Famous for its picturesque landscapes and its cheeses, the Munster Valley was also an important centre for the French cotton industry. Its continued growth for more than 150 years saw it gradually eclipsing more traditional activities related to the exploitation of local resources.
Despite all the destruction of the First World War, the region has retained traces of this rich history From the remains of the first indienne textile works established in Munster in 1776 to the factory sheds which appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries or the factory blocks, massive rectangular buildings with two, three or four floors which marked the period of industrial growth in the 19th century, the Munster Valley offers a snapshot of all kinds of industrial architecture from the late 18th to the late 20th centuries.
As the unavoidable consequence of any process of massive industrialisation, programmes to build workers housing also left this region with a rich and diverse heritage which helped shape working-class identity in the town of Munster. The hierarchical social structure found in factories was reflected in the urban environment. Here, workers’ houses stood next to those of the employer and the foreman. The manager’s house was comfortably installed in wooded grounds while the owner's house overlooked the whole estate, in an almost feudal representation of the sheer power acquired by industry..
This industrial adventure significantly shaped the landscape of the Munster Valley. Just like other valleys of the Vosges range, the urban planning of the local environment was tailored to the needs of the local manufacturing industries. The railway line and the route de la Schlucht, the mountain lakes and the water resources were placed at the disposal of the textile companies, of which the Hartmanns were the most notable ambassadors.
Sources: "Alsace Region - Inventory and Heritage Department"
Weaving yard at the convent 1892 - Hartmann archive