The cellar of The House of Torun Legends is actually two cellars – of two houses that used to be here in the past. They were old medieval buildings rebuilt many times throughout centuries. Finally, in year 1913 previous housing made space for new development. A new department store built for Dietrich and Sohn Company.
Here’s a few words about Dietrich family and their business. The Dietrichs come from Grossenhaim in Saxony (Germany). A legal document issued by City Council in Grossenhain in 1795 described the family as righteous, honourable and upright. Around year 1800 Christian Gottfried Dietrich moved to West Prussia, to Torun in particular. His son, Carl Benjamin Dietrich, born in 1802 set up a workshop here (in 1841). He was a blacksmith. He, along with four or five craftsmen run a small factory producing nails. His business was located at 88 Szeroka Street, on the yard of his parcel were meat stalls (parcel numbering differed from that of today). There was quite a need for hand made nails as there was no such thing like mass production those days. Gradually Dietrich extended range of products that he offered – iron door fitting and pretty much any other other building accessory.
This expansion of his company was suddenly stopped by a mass production of nails which began in Westphalia and Upper Silesia. Dietrich then moved from production to sales and re-branded his company for C.B. Dietrich.
In 1858, a critical year for company’s finance, Carl’s son – Emil – joins in, at age of 15. He was meant to be an apprentice, but his intention was to get into building industry. As times were hard for Dietrichs his father strongly insisted he needed some help, though. Emil, the oldest of Carl’s thirteen children was left no option but to agree. At the time he could not know that not only would surpass economic downturn but also he would expand their family business. Having worked hard those days he lay foundation of a powerful company.
Around 1867 need for iron goods in Prussia was great but loads of it was provided by hammer smiths of industrial region of Rhineland-Westphalia.
Goods were shipped to sea port in Gdansk(Danzig) and then transported on burgees up the river. This was, though, inconvenient. In the meantime Upper Silesia mining region was flourishing. It was supported by construction of new railways. Soon railway line connecting Vienna and Warsaw (via Upper Silesia) was extended further north to Torun and to Bydgoszcz which had had a direct railway line to Berlin for nearly twenty years. This made Torun connected with Upper Silesia, Berlin, industry areas of inland Germany and the East via Warsaw.
Emil Dietrich promptly understood what possibilities of trading Upper Silesian goods to the East are. He began distributing such goods as forged steel, iron slabs, wires, iron sheets, zinc sheets, lime and concrete. He was aware of importance of rail transport and he actively supported planning and then construction of railway to Wystruc and further east to Isterberg. It was open in 1873. New connection gave new possibilities. Dietrich sold his goods to Upper Silesia, East Prussia, Greater-Poland-Posen, and to Russia. Emil became co-owner of the company now called C.B. Dietrich & Sohn.
Their company kept developing continuously until the turn of the century when the whole industry faced crunch. This downturn is known as the “iron industry crisis”. Having experienced hard times Emil’s wish was to establish joint venture that could spare his business from any trouble in the future. In 1903 two new outside Torun company branches were set up. As the business went well again, retail stores were now separated from whole-sale stores. Emil Dietrich needed a lot of warehouse space. In 1907 he got a 40 thousand square metre parcel in Torun borough Mokre.
New warehouse and office buildings were built. Due to vicinity to a local railway station new place was connected to railway system. The whole business moved there from Szeroka street in 1908. As a part of refurbishing schedule the old building on Szeroka Street was demolished and replaced with a new one, a modern 4-storey retail store.
Dietrich was honoured throughout his life with many titles. From 1882 Emil had been a member of a Torun Trade Chamber. In 1907 he was appointed Royal Trade Advisor. Also, he was the last German director of Torun Trade Chamber. He died in Berlin in 1931.
Legenda krążąca po mieście głosi, iż dobry duch przedsiębiorczego Emila czuwa nad podziemiami kamienicy.
* Tekst i mapka zostaly opracowane na podstawie strony: www.thorn-wpr.de
* Ilustracje pochodzą z zasobów Kujawko – Pomorskiej Biblioteki Cyfrowej i Archiwum Państwowego