Since the establishment of the first manufacture in 1764, which grew into the driving facility of the Rijeka rope factory, through its mid-19th century heyday and a true flourishing of construction of industrial complexes on the turn to the 20th century, Rijeka was known as the city of industrial heritage all until mid-20th century. Once large industrial facilities remain scattered around the city, particularly in the area of Mlaka and the Industrijska Ulica Street. The now economically desolate industrial activity of Rijeka nevertheless left notable architectural works from late 19the and first half of 20th century, that have only recently gained the recognition as Rijeka’s undiscovered cultural potential.
Sugar plant palace
Arrival of sugar refinery plant in Rijeka urban area is an important landmark which triggered a huge wave of industrialisation in 1750 and left an important trace on the destiny and landscape of the city of Rijeka. Mlaka was the first area of town to undergo change in appearance, the area where the sugar plant opened its first factory compound, whose expansion lead to construction of another factory complex on Brajda, also known as the Benčić complex.
Administrative building was completed in 1752 as the main building of the larger complex owned by the Trieste-Rijeka privileged company (Tršćansko-riječka priviligirana kompanija), and was renovated after the fire of 1785 and lavishly ornamented with mouldings and wall paintings. This exceptional building, frescos, and general historic importance are the best narrators of the story about the stages of the rapid progress of Rijeka during industrial revolution when Rijeka was one of most important ports in the Mediterranean.
After the Second World War and all until the end of the 20th century the former sugar and tobacco factory building was used by the Rikard Benčić Motorcycle company after whose name the entire complex has remained famous in the popular culture.
Ulica Milutina Barača Street (formerly Industrial Street)
Self-standing railroad over-bridge was constructed in the 1930s in Rijeka shipyard »Cantieri navali del Carnaro« (today called »3rd May«), representing an engineering achievement any construction contractor would be proud of.
Rijeka lighthouse, 40 meters tall, was constructed in 1884 at the top of Rijeka wave-breaker, which crumbled into the sea due to sinking into the sea bottom. The lighthouse was consequently moved to the beginning of Baračeva Street. The lighthouse was moved for the third time in 1933, this time erected on top of a three-storey lighthouse building and reinforced in steel concrete. The lighthouse is no longer in use today.
Former Emigranti Hotel was built in 1908. Rijeka was an important port from which over 300,000 people from Central Europe migrated into the New world in early 20th century and as such required accommodation for the migrants. This led to construction of a three-storey hotel with the capacity to accommodate 2,000 people, which at the time was considered a luxury hotel.
Rice milling facility was the largest of its kind in the Habsburg Monarchy and one of the largest milling plants in the world. Along with the starch factory it ceased to operate after the First World War. In 1936, factory terrains and facilities were purchased by the neighbour Oil refinery company. The beginnings of modern oil industry in Hungary and later Italy are linked to the Mlaka oil refinery. Mlaka was also the first industrial facility of the Agip Corporation. The oil refinery in Rijeka began to operate in 1883 as the largest oil-processing facility on the European continent. Milutin Barač, after whom the street is named in the present day, was the refinery’s first CEO.
Cloak and changing building for workers and buildings called »cubuses«, were initially used for technological purposes.
Railway wagon turntable and large boiler room with turning table for railway engines was the largest of its kind in the Balkans and one of most curious buildings of Rijeka’s railway heritage and urban spatial planning in general. The ground floor, semi-ring shaped building had 22 rail tracks to house railway engines and was built just before the First World War.
Torpedo factory comprises of preserved architectural spaces, such as the Whitehead villa, the most recognisable part of the factory’s administrative building, the complex of factory halls with facilities, the warehouse constructions in steel concrete and launcher level crossing barrier. This is also the place where the first torpedo factory was established in 1874. World’s first ever torpedo was made in 1866.
3rd May shipyard began to operate in the second half of the 19th century. Construction works were completed in May 1906. In the following decade the shipyard saw great technological progress and significant enlargement of spaces to adjust to growth in production and work capacity. New workshops, power central station, warehouses and administrative buildings in art-deco and historicism style began to be built by Hungarians 1911. Similar to other shipyards working condition were very poor, while the Danubius shipyard was known as the shipyard of death and the tomb of workers. After the First World War, and sale of shares it was renamed into Cantieri navali Del Quarnero. The competition from other Italian shipyards was very tight at the time. It was only after liberation of Rijeka and even later in 1948 that we can talk about the 3rd May Shipyard we know today.
In the document from 1719 Emperor Charles VI granted Rijeka and Trieste the status of free ports. Rijeka port thus became an open market for foreigners who were allowed to freely live and work in the city and ships under all flags were allowed to freely trade in the port. First public warehouses were then built and a field hospital, and the port on the mouth of Rječina River began to be arranged and the first road completed – the Karolinška cesta Road which linked the city and the port with its natural hinterland.
Modern port construction began in 1872, based on general plans of the famous French hydro-technician and constructor of the Marseille port Hilarion Pascal. Construction of two additional railway routes began at the time: the Rijeka – Karlovac and Pivka – Rijeka railroads, which connected the port with mainland Slovenia by rail, running all the way to Austrian and Czech regions. This created the preconditions that fostered the development of Rijeka port into a port of European significance which took the role of Hungary’s main port.
Rijeka port was the departure point for many people in search of a better life. In 1903, British steam boat company Cunard line started the direct Rijeka–New York steam boat line with a fleet of 11 ships (Slavonia, Caronia, Pannonia, Ultonia, Carpatia, Carmania, Saxsonia, Ivernia, Caconia, Franconia, Laconia).
The rise of the city and the port was suffocated by the First World War. The dispute over territorial claim of Rijeka was solved with the 1924 Roma Treaty. The border line divided the Rijeka port from the newly emerged Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians (Kingdom of Yugoslavia as of 1929) and Kingdom of Italy. The port was divided in a way that Italy took hold of the modern, well-equipped port, which was quite useless without connections to the mainland, while the Kingdom of Yugoslavia now had a spacious but modest former port of Baross without modern warehouses and Delta with large wood storage warehouses. Despite multiple measures by the Italian government the profitability and turnover of the Rijeka port was gradually decreasing.
In 1947, when Rijeka was under Military administration, it came under Yugoslavian territory and became, along with Sušak, a unique city with unique port pool. It went to become the most important port of the former state entity and of today’s Croatia.