Crespi d
Crespi D'Adda
Cultural Italy Europe And North America Province Of Bergamo, Lombardy

Crespi d'Adda is an outstanding example of the 19th- and early 20th-century phenomenon of the 'company town' in Europe and North America, which was an expression of the prevailing philosophy of enlightened industrialists towards their employees. It survives remarkably intact, and part is still in industrial use, although changing economic and social conditions inevitably pose a threat to its continued survival.

The first company towns were built in Europe in Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, to house the large workforces assembled by the new generation of entrepreneurs to work in their factories, which were established close to sources of raw materials, power, etc. It was not until the creation of the national market following political unification that they were set up in Italy. Crespi, in Capriate San Gervasio (Bergamo), is the most characteristic and complete of these.

In 1875 Cristoforo Benigno Crespi, a textile manufacturer from Busto Arsizio (Varese), bought the 1 km2 valley between the rivers Bembo and Adda, to the south of Capriate, with the intention of installing a cotton mill on the banks of the Adda. He built three-storey multi-family houses for his workers around the mill in the early months of 1878, following a European model. When his son, Silvio Benigno Crespi, took over the management in 1889 he completed and modified the project. He turned away from the large multiple-occupancy blocks in favour of the single-family house with its own garden, which he saw as conducive to harmony and a defence against industrial strife. From 1892 onwards there was no strike or other form of social disorder for 50 years. In addition to small houses, a hydroelectric power station to supply the workers with free electricity, public lavatories and wash-houses, a clinic, a consumer cooperative, a school and small theatre, a sports centre, a house for the local priest and doctor, and other common services were built. There were also buildings with a more symbolic value, such as the church, the castle (residence of the Crespi family), a new office complex, and houses for the owners to the south of those of the workers (the former two of these date from the 1890s and the two latter from the early 1920s).

The great depression of 1929 and the harsh fascist fiscal policy resulted in the Crespi family being obliged to sell the entire town to STI, the Italian textile enterprise, which transferred it to the Rossari e Varzi Company in 1970. It then passed to the Legler Company, which sold off most of the houses. It is currently in the hands of the Polli industrial group, which currently employs some 600 people, as compared with the 3,200 employed during the years of maximum activity.

The entire complex is laid out in a geometrically regular form, divided into two parts by the main road from Capriate. The factory, a single, compact block with medieval ornamentation, is situated to the right, on the left bank of the Adda;it contains the offices designed by Ernesto Pirovano, architect of much of the construction carried out during the time of Silvio Benigno Crespi. On the opposite side of the main road are the houses, constructed within a rectangular grid of roads in three lines. In the original plan these were two-storey buildings occupied by several families, each with four rooms. Nowadays each individual family house has a small garden and a vegetable garden, the latter separating the houses from the lavatories in the rear. The earlier houses can be clearly distinguished from the later ones on stylistic and layout grounds. There is considerable variation in the styles of house, which makes for a pleasing diversity in the townscape.

The church was designed by the architect Luigi Cavenaghi following Bramante's Temple of Santa Maria in Piazza in Busto Arsizio;construction began in 1891 and was completed two years later. It is at the north end of the town in a square which also includes in its surroundings the school and theatre. The castle is the work of Pirovano, and was completed in 1897. It is an admixture of neo-Gothic Lombard elements, sculptures, and paintings with Moorish elements from the Veneto. The ensemble recalls the Romantic Gothic period, an impression that is heightened by the use of heterogeneous buildings materials The Cemetery is dominated by the Crespi family mausoleum, an Art Nouveau structure, the work of Gaetano Moretti.