century, in conjunction with the industrialization of the Country. Most of these interventions had a common denominator: the vision of the factory as a large family led with strength and responsibility by a paternalistic figure, that of the entrepreneur.
The village is made up of dozens of workers’ houses with a square plan, with vegetable gardens and surrounded by fences. Further on, in the distance, you can see the houses of the foremen and the villas of the managers.
The orderly plan that regulates the relationships among buildings, roads and the territory is immediately evident. This is, in fact, divided in an orderly way into three parts that are separated by two roads that follow the route that leads from north to south. The division is clear among the residential area, arranged in regular parallel straight lines, the public utility area, where the buildings of public interest are arranged, and the industrial area, where there is what remains of the original “Cotonificio Crespi”.
This division was functional to the activities that took place within the village. A part was intended to house the residences of those who worked in the factory. The central part dedicated to public functions and common buildings such as the wash house, the after-work, the hotel, the church, the theater and the schools, as well as the small hospital, the public baths, the fire station and, at a distance, at the end of the village, the cemetery (which also houses the mausoleum of the Crespi family). The last part, the one further west, intended for work, with the factory and the manor house of the Crespi family. The manor house is the visually richest building in Crespi d’Adda: it was the house that the Crespi family used during their stay in the village. It was built between 1893 and 1894 in a late romantic style with the forms taken from medieval buildings, so much so that the building is often known as “the castle”. In the vicinity of the village, on the left bank of the Adda river, near the factory, is the Crespi d’Adda hydroelectric plant, recently restored and open to tourist visits.
The workers’ village of Crespi d’Adda is not delimited by barriers and is therefore always open to the public. Those who wish can carry out the visit independently, or by participating in a guided tour.
Text: Luca @ Italien.blog
Perspective view of the weaving sheds in the village of Crespi D’Adda – a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy. (foto © Shutterstock.com)