The Essen/Goldschmidtstrasse site was founded more than 120 years ago in 1890, which makes it Evonik Industries longest standing site.
In the 1880s, under the management of Karl Goldschmidt in Berlin, the Chemische Fabrik Th. Goldschmidt devoted itself increasingly to detinning tin plate. Expanding this business required cheap power, a piece of land to develop for the company and, of course, proximity to the customers, which were the textile and silk industries on one hand and the steel industry on the other. As Berlin had nothing to offer in these respects, Goldschmidt investigated the upcoming Ruhr area and met with success in Essen. In 1889 he bought a piece of land in the northwest part of the city, immediately adjacent to the “Rhine Railway” and very close to the slaughterhouse. The citizens of Essen protested against the location of a chemical works in their city, but their objections were brushed aside by the mayor, who was only interested in the income he would derive from trade tax.
In 1890 production started in Essen, to where Goldschmidt also transferred the company headquarters. When World War One broke out, the land, which only covered one-sixth of the area occupied today, had been almost completely built up. The new buildings mainly contained plants for electrolytic, alkali, and chlorine-based detinning of tin plate and for the production of Thermit welding flux. There was also an office building that was subsequently extended several times and a small laboratory. In addition, Goldschmidt operated the largest tin smeltery at the time in Europe.
Crisis and change
Germany’s defeat in the First World War and the following economic, social and political crises also affected Goldschmidt and Essen deeply. Hyperinflation, the war in the Ruhr, the occupation of the Ruhr and the global economic crisis all meant that there was little spare money to invest. And yet, one might say that economic need and deprivation released energy and brought a more welcoming attitude to innovation. The first fundamental change took place in the 1920s, after the tin smeltery had to be closed and it became apparent that detinning and the Thermite business on their own were not enough to support the company.
As a result, more and more businesses opened up in Essen, producing agents to protect buildings (1926), emulsifiers (1927) and glue film (1929). The emulsifier operations became the basis for the care specialties that Evonik now produces successfully at the site.
The National Socialist period
Goldschmidt manufactured numerous products which complied with the attempts of the National Socialist leadership to establish economic self-sufficiency. Emulsifiers helped to save fat, glue film kept imports of casein, which is used as the basis for glue, low. Initially, the factory in Essen benefited greatly. Until the spring of 1943, when the air attacks on Essen started, production was ramped up to record levels. This was only made possible by increased use of forced labor. In September 1943, there were 162 non-nationals at the factory in Essen, approximately 24 percent of the total workforce of 680 employees.
Due to the bustling building activity, which was stepped up at the end of the 1930s as Germany re-armed, the factory was bursting at the seams. However, paradoxically, it was the bombs of the Second World War, which destroyed 85 percent of the factory, that opened up new opportunities. Goldschmidt acquired the neighboring properties on which houses had once stood and negotiated successfully with the city authorities in Essen, who permitted the company to absorb six previous public roads, redrawing the boundaries of its land, a process which ended in the 1960s.
The boom that came after 1949 changed the Essen site permanently. The factories that had been bombed were rebuilt to a modern design. The mid-1950s saw the erection of a roomy new building for the production of emulsifiers and new disinfectants where previously two blocks of destroyed houses had stood. Detinning from tin plate was heavily expanded and new office buildings and laboratories were built around the perimeter of the old area in the 1960s. When this was still not enough, Goldschmidt acquired a derelict bomb site from the German railroad company, which became the East site in today’s factory. From 1965 until recently, all the new production factories were built there. They manufactured and still manufacture silicones or organomodified siloxanes for a large number of applications, some of which are highly specialized. Examples of products from the Essen site today are stabilizers for PU foams, wetting agents for pesticides, dispersing agents for plastic colorants, releasing agents for rubber mold production, antifoaming agents for paint and radiation-cured silicones used in release agents.
A look at the recent past gives no hint of when this almost uninterrupted process of modernization at the Essen site is likely to end. Many old factory buildings were torn down, including, in fall 2007, the bearings foundry which had been built in 1940. In 1995 the Polyether-IV factory and in 2005 the polyether-V factory were built and in 1997 up to 2004 the silicone integrated circuit plant was installed. Moreover, a high bay warehousing and central dispatch were built in two stages in 1997 and 2000. In 2001 an office and a laboratory for varnish and paint additives were added and in 2003 a leading-edge small container filling facility with sample dispatch, which were expanded again in 2011.
To this day, Essen/Goldschmidtstrasse is an important site of Evonik Industries. With over 1,400 employees, this factory located close to downtown has the richest history of all sites in the group and has become the largest production operation in Essen. By the way, the curious sounding descriptions with city and street names is due to the fact that Evonik Industries has another site in Essen, namely its headquarters on Rellinghauser Strasse.