“The history of glassworks in Krosno is almost 100 years old!
The history of Krosno City of Glass began in 1923, when a glassworks was built and opened within the limits of the then city. The name was officially given to the town on June 2, 2012 with the opening of the Glass Heritage Centre there. The President of Krosno was given symbolic glass keys to the city gates and the act of locating Krosno – the Glass City, engraved on a glass plate, was signed.
Thus, in 2012, after about 650 years since its foundation, Krosno in a sense was born again. New life, and therefore new opportunities and hopes, but also tradition and an obliging heritage cultivating the glass history of the region.
And this story will begin when Poland regained its independence.
On November 11, 1918, an armistice between Germany and the Entente states was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne, France. This date effectively ended the First World War. As a result, Poland regained its independence after 123 years of partitions. The country was devastated, traces of war and years of foreign rule were visible at every turn. Corrective action was quickly taken. Construction works have started. Industrial plants, public buildings, roads and bridges were erected.
In the first years of independence, Krosno, with a population of about 6,000, faced many problems. Lack of industry and thus lack of work, modest, partly rural buildings were the everyday reality of those times. Soon the construction of industrial plants that changed the city began: “”Lnianka””, “”Wudeta”” Rubber Plant and glassworks.
In 1923, talks concerning the planned investment were coming to an end. Representatives of Polskie Huty Szkła Akcyjna with its seat in Krakow came to Krosno looking for a place to finalize the project. The choice fell on the estate of Cecylia Kaczkowska, née Potocka. In her palace the final talks of the procedure took place and the deed of purchase of a part of the manor land was signed. A glass factory was to be built on the site.
Construction work began in the same year. The plant was quickly erected and the crew began to be assembled. The first steelworkers came from distant places: the Borderlands (Żółkwi near Lviv), Silesia, and Romania. Already in January 1924 the plant was opened. Production started and the first shipments of finished products began to leave the plant. Many families have gained a steady source of income. Of the approximately 1,200 people employed at the plant, most worked in the main hall, where glass was melted in furnaces and glassworkers made glass objects by hand.
The steelworks has blended into the urban landscape. It has become part of the lives of its residents, and the production has gained recognition. This was demonstrated by the gold medal received from the Minister of Industry and Trade, Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski, at the General National Exhibition in Poznań (1929).
World War II
On September 1, 1939, World War II began with the attack on Poland. One of the Luftwaffe’s strategic targets was the Krosno airfield and the “”Wudeta”” rubber factory. The loom found itself in the heat of battle. The Germans entered it on September 8, beginning a five-year occupation. The Nazi terror covered the city’s everyday life. The tragic balance of the occupation in the district is 3700 dead.
The steelworks, like the other plants, was given a German management, represented by Oskar Happak and Walter Behm. Work suspended for the war effort was quickly resumed. During the war over 600 people worked in the steelworks. Household glass, lighting glass, and even crystals were produced.
For Krosno, the war ended in the fall of 1944. The retreating German troops set fire to the steelworks on 9 September, earlier taking away machines, products, destroying raw materials and infrastructure. The factory was burning down before the eyes of the people of Krosno, but at the same time freedom was coming. The smelter, which had been on fire for two days, was almost completely destroyed. The ruins, protruding into the sky, attracted the worried citizens of the city. On September 11, 1944 the last act of the war drama took place. Soviet troops entered Krosno. These were the 241st Infantry Division, the 140th Division of the 38th AR of the Byelorussian Front, and the 12th Armored Brigade. Along with them came the socialist order.
Already 9 days after the liberation, at a meeting of 40 steelworkers, it was decided to rebuild the plant. Work began immediately. The repair and construction brigade consisted of 89 people. In order to obtain funds, salvaged glass products were sold, state subsidies and prepayments from future contractors were used. In a very difficult situation, as it was just after the liberation, everything was missing. The people from Krosno, who were rebuilding the steelworks, went to the bombed airfield in search of materials. The roof truss from one of the hangars was in relatively good condition. On her hands she was carried to the steelworks, where she was used to build a new roof for the hall.
Production resumed on January 20, 1945. At that time the glassworks had only one glass bath with 6 workshops, a drawing shop (for de-stressing glass) and a few grinding stands. The first products were No. 8. oil lamp slides, blown in a mold of 2. One such glass cost 1.50 zloty (for comparison, in the autumn of 1945 in Warsaw, one egg cost almost 10 zloty, and the free-market price of a loaf of bread was about 33 zloty). The only truck they had was used to send products on further routes. In the area, transportation was by horse-drawn carts.
Steelworks employees actively participated in the life of the city and the region. They supported the rebuilding of the Krosno high school with their extra production, they went to help with the harvest and digging. In accordance with the policy of the time, the nearby villages were visited by company speakers and artistic groups.
Modernization, construction and adaptation works were constantly carried out. The increase in production and thus employment required new investments. In 1945 the plant had 267 employees and produced 329 tons of products, in 1948 – 360 crew members and 599 tons. The crew was systematically expanded. In 1950 less than 400 people worked in the plant, eight years later it was already 860. The plant was bustling with activity. Each year the production was increased. Waiting for her were households, factories, hospitals and hotels destroyed by the conflagration of war. In 1953, 1151 tons of products left the plant, five years later it was already 1833 tons. In 1958 a paint shop was opened. In the same year, in January, by virtue of a government decision, a state enterprise under the name “”Krosno Glassworks”” was established.
In 1953 the smelter became a great success – its products gained recognition in the world and exports began. The first countries on the list of Krosno glass recipients were England, Brazil and Canada. The machine park was constantly modernised. The first “”Sloan”” automatic glass making machines and “”Pall-Mall”” grinders made the work much easier and increased production. The former Kaczkowski palace was developed and adapted to the needs of the plant’s staff. It housed a common room, a library, a medical and dental clinic and a kindergarten.
In 1951 the first two company housing blocks were put into use. In 1957 another. The good neighborly atmosphere fostered togetherness. Children playing together, the ice rink, and residents’ meetings were the reality of those years.
Domestic and export production is increasing at a rapid pace. Handmade products were mainly sent abroad, while automatic glassware enjoyed popularity on the Polish market. A further expansion of the plant became necessary. On 1 October 1955, on the expropriated land of Polanka village the construction of technical glassworks – HST “”Polanka”” – was launched. The construction of the Technical Glassworks occupied an area of 20 hectares, and the first buildings were the barracks and warehouses of the builders. Gradually, proper buildings and the necessary infrastructure grew up.
In 1959 “”Krosno Glassworks”” already had 1350 employees, and the enlargement of the enterprise was continued by expanding the plant in Polanka. Two new baths for melting glass were put into operation there and the construction of hall no. 2 began. In 1960 hall no. 1 in HST “”Polanka”” was put into use. It produced neutral, lead and soda glass tubes. A year later, bath No. 6. for the production of CRT tubes was put into operation. On September 22nd, 1959, another investment was launched – the construction of a commercial glassworks “”KROSNO-II””. The construction took up 7 ha of land next to HST “”Polanka””. The new plant was to produce household glassware sought after on domestic and foreign markets.
On September 1, 1959, the company’s Basic Glass School was inaugurated. Its establishment was a response to the constantly growing demand for qualified metallurgical staff. At the same time, the extramural Glass Technical School was also launched. Initially, theoretical classes were held in the Textile Technical School building, and practical training in the steel mill. In the following years a new school, dormitory and workshops were put into use. In its 25 years of existence, 1500 graduates have left the school.
In October 1962 “”KROSNO-II”” was launched. The plant had its own railway siding, a network of internal roads and a fence. Initially, as in the “”KROSNO-I”” factory, the production of household glass was carried out there by hand. The company quickly came to the forefront among Polish glass manufacturers. Official visits were paid by representatives of the highest party and state authorities.
On April 1, 1967 the “”Jasło”” Glassworks was incorporated into the Krosno enterprise. This plant, which was the same age as the Krosno glassworks, produced tiled window glass and bottles. After the war, the production was switched to manufacturing bottles for liquor stores, and then coloured glass for signal lamps was added. After the merger with KHS, the core business became reflector glass. The production of coloured pressed glass used in stained-glass making was also taken up.
In 1970 another household glass factory “”KROSNO-III”” was opened. The first cadre of employees consisted of 12 metallurgical teams. Already one year later the value of production of this part of the mill reached 59 million PLN.
In April 1978 an automatic line for the production of glasses, purchased from a Japanese company ITOH, was launched. The automatic machines for the production of household glass, such as “”Olivotto””, “”Sloan””, “”SORG”” and “”ITOH””, satisfied the internal demand and enabled the export of the products manufactured on them.
Despite constantly increasing automation, manual production has not been abandoned. Glass manufactured with this method enjoyed great interest and were sought after and valued on world markets. The official production of the glassworks includes sets of utility and table glass. Interesting design, purity and transparency of glass, decorative motifs are the assets of these products. After working hours, however, the steelworkers were engaged in “”artistic activities””. The fish or paperweights manufactured at that time paradoxically rose years later to become symbols of the factory and the era. GHC Krosno created in Krosno went down in the history of Polish design. The scale of production meant that glass from Krosno – distinguished by its quality and artistic level – could be found in almost every Polish home. Many outstanding designers worked in the Krosno steelworks. Several have gained international fame over time. Some have taken on artistic challenges by dedicating themselves to creating glass uniques. Among them Wszewłod Sarnecki, Jerzy Maraj and Stanisław Borowski should be mentioned.
Huta realized also many prestigious special orders. Among other things, Krosno produced a special set of glass for the Polish Olympic Committee on the occasion of the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, as well as sets of glass for: Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, the Empress of Japan, King Juan Carlos of Spain and President Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR. The largest set, consisting of 1500 elements (72 types of glass) was created for the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
In November 1971 the Glass Fibre Plant, built under English licence, was commissioned. Within a few years it had become a leading manufacturer of silk, roving and fiberglass mats. The use of this product, and especially composites based on it, has given enormous possibilities in the production of various devices. Aircraft, yachts and boats or housings for household appliances are just a fragment of the wide range of applications.
Over the years, the plant’s contribution to the national economy has been recognized many times. Honours, distinctions, banners and letters of commendation were received by the entire company, but also by its employees by name. At the end of the 1970s, the Krosno steelworks became the largest company in this industry in Poland. Its products were known and valued all over the world. The largest recipients were Western European countries, the USA and Australia.
Apart from Krosno Glassworks, smaller glassworks, factories and artistic workshops were established. Krosno became the largest and most famous glass manufacturer in Poland and one of the best known internationally.
Cultural activities were developing dynamically. The venue for concerts and performances was the “”Glass Grotto”” built next to the palace. In 1965 the Company House of Culture was established, which organized over 600 different events a year. Almost 70 thousand people took part in them. In the 1950s and 1960s many cultural initiatives were developed in the steelworks. The folk band “”Stachy”” quickly gained fame in the country and abroad. The director and founder of the music band “”Rybałci”” was Antoni Kopff. The first steps on the factory stage were taken by the well-known Polish jazz singer Lora Szafran. It was not possible to create a symphony orchestra, but a mandolin ensemble, female vocal sextet “”Kryształki””, an accordion ensemble, children’s song and dance ensemble “”Polanie””, music bands “”Vitroband””, “”HST-58″” and “”Kuźnary”” were formed.
For years, the steel mill published its own magazine. “”Szklane Zagłębie”” provided current information, was a propaganda tool, but at the same time, after years, it is an invaluable source of knowledge about the plant.
For many thousands of employees, who over the years passed through the steelworks, a number of social projects were organized, from canteens, through a library, company recreation plots, to recreation centers, among others in Tylawa near Dukla.
Since the beginning of the history of the steelworks, its employees have been involved in sports competitions. The first club from Krosno called “”Krośnianka”” founded in 1928 did not lack steelworkers. In 1945, the Workers’ Sports Club “”Huta”” was established, and in the 1970s, the “”Huta”” Sports Club was established. Huta took patronage over the Sports Club “”Karpaty””. Many “”Carpathian”” players were active or former employees of the plant.
The changes in the political system at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s caused a radical change in the situation of the steelworks. By decision of the Minister of Ownership Transformation, in 1991 the shares of the plant were floated on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Thus, the mill found itself among the first 5 privatized companies on the domestic market. In 2001 the Krosno Capital Group was formed, consisting of Krosno Glassworks “”KROSNO”” S.A., Glassworks in Jasło Sp. z o.o. and Blowex-Tarnów Glassworks S.A. Two years later the glassworks was awarded with the Economic Award of the President of the Republic of Poland “”for particular contribution to building the prestige of Polish economy in the countries of the European Union””.
In 2006, after 83 years of operation, production at HSG I at Grodzka Street was definitely discontinued. Furnaces were extinguished and equipment, warehouses and offices were transported to the main headquarters on Tysiąclecia Street. The historical centre of Krosno metallurgy has been put up for sale.
In March 2009 the District Court in Krosno announced the bankruptcy of Krosno Glassworks “”KROSNO”” S.A. The receiver continued the production activity, preparing the assets for sale.
In 2016, Krosno Glassworks was bought by the South African investment fund Coast2Coast.
In 2019, the plant’s current president, Pawel Szymanski, became the owner of Krosno Glass.
In the first years of the 21st century, thanks to the engagement of the local authorities headed by the president, a project of creating a place in Krosno devoted to the history of glass-making art came to life. The choice fell on the Krosno Old Town and the BWA building. The project was launched in 2010 with the support of European funds. The construction of the premises of the Glass Heritage Centre and its furnishing, including a smelting furnace, lasted until mid-2012.
On June 2, 2012 Krosno officially became the City of Glass. The doors of CDS were opened – showcasing the unique qualities of glassmaking. Thousands of visitors to the facility participate in thematic workshops, observe the production, blow glass bubbles and admire the beauty of glass works.
Today, Krosno City of Glass is also the name of a basketball club from Krosno (full name: Krosno Basketball Club MOSiR Krosno).
Currently, apart from the glassworks named KROSNO GLASS S.A., there are a dozen or so steelworks, plants and artistic studios in the city and region. Glass products from Krosno are valued for their excellent quality and top-class design. Award-winning small works of art created in Krosno are present in almost every Polish and in millions of homes around the world.”