Chemical factory lime

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Chemical factory Kalk GmbH

legal form GmbH
founding November 1, 1858
Seat Cologne , Germany
Branch Chemical industry ,
today trade

View from the southwest of CFK in 1892, the year the company was renamed and renamed Chemische Fabrik Kalk GmbH

The Chemische Fabrik Kalk GmbH ( CFRP ) was a chemical company in Cologne . It was founded in 1858 as Chemische Fabrik Vorster & Grüneberg, Cöln and renamed Chemische Fabrik Kalk GmbH in 1892. CFK was at times the second largest soda producer in Germany and with up to 2,400 employees one of the largest employers in the Cologne city area on the right bank of the Rhine. The factory chimneys of the main plant have shaped the silhouette of the Kalk district for decades .

After failing to modernize the factory and introduce new products, the main shareholder at the time, BASF , decided to close the factory on December 31, 1993 due to inefficiency . After the demolition of the production facilities and the renovation of the factory premises, the new Cologne Police Headquarters and the Köln Arcaden shopping center were built there. Since the shutdown of production, the Kalk Chemical Factory has only existed as the name giver for a trading company for chemicals and fertilizers of K + S AG (formerly Kali und Salz AG).


1858 to 1891

The chemical plant Vorster & Grüneberg, Cologne

Julius Vorster
Hermann Gruneberg
Vorster & Grüneberg, 1859

On November 1, 1858, the businessman Julius Vorster and the chemist and pharmacist Hermann Grüneberg founded the Vorster & Grüneberg chemical factory in Cologne. Vorster, who had previously owned a chemical factory, brought 15,000 thalers into the company; Grüneberg, who was still studying at the time, was able to contribute 5,000 thalers. The two shareholders chose the village of Kalk on the right bank of the Rhine as the location for the plant, as the building areas there lay outside the second Cologne rayon line and thus industrial settlement was possible. They acquired the property of the former iron foundry Biber & Berger. Three months after the factory was completed, the production of potash nitrate , which was used as an oxidizing agent for food preservation and for the production of black powder , began. Potash nitrate was made from Russian potash and sodium nitrate , and soda was obtained as a by-product. Ten employees were employed during this time.

Thanks to the good order situation, the company was able to expand as early as 1860 and bought several properties to expand the production facilities. This was necessary in order to maintain the regional market leadership as a potash supplier after several other companies with the same production focus had been founded in the vicinity. Since the prices for Russian potash rose extremely, from 1860 beet potash, an inexpensive waste product of sugar production, was used as a raw material for the production of potash nitrate and soda. In the same year, the company began producing potassium chloride , which was crystallized from rock salts .

The entrepreneurs bought an old salt works in Staßfurt near Magdeburg to extract rock salt . In this area in 1856, while drilling for rock salt, mine workers happened upon the world's first potash salt deposits . At first this new mineral remained unused, but as early as 1857 chemical investigations on behalf of the Prussian government showed that this mineral is a double salt. This potassium salt consists of a combination of potassium chloride and magnesium chloride . The mineral was named carnallite after the Prussian upper mountain ridge Rudolf von Carnall , who initiated the drilling . The supplies were quickly used up, as the farmers living in Staßfurt used the raw salt unprocessed as a fertilizer.

Large carnallite deposits were also found in the Vorster & Grüneberg saltworks. Grüneberg succeeded in developing a new process that revolutionized fertilizer production. The raw salt was first transported to Kalk, where it was dissolved with steam in wooden tubs, so that it could crystallize after cooling. The employees processed the intermediate product again with steam. The end product was pure potassium chloride . This was the world's first industrial processing of raw potash salts. In order to reduce transport costs, Vorster and Grüneberg decided to build two more potassium chloride plants in Staßfurt and Leopoldshall , where they had bought another salt works. Potassium chloride extraction on site was considerably more economical than transporting raw materials for processing in the main lime plant.

Grünebergsche fertilizer table

In 1860, Grüneberg completed his studies with a doctorate. He did research in the field of agricultural chemistry and designed tables for the dosage of fertilizers. These have been trend-setting for farmers for decades. In 1864 the company expanded its product range to include nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers . Vorster & Grüneberg was the first large factory in Germany to chemically produce three main nutrients for plants, nitrogen , phosphorus and potassium . A year later, the Leblanc process was used for the first time to extract potassium carbonate, analogous to the production of soda . At the same time, Vorster & Grüneberg set up a branch in Raderberg near Cöln for the production of ammonium sulfate . The company produced the ammonium sulphate from ammonia with the addition of sulfuric acid. The ammonia was contained in gas water that was produced as a by-product in the production of town gas, which had been disposed of in the wastewater. Since this branch of production was very profitable with the previously unused source of raw materials, Vorster & Grüneberg built further ammonia factories in Nippes near Cologne , Düsseldorf , Essen , Dortmund , Hamburg , Leipzig , St. Petersburg and a salmia factory in Moscow in the following years .

Change of name to a limited partnership

Main work in 1876

In 1867 the company suffered heavy losses due to bad investments in England and declining sales of potassium sulfate. Julius Vorster jr. was appointed to the company management at this time. On his recommendation, magnesium sulfate was added to the product range in order to reduce losses. This fabric was primarily intended for export to England, as textile manufacturers there needed it in large quantities to dry fabrics. Thanks to this new sales market and the positive development of sales figures for potassium nitrate, the financial crisis in 1870 was over. On October 1, 1875, Vorster's second son, the chemist Fritz Vorster, joined the company as technical director. He should take care of the modernization and expansion of the main factory. After the death of the company's founder Julius Vorster in 1876, the owners converted the company into a limited partnership .

Since sales in the fertilizer sector fell far short of expectations due to the population's distrust of modern artificial fertilizers, the company management hired Carl Johann Heinrich Scheibler as head of the fertilizer department in 1878 . Scheibler developed the inexpensive fertilizer Thomas phosphate, which was based on Thomas slag . The Thomas phosphate also enabled poor farmers to fertilize their fields. Since the cities often used their gas water themselves or sold it at a profit, all decentralized ammonia factories were gradually shut down or sold from the end of the 1870s. The main factory in Kalk, on the other hand, has been steadily expanded; for example, CFK built production facilities for sulfuric and nitric acid there in 1881 . In 1885, Carl Scheibler founded his own limited partnership under the name Düngerfabrik C. Scheibler & Co, with the partners of Vorster & Grünberg as limited partners . The company participated in the production of Thomas flour at home and abroad and thus opened up a very productive market.

1892 to 1945

Chemische Fabrik Kalk GmbH is founded

Shortly after the GmbH law came into force , the Vorster & Grüneberg partnership was converted into Chemische Fabrik Kalk GmbH on July 1, 1892 - it was one of the first limited liability companies in Prussia. After the death of the company's founder, Hermann Grüneberg, on June 7th, 1894, his son Richard Grüneberg was appointed to the management - the management was finally passed on to the second generation.

Shortly before the turn of the century, the production of potassium carbonate , which had become deficit due to competitive pressure, was discontinued. As a replacement, sodium carbonate production was significantly expanded using the ammonia-soda process . In 1902, which was fertilizer factory C. Scheibler & Co in the CFRP incorporated whose line after Scheiblerstrasse death in 1920 by his son Hans Carl Scheibler was continued. After the potassium chloride plant in Staßfurt had been closed for economic reasons a few years before due to the drop in the price of the end product, CFK also sold the Leopoldshall plant after the death of the plant manager Kästner. In order to be able to ensure the water supply of the main plant even in the event of short-term supply bottlenecks at the municipal utilities, a 43.60 meter high water tower with a capacity of 270 cubic meters was built in 1904 , into which a chimney was integrated.

Status report on the 50th company anniversary

Hauptwerk Kalk in 1908

At the time of the company's 50th anniversary on November 1st, 1908, the following chemical goods were produced:

•  ammonium hydroxide (ammonia) •  nitric acid
•  ammonium chloride ( ammonium salt) •  hydrochloric acid
• anhydrous ammonia •  sulfuric acid
•  Sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) •  sodium carbonate (soda)
•  Sodium sulfate ( sodium sulphate ) • various artificial fertilizer mixtures

In addition to the main factory, CFK also had the ammonia factory in Cologne-Nippes and fertilizer factories in Cologne-Ehrenfeld and Euskirchen in 1907 ; it was also the main shareholder of the Ammonium GmbH coal distillation plant in Weitmar near Bochum. In addition, the company had numerous national and international holdings in Thomas slag mills. The total output of goods was 600,000 tons. For the delivery and removal of raw materials and goods, 67,755 railway wagons were required, for which the company had to pay 1,463,000 gold marks in transport costs to the railway companies. At that time, 1200 people were employed at CFK. This made CFK the second largest company in Kalk after the Humboldt mechanical engineering company .

From the First World War to the Great Depression

With the beginning of the First World War , the number of employees fell to 70 because CFK did not produce any goods that were essential for the war effort. Parts of the production therefore had to be shut down. The company management concentrated the production on saltpetre , as this was needed as a raw material for the manufacture of explosives . Due to the importance of this chemical, the workforce increased to 504 in December 1914. In 1916 CFK set up its own test laboratory for explosives research, in which it developed its own explosives a short time later. Although there was a shortage of workers, the company succeeded in opening up a new sales market in the field of animal feed production with straw digested by caustic soda.

After the end of the war, due to the Treaty of Versailles , the manufacture and research of explosives had to be stopped. In the 1920s, the demand for fertilizer slowly increased, but raw material prices also rose significantly. In order to put these price increases into perspective, Chemische Fabrik Kalk switched its fertilizer production to lime ammonium nitrate , a nitrogen fertilizer based on by-products from other production. In 1930 a mineral fertilizer developed after extensive research was added to the range under the brand name Scheibler's Kampdünger (Kamp stood for lime-ammonium-phosphorus ). The new two-component fertilizer was accepted by agriculture, so that sales increased. The company management thought about relocating the main factory to Cologne-Godorf , since the factory in the densely populated industrial area of ​​Kalk could no longer be expanded. But this plan was postponed.

Nazi era and World War II

After the National Socialists came to power, measures to prepare for the war determined the company's actions, for example the production of substances for the manufacture of explosives was increased. From 1937 women were also employed in industrial work. After the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, when the male workforce was called up for military service, the women were conscripted. Due to the war-related labor shortage, CFK employed around 460 Polish or Soviet forced laborers in the factory from 1940 , for whom a barrack camp was set up on the factory premises as accommodation. The factory stopped production of the combat fertilizer in 1940 because there was no more phosphorus available.

As early as 1942, with the first Allied bomber raids on Cologne-Kalk, the production facilities were severely damaged. In 1943 the sulfuric acid plant was completely destroyed, a year later almost all production came to a standstill. After a total of 227 high- explosive bombs and air mines as well as around 3000 incendiary and phosphor bombs had destroyed the plant to 80% in over 20 bomb attacks , Fritz Vorster Jr., the grandson of the company founder, announced the closure on March 6, 1945. At this point in time CFK only had a workforce of around 100 employees.

1945 to 1993

Post-war years and reconstruction

In August 1945, only three months after the end of the war, the chemical factory produced quicklime for exchange purposes . The factory workers returning from captivity slaughtered destroyed parts of the factory in order to mend the partially preserved parts. Some machines had been brought to safety before the bombing so that they were available again. Since large parts of the factory had been rebuilt in 1947, production could begin. Complete fertilizer production began in 1948. Potash salt was added to the combat fertilizer , which is why it was sold as KAMPKA fertilizer .

As early as 1950, the Kalk chemical factory had regained its old production volume. The market share in nationwide soda production was 20%, a year later it fell to 13%. In the same year a large German mining company , Salzdetfurth AG , took a 25% stake in the chemical factory Kalk . The shareholders again planned to relocate full fertilizer production to modern factories in Cologne-Godorf. Again, this project was not realized. A study came to the conclusion that it would be cheaper to continue using the Kalk plant. In 1956 CFK sold the already acquired property in Godorf. However, Salzdetfurth AG did not withdraw its stake, but increased its stake in 1957 to 75%.

For the company's centenary on November 1, 1958, 1,820 industrial workers and 549 salaried employees were employed in the company. The feed industry's need for high-percentage phosphates in 1960 was satisfied by the construction of a new production facility, opening up a new and promising market. In the same year, KAMPKA fertilizer production was 417,000, and soda production was 170,000 tons.

The takeover by Salzdetfurth AG

In 1960, Salzdetfurth AG took over all the shares in Chemischen Fabrik Kalk GmbH and modernized parts of the production facilities; For example, from 1965 onwards, exhaust gases containing high levels of sulfur were discharged via a newly built, 120-meter-high chimney. This height was necessary because high-pressure weather had previously often caused odor nuisance to the lime population, as the strongly smelling vapors were pressed to ground level. The construction has largely eliminated this problem.

From the mid-1960s, the filling and loading systems were converted to fully automatic operation. These partial modernizations could not hide the fact that the factory, especially the soda production, was technically outdated. After the war, the company failed to make major investments in modernization - there was also a long-term lack of new product ideas, so that the company was unable to open up any new sales markets. In 1971 the Salzdetfurth AG merged with the BASF subsidiary Wintershall AG and the Burbach-Kaliwerke AG . In 1972 the company was transformed into Kali und Salz AG . Initially, BASF was the majority shareholder, later BASF took over the remaining shares in the company.

The decline

Former laboratory building

Shortly after the takeover by BASF , CFK began to produce additional flower and garden fertilizers, which were sold through COMPO GmbH . The feed trade was now able to order individual animal feed mixtures ex works. The workforce suspected that BASF did not take Chemische Fabrik Kalk as a business factor seriously, as the company did not make any investments in modernization.

The general recession in the mid-1970s led to the first waves of layoffs at the plant due to sales difficulties. In the early 1980s, attempts were made to produce organic bromine compounds to open up new fields of business in the field of fine chemistry . In 1985 the factory stopped this production after a major fire in the bromine storage hall, and in 1988 fertilizer production was also ended. From then on, further parts of the company were shut down every year for economic reasons. On December 23, 1993, the production of soda and potassium chloride in the remaining parts of the company was ended. A social plan was drawn up for the last 693 employees , according to which employees who were older than 55 years of age could take early retirement , younger ones received financial compensation.

Reuse of the former factory premises

The CFK water tower built in 1904

All buildings of the almost 40  hectare site have now been demolished except for the listed water tower. A distinction must be made between three areas.

Main area

The demolition measures ended when the tall chimney was blown up on October 25, 1996. Since the site was heavily contaminated with chemical substances such as sulfur and heavy metals , it had to be extensively rehabilitated before it could be used again.

After the terrain was finally free of toxins and buildings in 2001, the city of Cologne provided it with a new road structure and a direct connection to the Zoobrücke . Today the Cologne Police Headquarters (completion on October 22, 2001) and the Köln Arcaden shopping center (completion on March 2, 2005) are located there. The high water tower, surrounded by a parking garage, is the architectural focus of the Köln Arcaden . Plans to set up a CFRP museum in this tower have not yet been implemented. After a two-year construction period, the Odysseum Science Experience Center opened in April 2009 in the northern part of the site . In the same year, the capacity of the police headquarters was almost doubled by an extension and the construction of the 2.8 hectare Kalk Bürgerpark was completed. The Bauhaus hardware store chain also set up one of its largest branches in Germany in the northern area. The Music Store has moved in next to Bauhaus . Plans to build a musical theater in the western area were discarded in 2009, instead office buildings and service companies are to be built there.

Administration building

The former office buildings south of the factory premises on the opposite side of the Kalker Hauptstrasse were sold and put to another use; The General Secretariat of the Malteser Relief Service was to be found in them before the buildings were also demolished in 2019.


The two landfill sites on the factory premises with the current names Kalkberg and Kleiner Kalkberg cannot be economically removed. The surface was sealed. The subsequent use of the area should u. a. serve as public green space.

Today's CFRP

After the end of its own production and the demolition of the old factory premises, Chemische Fabrik Kalk GmbH only exists as a chemical dealer. The seat of the administration was moved to Olpener Straße 9-13 in Cologne-Kalk. The website is independent without naming the parent company K + S , while the email addresses of the employees are all in the domain "@".

Social commitment of entrepreneurs

The company's founders supported numerous social projects and institutions during their lifetime. After her death, foundations continued to finance her. For example, the foundations made generous grants available for the construction of the Evangelical Hospitals in Kalk and Weyertal and for the Syrian Orphanage in Jerusalem . In addition, they overwritten or handed over entire properties for the establishment of kindergartens or schools and a public library to the city of Kalk. Hermann Grüneberg's last house on Holzmarkt in Cologne's old town was handed over to the Salvation Army by his widow Emilie to set up a sanatorium for drinking . In honor of the entrepreneurial families, the city of Kalk renamed two streets as Vorsterstrasse and Grünebergstrasse.

Richard Grüneberg, the son of the company founder, signed an initial contribution of 30,000 marks to the Richard-Grüneberg-Stiftung in 1904 . This foundation granted aid for recreation to the CFK employees. Later, the CFK established a company-sided funded pension fund for the company pension one of the employees. In the 1950s, CFK opened the Haus Friede recreation area in Cologne-Dünnwald , which employees and their families could use free of charge.


  • Heinrich Bützler: History of lime and the surrounding area . Reprint from the original from 1910, Edition Kalk of the bookstore W. Ohlert, Cologne 2001, ISBN 3-935735-00-6 .
  • History and local history association Rechtsrheinisches Köln (Hrsg.): Rechtsrheinisches Köln - yearbook for history and regional studies . tape 32 . Self-published, 2007, ISSN  0179-2938 .
  • Walter Greiling: 100 years of the Kalk Chemical Factory 1858–1958. Self-published by CFK, Cologne 1958.
  • Fritz Bilz: Change in industrial work in Cologne-Kalk. Edition Kalk of the bookstore W. Ohlert, Cologne 1997, ISBN 3-935735-02-2 .
  • Fritz Bilz: Between the chapel and the factory. The social history of Kalks from 1850 to 1910. Cologne 2008, ISBN 978-3-89498-190-7 .
  • Stefan Pohl, Georg Möhlich: Cologne on the right bank of the Rhine. Its history from antiquity to the present. Wienand, Cologne 2000, ISBN 3-87909-391-1 .
  • Georg Roeseling: Between Rhine and Mountain - The story of Kalk, Vingst, Humboldt / Gremberg, Höhenberg . Bachem-Verlag, Cologne 2003, ISBN 3-7616-1623-6 .
  • Article on the 150th anniversary of CFK. In: Kölner Stadtanzeiger . October 31, 2008; Retrieved November 4, 2008.

Web links

Commons : Chemische Fabrik Kalk  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Notes and individual references

  1. ^ Heinrich Bützler: History of lime and the surrounding area. Pictures from old and new times. Edition Kalk of the bookstore W. Ohlert, Cologne 1910, reprint 2003, p. 285.
  2. ^ History and local history association Rechtsrheinisches Köln: Yearbook for history and regional studies. Volume 32. Self-published, Cologne 2007, p. 31.
  3. ^ History of K + S, pp. 21-23. ( Memento of November 19, 2008 in the Internet Archive ; PDF) accessed May 27, 2007.
  4. a b history. CFK website; Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  5. ^ Heinrich Bützler: History of lime and the surrounding area. Pictures from old and new times. Edition Kalk of the bookstore W. Ohlert, Cologne 1910, reprint 2003, p. 288.
  6. ^ Heinrich Bützler: History of lime and the surrounding area. Pictures from old and new times. Edition Kalk of the bookstore W. Ohlert, Cologne 1910, reprint 2003, p. 286.
  7. ^ Heinrich Bützler: History of lime and the surrounding area. Pictures from old and new times. Edition Kalk of the bookstore W. Ohlert, Cologne 1910, reprint 2003, p. 287.
  8. Peter Fuchs (Ed.), Chronicle of the History of the City of Cologne , Volume 2, 1991, p. 161
  9. Festschrift to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Vorster & Grüneberg company, now Chemische Fabrik Kalk GmbH in Cologne. Cologne 1908. Unfortunately, the source does not provide any information about the company's exact turnover or the commissioning of the fertilizer factories in Cologne-Ehrenfeld and Euskirchen.
  10. Karl Huebner: The explosives factory - From the rise and fall of the "chemical" in lime. In: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. 1./2. November 2008, p. 41.
  11. ^ Walter Greiling: 100 Years of Chemical Factory Kalk 1858–1958. CFK self-published, Cologne 1958, Chronological Company History, p. 56.
  12. History of K + S, p. 96. ( Memento from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ; PDF) accessed May 26, 2008.
  13. ^ Yearbook for History and Regional Studies. Volume 32. History and local history association Rechtsrheinisches Köln, Cologne 2007, pp. 36–37.
  14. ^ Gereon Roeseling: Between the Rhine and the mountain. The history of Kalk, Vingst, Humboldt / Gremberg, Höhenberg. Bachem-Verlag, Cologne 2003, p. 145 (hardcover).
  15. ^ History and local history association Rechtsrheinisches Köln: Yearbook for history and regional studies. Volume 32. Self-published, Cologne 2007, p. 37.
  16. Website of the Geschichtswerkstatt Köln-Kalk ( Memento of the original from March 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Chapter history of lime - wars, destruction, reconstruction. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  17. a b History and local history association Rechtsrheinisches Köln: Yearbook for history and regional studies. Volume 32. Self-published, Cologne 2007, p. 38.
  18. At the limit of capacity. ( Memento of the original from March 3, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: The time . No. 23/1961. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  19. ^ History and local history association Rechtsrheinisches Köln: Yearbook for history and regional studies. Volume 32. Self-published, Cologne 2007, p. 39.
  20. ^ Reports from contemporary witnesses (former employees of CFK).
  21. "Köln-Cubus" for the Deutzer Feld. In: Kölner Stadtanzeiger . August 17, 2010, accessed October 8, 2016.
  22. ^ Website about the social work of Hermann Grüneberg accessed on June 1, 2008.

Coordinates: 50 ° 56 ′ 26.8 ″  N , 6 ° 59 ′ 45 ″  E

This article was added to the list of excellent articles on July 7, 2008 in this version .