It is likely that the first smelters were already on the site around 1300. The first documented evidence of the existence of a smelter at the site is a certificate of inheritance from 1318 (Kolmschlag, 2010). Ore deliveries to the “Obere Muldener Hütte” (also called “Krumme Hütte”) and the “Untere Muldener Hütte” (also called “Neue Hütte” or “Stückofenhütte”) were documented since 1524.
Especially since the first half of the 19th century, Muldenhütten developed into an industrial center in the Freiberg region, from which significant technological developments for the entire metallurgical industry emerged (Albrecht, 1999). At the end of the World War II in 1945, iron and steel production came to a standstill, as did Freiberg mining. Important systems and equipment were dismantled as part of the reparations payments to the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the production of lead and precious metals was able to start again at the end of 1945.
In 1961, all the smelters and pits in the Freiberg area were combined to form the VEB Bergbau- und Hüttenkombinat "Albert Funk" in Freiberg. The first important decision was to concentrate lead production in Muldenhütten in the future. For economic reasons, the mining in Freiberg and the surrounding area had to be closed in 1969. This meant the conversion of lead smelting in Muldenhütten exclusively to secondary raw materials, predominantly accumulators scrap metal.
The political change in 1990 meant the end of the iron and steel combine. In the course of the transformation of the Muldenhütten smelter site, individual production areas were spun off. As a result of the conversion process, a mix of companies from the recycling and metal industries as well as other innovative industrial and commercial companies emerged (Hein, 2010).
As a result of renovation and restructuring measures, a considerable part of the historical building fabric that was once there was lost. The area at Shaft Furnace I in the northern part of the Muldenhütten site, with the historic buildings Shaft Furnace Building and Pattinson Smelter, is an exception.
Area at the Shaft Furnace I
The area at Shaft Furnace I is the oldest sustained part of the historic smelting facilities in Muldenhütten. The foundation walls of some buildings go back to the 16th century. The total area is around 2.5 ha (Mollée, 2013).
Shaft Furnace Building
The Shaft Furnace Building (further named as Shaft Furnace I) was built in 1886-87 in the northeastern area of the Hüttenhof. To the east of the building is the Gout forecourt (Gichtvorplatz), and to the south, towards the Hüttenhof, is the slag area with a granulating basin. In 1939, during a renovation, the Shaft Furnace, which is still in existence today, was installed, and the Shaft Furnace Building was extended. The building consists of three floors with the tapping facility on the ground floor, the flue gas canal in the middle and the furnace stage on the upper floor. The original shaft furnace is still there and was in operation until 1991. It is a Pilzschen Shaft Furnace (Darbinjan, 2017). The Shaft Furnace Building is a heritage building and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2019.
Pattinson Smelter and Zinc Desilvering
The Pattinson Smelter consists of a part of the building in which the Pattinson method was used (the northeast wing) and a part of the building which was used for zinc desilvering (the northwest wing).
The Pattinson Smelter was built around 1855-56 in the course of the introduction of the Pattinson process. It was initially used to manufacture pure lead from lead containing precious metals using the Pattinson process. In 1885, the Parkes method of zinc desilvering was introduced in the northwest wing of the building. In 1886, structural changes were made to the Pattinson Smelter, which led to the size that is preserved to this day. The labor-intensive Pattinson process was discontinued in 1921 and a mechanical overhead conveyor was built at the same time (Kolditz, 2009). In 1943, a hard lead facility was built. After 1945, the basin and the pumps of the cooling water circuit of the Shaft Furnace I were moved to the northeast wing of the Pattinson Smelter. Zinc desilvering was discontinued in 1969, and hard lead production in 1972 (Kolmschlag, 2010). The Pattinson Smelter and the Shaft Furnace Building are heritage buildings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2019.