The line of residential and commercial buildings in the Despot Stefan Boulevard is interrupted by a very modest version of the Berlin Wall, a brick fence encapsulated with graffti, and behind it lays the whole industrial area covered with terraced roofs. A large part of the area once belonged to the Belgrade Cotton Factory, which managed to grow from a small workshop to the greatest on the mentioned space.
In 1903, near Mostar, Milan Ječmenica founded a small workshop for the production of straw hats. With the desire to expand his company, he gets help with all tax and customs, and in 1906, on an empty space right next to the former slaughterhouse, he built a weaver with 14 sewing machines. In 1911, the stock company “Milan Ječmenica and komp.” was founded, which builds and develops all of the “Milan Ječmenica and komp.” companies. The development of the factory was suddenly delayed with the beginning of the World War one, in which parts of the factory were demolished.
It was only in the 1920s that the complex continued to make progress , new facilities were built to accommodate new machines, all of it came in the name of the war compensation. A few years later, the factory fell into the hands of a new joint-stock company: Yugoslav textile factory “Mautner”, from Zagreb. The company changed its name to “Belgrade Textile Industry a.d.”, and was modernized and expanded, it became one of the largest textile companies in the Balkans. Further development was stopped by the economic crisis that hit the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and in the 1930s, the factory has become the property of “Jugochiska” company from Kranj.
The main activities that took place at the factory were the production of materials for workers’ clothing, canvas, artifcial silk fabric, cotton blankets, women’s dresses. The raw material that was used was mainly cotton from southern Serbia. In 1935, a new branch for the production of wadding, hydrophilic gauze and bandages was opened.
Most of the buildings that we can see today were built before 1924, only warehouse spaces located next to the Boulevard itself were built in 1928.
The weaves were placed in the very center of the factory and around them there were warehouses and frontier departments. The company had a total of 48 departments. It included a cotton workshop with a workshop for mixing and sorting of raw materials, a wholesale shop, a paint shop and a printing press, a modern decorative weaver, a silk weaving machine, a quarry, warehouses, dryers, filterns, a dining room for workers, a housing buildings and more. On the factory property there was also a house for commissionaire, directors and offices, a chimney, a boiler room, four apartments for the Directorate, 23 apartments for officials and masters and a worker’s bar.
Belgrade Cotton Factory was one of the largest industrial companies in Serbia between the wars. It is also one of the few companies in which the same production activity continues after World War II. After the World War II, several companies are merged into one, and so the complex becomes the part of the “Staljingrad” factory, soon the name changes to “Belgrade”, after which, around 1950, the factory received today’s name “Belgrade Cotton Factory”. The complex retains its purpose until the beginning of the 21st century.
Today, on the surface of 36,500 square meters, stand buildings from 1924, they represent some of the best preserved industrial buildings built before 1941. The complex has a great historical significance for the city of Belgrade, and it is one of the neglected physical monuments of time. The whole complex is very monumental, built in the academic spirit with the obvious characteristics of industrial architecture.
The complex is under the protection of the “Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of the City of Belgrade”, however this information does not tell us much about the future of the complex. Although very well preserved, buildings are rotting with the lack of use for almost 20 years. Today, traces of former use can be seen inside, physical evidence of the existence of a very important and large textile industry. We found a large number of samples of printed materials as well as posters that testify to the importance of the mentioned industry.
Unfortunately, the complex can not be easily accessed, going over the fence was the only way in that we could find. Of course, we did not take such an undertaking out of the busy street of Despot Stefan Boulevard. On the opposite side, from Poenkarova Street, the complex is enclosed by a simple metal fence that is very easy to skip, and after that step everything is completely open. First building that You will encounter was and old weaver whose part is now being used as for boats. All other buildings are completely abandoned, in the halls there is only construction, space and incredible lighting that leaks from the terraced roofs.
The greatest witness to the lack of use is the nature that has found its way through cracks in rooftops and walls and in the most weird ways attacked parts of the complex. From moss in the interior of the hall, to the branches of trees that randomly pierce the walls and intertwine with the construction of the buildings.
When entering and leaving the complex you will be faced with the strange looks from passers-by. They don’t understand why they see people entering the abandoned factory complex. In the same way, we don’t understand how most of the people, every day, neglect the fact that they are passing by the biggest industrial enterprise between the two wars. We are aware of the fact that the large number of our fellow citizens are not informed about the previous purpose of the complex. Nevertheless, still ignored, the monumentality of the Belgrade Cotton Factory itself speaks of its history and its significance.
1. What: Belgrade Cotton Factory
2. Where: Poenkarova 22, Palilula, Belgrade
3. How to get there: Bus: 23, 48, 78 LINK TO THE MAP
4. Entry: As already stated in the text, the complex closed from all sides and to access it You need to go over the fence. Buildings of the complex are open and there are almost no obstacles when entering.
5. Assessment of accessibility: 6/10
6. Dangers: Minimum risk of buildings collapsing in certain parts. At the very entrance to the complex, a dog guard welcomed us, who did not respond much to our presence. During the tour, we came across another dog that was guarding what looks like a residential house.