The beginnings of Piła go back to the times of Duke Władysław I Herman and Duke Bolesław III Wrymouth. Most probably, there was a fishing village here. In the days of King Władysław I the Elbow-high or Casimir III the Great (14th century) the town obtained a charter confirmed by Queen Jadwiga of Poland. The oldest written document that proved the existence of the town, which was most likely a royal property, comes from 1449. According to another source dated 1478 or 1480, Piła belonged to Opaliński kinship which means that it was a private town and its owners handed over the proprietorship to the monarch. Before 1449, a parish church was founded. In 1513, King Sigismund I the Old certified Magdeburg Town Rights. Charters from 1513, 1561 and 1627 created favorable conditions for the development of the town. Despite all efforts, the town remained a small center of a semi-agricultural character. It was inhabited by burghers, farmers and potters, shoemakers, wheelwrights, millers, butchers, and coopers. In the town and its surroundings iron ore was smelted and then processed in ironworks. In 1563, there were 153 houses in Piła. In the 16th century, Górek family took possession of the town. After that, it again became a royal property. In the 17th century, King Sigismund III Vasa granted Piła and the whole pilsko-ujskie eldership to his wife Queen Constance of Austria. The town was gradually transformed from an agricultural town to a crafts and allied trades town. The number of craftsmen was increasing. In 1564, there were 39 of them, in 1591 - 43, in 1626 – about 100 (together with butchers). New trades appeared:  turner, locksmith, baker, blacksmith, hat-maker and rope-maker. In 1590, a guild of brewers was set up, and in 1604, guilds representing  various crafts. The town was on fire several times. After the fire in 1626, it burned almost to the ground. Queen Constance of Austria set about rebuilding Piła. A new spatial layout of the town was marked out. A town hall was built. The town was seriously destroyed during the Polish-Swedish War 1655 - 1660.  The Northern War 1700 -1721 and The Seven Years’ War 1756 - 1763 was responsible for reducing the population. Along with the general devastation of the town, many craft businesses collapsed. The others started to develop intensively, especially brewing, clothing and shoemaking. The significance of brewing can be demonstrated by the fact that there was a guild of Catholic brewers and in 1697, a guild of Protestant brewers was also set up. Trade did not matter greatly. More and more inhabitants were Germans. The migratory movement triggered off by the Prussian settlement and economic politics occurring at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries created favorable conditions for the ethnic structure to change. The local Polish population and part of the Jewish population migrated. In place of them, newcomers from Germany arrived. In 1816, they made up a group of 722 people (45% of the total population).

A great fire of the town in 1834 changed the look of Piła. About 200 houses burned down. Rebuilding progressed quickly. In 1837, there were already 350 buildings in Piła. New streets and squares were marked out and gradually the town was developed with fine public buildings (an arsenal, National Court, post office, new town hall, two churches of Our lady of Loretto) and tenements. An enchanting city park was established. In 1871, a gasworks was opened and a waste disposal system was installed. In 1889, a town slaughterhouse sprang up. In 1851, Piła received the first rail link with Krzyż and Bydgoszcz, then with Tczew and Frankurt (Oder). In 1871, connections were made between Piła and Złotów and Chojnice; in 1879 with Szczecinek, and in 1881 with Wałcz. During the next 20 years, Piła became one of the largest junction points in eastern Germany and it significantly influenced the town’s demographic and economic development. Large factories for rolling stock repairs and one of the biggest factories for the production of aviation equipment were set up. The company ‘Albatros’ manufactured about 100 airplanes a month during World War I. About 2,500 people found employment there. A lot of factories opened: food industry factories (two dairies, a starch works), factories for building material (brickyards, sawmills, a roof tar-paper factory), factories manufacturing machine (agricultural machines factories, factories manufacturing iron goods). Also, a military post was situated in Piła. The town was a well-known publishing center in eastern Germany.

 

In 1939, the local Polish population was displaced. In 1945, 75% of Piła was destroyed during the defense of the town in January and February 1945. After the creation of the new Polish nation, the rebuilding of Piła started. A new layout of the town was delineated out and a number of new housing estates were built. The town became a significant industrial center. A light bulb factory was set up in 1958 (currently owned by Philips) and an oxygen manufacturing company in 1996. Factories for repairing rolling stock were again opened, as well as a factory manufacturing  public utility equipment, an aluminum foundry, and a plant manufacturing prefabs. At present, Piła is a major center for cultural, economic and educational life [1.1].

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] More: Zygmunt Boras, Zbigniew Dworecki, Piła. Zarys dziejów (do roku 1945), Urząd Miejski w Pile, Piła 1993.