Already in the 14th century, there was a water mill in the area of Nová Karolina. However, the development of industrial activities did not start before the advent of the Viennese Rothschild Banking House when the Karolina coal mine was opened there. The city centre grew and expanded in the course of time together with an intensive expansion of industrial activities until these two parts of the city met and merged into one.
Karolina Mine Excavation and Coking Plant
The Karolina Mine Excavation is one of the oldest mine shafts in Ostrava. The mining started in 1837 and was originally carried out by a local mining company, which was superseded by the Rothschild family in 1843. At that time, the Rothschilds, a wealthy family of bankers originally from Frankfurt, became the owner of the Vítkovice Mine, Steel and Iron Works.
The family business was founded by Mayer Amschel Rothschild. His five sons then split up the influence over their father’s financial empire. Salomon Rothschild was in charge of their business in Austria, part of which was, at that time, also the Moravian-Silesian region. Besides other things, he bought up the estates of Hlučín and Šilheřovice, and within the Austrian monarchy was primarily known as a railway pioneer. He was also instrumental in the development of the mining industry in the Moravian-Silesian region. The name Karolina used for the mine excavation itself, and later for the coking plant, was reportedly inspired by his wife Karolina Stern.
A Few Peculiarities
The coal seam had a final depth of 550 m and, when compared to other seams in the region, was in many ways ground-breaking. For instance, a wind furnace, steam roller and the technique of waterproof pit timbering was used there for the first time. Although, not all of its innovations can be considered successful as 1854 saw the first of several larger mine gas explosions, which claimed 14 lives.
The Karolina shaft was later linked to the newly-emerged Karolina coking plant by a mining track which was used for coal supplies.
Since its foundation in 1858, the coking plant continuously experienced significant expansion (already in 1930s it had as many as 216 furnaces). The coal was imported in cable cars from various shafts besides Karolina, including the Tereza, Ida and Šalamoun Mine Excavations. The works were designed to produce coke (the main source of fuel and reducing agent used in blast furnaces), however, there was also a briquette factory. In 1905, the central power station was established nearby the coking plant in order to supply the shafts in the area with electricity.
The 20th century witnessed a gradual decline in industrial activity, and in 1986 all activities came to a halt. The coking plant ceased operation in 1964, and the power station was shut down a decade later. The demolition of all buildings and their facilities resulted in Trojhalí being the only building complex left there. The Trojhalí buildings – the Roofed Square and the Central Power Station – are protected as monuments of industrial architecture. The Roofed Square is unique thanks to its spacious and generous design, while the Central Power Station building is by far more moderate in nature.
From an architectural point of view, the reconstruction of both buildings for cultural, social, educational and leisure facilities was quite a challenge. Their unique "genius loci" had to be maintained; however, at the same time there was a need to create a modern public venue for concerts, theatrical performances, exhibitions, conferences and sports events. The combination of the Central Power Station and the Roofed Square, functioning as a central cultural centre for events of different natures organised under the open sky, and the easy access by public transport, places Trojhalí as the cultural focal point of the wider city centre within which new buildings harmoniously unite with those that came before them.