Crespi d’Adda is a historical settlement in Capriate San Gervasio, Lombardy, northern Italy. It is an outstanding example of the 19th and early 20th-century “company towns” built in Europe and North America by enlightened industrialists to meet the workers’ needs. The site is still intact and is partly used for industrial purposes, although changing economic and social conditions now threaten its survival. Since 1995 it has been on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
In 1875 Cristoforo Benigno Crespi, a textile manufacturer from Busto Arsizio (Varese), bought the 1 km valley between the rivers Brembo and Adda, to the south of Capriate, with the intention of installing a cotton mill on the banks of the Adda.
Cristoforo Crespi introduced the most modern spinning, weaving and finishing processes in his Cotton Mill. The Hydroelectric power plant in Trezzo, on the Adda river just a few Km upwards, was built up around 1906 for the manufacturer Cristoforo Benigno Crespi. The settlement which was built in 1878 next to the cotton-mill was a village, a residential area provided with social services such as a clinic, a school building, a theatre, a cemetery, a wash-house and a church.
Both the town and the factory were illuminated thanks to electric light. The village of Crespi d’Adda was the first village in Italy to have modern public lighting. The workers houses, of English inspiration, are lined up in order along parallel roads to the East of the factory. A tree-lined avenue separates the production zone from the houses, overlooking a chequer-board road plan. The whole architecture and town planning (except the first spinning department, created by engineer Angelo Colla), was submitted to the architect Ernesto Pirovano. For about fifty years Pirovano, helped by the engineer Pietro Brunati, ran the construction of the village.
In 1889 the son of Cristoforo, Silvio, started work in the factory as a director, after spending time in Oldham, England. He turned away f…
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