Moravian-silesian Region Ostrava Vitkovice Urban Heritage Zone

The first written documentation about a village called Witchendorf comes from 1357. The year 1828 was a decisive milestone in the history of the village with only 200 ihabitants. On the basis of a recommendation by the Viennese professor F. X. Riepl, the Archbishop of Olomouc – Archduke Rudolf Habsburg – took the decision to build an ironworks. Construction began at the end of April 1829 and the first part of the works to launch production was the puddle furnace (16 September, 1830), which made soft iron using a coal-fired furnace. In 1836 and 1838 the first two coke-fired blast furnaces were built, and the corporation acquired its own iron ore and coal mines. Production really took off in 1843 when the corporation passed into the ownership of Salomon Mayer of the Rothschild dynasty.

It is beyond doubt that the ironworks exercised a key influence over all aspects of life in Vítkovice, playing the leading role in the community’s development. Shortly after the construction of the works, the face of Vítkovice began to change dramatically. From the very beginning, the rapidly growing population was catered for by the construction of company housing in the immediate vicinity of the works. The owners of the works soon realized that besides providing accommodation, the company would also benefit if it paid attention to the health, education and cultural life of its employees and their families.

Under the supervision of Paul Kupelwieser, the director of ironworks between 1876 and 1893, a plan for the construction of ‘New Vítkovice’ was drawn up and gradually implemented. The aim was to build a modern housing complex that would not only provide easy access to the works, but would also offer a high standard of architecture and civic amenities making it truly ahead of its time. Kupelwieser was assisted in his plans by a number of renowned Czech and Viennese architects.

The first part of the ‘New Vítkovice’ project to be built was the workers’ housing complex known as Westend, consisting of four single-storey buildings. This was followed by the four buildings for clerical staff, known as the ‘English’ complex. For high-ranking staff, a villa was built at the crossroads of Ruská and Výstavní streets. Further construction included workers’ accommodation, a hospital, a church, a market etc. and a town hall, which was completed in 1902. In 1880 a bell tower was built, originally it was a water tower with two tanks of 50 m3 each. As the highest structure in the centre of Vítkovice, the tower became a local landmark. In 1883 - 1886 the aisle of St Pauls Church was build out. The most characteristic feature of the Vítkovice architectural style is its consistent use of open brickwork.