Saxon Museum of Industry – Chemnitz Museum of Industry, Germany
From foundry to museum – the location
On Zwickauer Straße
In 19th century Chemnitz, a large number of industrial settings were concentrated alongside today’s Zwickauer Straße. The arterial roads became favoured areas for manufactures and factories because the inner city did not provide enough space and the regulations for fire and noise protection did not allow the building of machines within the city. Some enterprises only existed for a shot time; there was a huge fluctuation.
Therefore, ten different companies – most of them were textile factories – had been situated on Zwickauer Straße 117 (today it is the museums’ registered office) from 1857 till 1910. At the same time, ten foundries were located on the same street between Falkeplatz and Lützwostraße.
When in 1858 the railway between Chemnitz and Reichenbach started to ride on a permanent basis, the incentives to build factories on this street rose for many entrepreneurs.
The factories were now built on sites that had so far been used for agricultural purposes.
At the beginning of the 20th century
Two foundries established on the territory of today’s Museum of Industry: Hugo Schreiter and Moritz Rockstroh. In 1907 the engineering company Schubert & Salzer acquired Schreiters factory and started to cast iron for knitting-and tulle machines as well as machine tools. After Rockstroh had to declare bankruptcy, Hermann Escher took the enterprise over.
Escher and his son Alfred built a capable concern in which they produced engine lathes, planning and drill machines, shapers and as well steam engines in “different sizes and of the latest made” (as their advertisement promised).
One year later the big foundry and assembly hall was built and the company was now called Hermann und Alfred Escher AG. Nearly 100 workers produced about 6000 tons of cast iron per annum.
After the First World War
At the end of the 1920ies, many companies got into difficulties. As a result, production capacities had to be closed down and jobs were reduced. Schubert & Salzer as well as the Escher AG had to cease their productions in 1930. Parts of the site were used as parking space and store rooms. In 1942, the Auto-Union acquired the whole area and built a modern foundry for the production of tank engine bodies.
The war-related loss was not so bad but as part of the armaments industry, the Auto-Union was totally dismantled. Step-by-step, it was reconstructed.
As a branch of VEB Vereinigte Chemnitzer Gießereien (from 1953 VEB Gießerei Rudolf Harlaß), the foundry produced fort he city`s machine tool factories. In 1982, the production within the factory halls on Zwickauer Straße was finally closed down and moved to a modern foundry in Wittgensdorf.
The site was handed over to the neighbouring VEB Schleifmaschinenwerk to erect new production buildings. The old buildings had already been prepared for blasting, when the demolition could be stopped at the very last minute in May 1990.
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