The city, built for the Cotton Industry, is today an inevitable tourist destination for the inhabitants of Zagreb and Karlovac. In summer, the banks of Mrežnica are full of happy people who enjoy barbecue, swimming, music and beach volleyball.
Duga Resa is a town in central Croatia, approximately 60 kilometers from Zagreb on the way to the sea. It was most probably named after the folk costume of that area or the fringe plant that grows along the banks of the river Mrežnica (duga resa means long fringe). A small town would go unnoticed by tourists if it did not have two great advantages that would make it a significant destination in this part of Croatia in the future. These are the Cotton Industry and the river Mrežnica.
The settlements in this area date back to 1380, while the true history of Duga Resa begins in 1884, when the Viennese wholesaler Josef Jeruzalem bought a mill on Mrežnica from mayor of Karlovac Ivan Banjavčić for 8,000 forints.
As early as the following year, Jerusalem established the Royal Earthly Authorized Spinning and Weaving Mill which would later become known as the Duga Resa Cotton Industry. In 1886, the factory was already operating an impressive 5,000 spindles and 60 looms powered by two water turbines. A steam turbine is put into operation very quickly afterwards. This machinery processed cotton into coarser materials for the needs of the population in the region.
The industry developed very quickly and in the next 40 years transformed Duga Resa into a real workers’ city.
In 1934, the factory was modernized with 35,276 finer spindles, 1,280 spindles for cotton waste and 1,104 looms. Such an advanced factory processed cotton from the USA, Egypt and East India into a whole range of different products.
Unfortunately, poorly executed privatization had destroyed the competitiveness and production of factory so that it no longer operates today. The buildings are still there so that in the future it may become a museum and a valuable monument of a bygone era.
The life of a workers in the time of Cotton factory
Three blocks in Duga Resa were built for the life of the workers of Cotton factory, Kasar, Inzl and the villa in today’s Park of Dr. Franjo Tudjman.
Kasar is a street with completely identical buildings that bear resemblance to the barracks (kasarna means barracks), hence the name of the street. The buildings had eight apartments with one bathroom and a toilet on each floor. The workers did not pay for the electricity, and they also received firewood for free. Inspiration for such a settlement was the Kroneberg workers’ settlement in Essen, Germany.
Since the road passing through Kasar was always dusty, and this caused respiratory diseases, ambitious worker August Sthlarzbach planted a plane tree avenue on one side so that essential oils they secrete would help the health of other workers. Soon after, Sthlarzbach became director of the spinning mill.
Inzl is another workers’ settlement with buildings identical to Kasar, but with one important difference. As its name suggests (inzl – island), it is located on a peninsula. For the needs of the factory, part of the flow of the Mrežnica was diverted so that one part of the land remained surrounded by the river, so Inzl is reached via two bridges, each on one side of the Mrežnica. What was once a workers’ settlement, today could become an elite place to live as the river is only a few meters away from the entrance door of the buildings.
Directors and wealthy citizens had a special villa to live in. It was built on a hill in Park of Dr. Franjo Tudjman between Kasar and Inzl. Away from the hustle and bustle of the roads and surrounded by greenery, the villa provides peace and tranquility that is rarely seen.
This villa was by no means closed to workers. It housed a free swimming pool for all who wished to come. Since 1945, the communist secret service OZNA set up a prison in it.
In addition to these settlements and baths, Jerusalem also built a kindergarten, a dining room for workers, and a hospital.
He himself lived in a small villa also in the Park where the House of Craftsmen and the Tourist Board are located today.
Mrežnica is one of the most beautiful Croatian rivers. It springs at the Eugen Kvaternik military range, and is only 64 kilometers long to the mouth of the Korana. However, in its short course, it has as many as 93 lime barriers, which are a sensitive and protected natural phenomenon. Along with untouched shores and canyons, this makes Mrežnica one of the most beautiful examples of karst watercourses.
Also, for the needs of Cotton factory, one of the first hydroelectric power plants in Croatia was built on it.