Friday, 2 December 2022

A (Not Quite) Lost Place

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I have a soft spot for what are nowadays called Lost Places. In this post I have described why I don't really agree with the term, but for the sake of simplicity I use it, too.

Last Friday afternoon, as mentioned in my previous post, I went on a guided tour at such a place: The former production site of a company making chicory "coffee" and other products. The company was called Heinrich Franck & Söhne, later fusioning to become Franck und Kathreiner GmbH and eventually becoming part of Nestlé. The Ludwigsburg production site was originally chosen because of its direct access to the railway; it was a bit of a "what came first - the hen or the egg" thing. The site was closed down in 2018, taking away not just many jobs, but also the scent of roasting chicory so familiar to all Ludwigsburgers.

In the four years since the closure, about half of the buildings have remained abandoned (and some of them long before that), now owned by the City of Ludwigsburg. One building hosts various tenants, start-ups and small companies glad for the chance to rent rooms for much less money than they would have to pay for modern facilities. The outdoor space next to the train station was open to the public during the summer months, as I have shown you a few times on my blog.

Now the City of Ludwigsburg has been thinking long and hard about what to do with the rest of the site, and citizens had the chance to be involved. One such element of involvement was the guided tour I went on, and where I took these photos.

View from across the road; the train station and town centre are behind those buildings:

Advert for one of the small companies inside the biggest building:

I find such signs intriguing. What information or instruction is deemed necessary to be on permanent display in a work environment? What kind of language is used, how good (or not) are grammar and ortography? Layout?
Inside the oldest building; this one has not been used in many years, as production was modernised some time in the 1980s. That building is listed and contains mostly wooden structures, which means any future use will have to deal with tons of regulations:

Outside the walls, nature has been trying hard to make room:
The railway track designated for the exclusive use of the company has always been fenced off, inaccessible to the public. It was strange to look at the familiar platforms from that perspective:

Another sign:
Where do those stairs go? We were largely, but not entirely, free to roam - always under the instruction to be very careful, of course.

Can you remember telephones like this one, with a round dial? I certainly can!
I wonder why the upper sign was deemed necessary in Italian as well as German, but not the lower one:
The oldest part of the entire complex is the wall supporting the railway tracks on this side of the town, built more than 175 years ago:
The space that was open to the public from May to September looks very different now:

It will be interesting to learn the results of citizens' involvement; on the Saturday after our guided tour, two events were offered where everyone was invited to share and discuss their ideas for the site, but I did not have time. One lady from my volunteer group went, and she will give us a report at our next meeting.


  1. I can certainly remember those dials, I was brought up on them, I hope they choose to build attractive buildings

    1. Not sure who you are, Anonymous (Pat?), but I guess I have no readers of the generation now growing up without even something like a landline phone, plugged into a socket all the time and not just to charge!

  2. We had an old building like that in our city and they turned it into condos/apartments. I imagine it would take a lot to make those old buildings safe but housing is always needed around here. Lowest level was shops and offices. Another thing that my city has been looking into is housing for seniors - there will be a lot of us and safe, convenient housing will be needed. I look forward to your report on what the committee recommended! Thanks!

    1. It is the same here; there is a huge demand for affordable housing, and even more so this year with so many refugees from Ukraine arriving every day.
      But to make these buildings fit for housing, with all the regulations that come with it, will be even more difficult than for other uses. We'll see - and it will take years, in any case.

  3. So the production plant had exclusive access to its own railway station?
    And now, no trains stop there? Your post is like a strange dream. Lost Places, indeed.
    Those stairs going up to where? Would those telephones put you in touch with ghosts?
    There is a book of old Glasgow photos titled *Dear Friendly Ghosts* : I like that idea.
    I would enjoy being in the Franck & Sohne building with a flask of good coffee.
    But not being there alone. With a group of cheerful people.

    *Whitevale 2011.* YouTube. Owen McGuigan.
    The apartments in Glasgow, now demolished, were photographed by Lynsey Marshall.

    *Abandoned Since the 1960s/The Story of Toronto's Ghost Tower.*
    YouTube. Abandoned Urbex Camera.

    1. It's not their own station, but their own platform and track. When the railway line was first built through Ludwigsburg and a station set up, it really was pretty much theirs - other people did not travel quite so much by train yet. And because most of their work force lived on the other side of the tracks, they had a footbridge built to their factory. That footbridge (in its latest incarnation from the 1980s) is still there and bears the name Franck-Steg.
      I did in deed pick up that phone and held it to my ear, only half-joking, and heard... nothing.


  4. An interesting tour and what a good idea to get people involved. It does look very atmospheric a potential setting to use in a murder mystery book with a killer chasing his victim through the building and wind howling around outside. Jean/winnipeg.

    1. I agree, it would make a good film set for a murder mystery… or something supernatural (not my kind of film or book, usually).

  5. We have a lot of old textile factories in my town and quite a few of those have been (or are being) converted for other purposes as well (while others have been torn down to leave room for new buildings). I appreciate that they do keep and refurbish some of them in honour of the town's past history. Seeing buildings left to decay while waiting for decisions is always sad, though.

    1. And oops, there I went Anonymous again... That was me commenting above!

    2. I could guess that from your mention of textile factories, Monica :-)
      Maybe our town administration should visit your town for ideas, they have been doing such a lot around your town in recent years, and done it well I think.

  6. I love your pictures of that building, the shadows, the beams...very evocative. My favorite one is the picture of the broken window, partially opened, the old planks with the shadows playing across them. Just gorgeous. It reminds me of a Andrew Wyeth painting.

    We have a number of old buildings here that would make wonderful housing. (it is badly needed) Unfortunately, the paperwork and permitting involved is so lengthy and time- and money-consuming, that people find it cheaper to knock things down and start over again. I find that sad, but I know someone who spent tens of thousands on an architect to draw up plans. The city rejected them (they felt the building did not fit in with the nature of the town) and the group spent tens of thousands more to have the architect draw up revised plans. I hope your city is a bit more sensible in its approach because this really is a beautiful space.

    1. Most of the regulations about buildings fit for housing come fromthe government, and our city administration can‘t change them to make converting thise buildings easier. But they are very much interested in putting the entire site to good use, and we all hope they will make sensible decision.
      See all that wood in the oldest building (where your favourite photo of this lot was taken); it makes it all very risky in terms of fire regulations.

    2. The school demolished here was a sturdy brick building with floors. I understand the dangers of timber, but this was a wonderfully square and solid brick building. After several years, they simply knocked it down.

    3. It's a shame to tear down a perfectly sound building instead of giving it a new lease of life.