Who was Mr. Lindley IVth and what he did for Warsaw
2009-04-02

The youngest, third son of William and Julie Lindleys, was born in Hamburg on May 18, 1859. He was christened with the popular name in the family, Joseph IVth, but at home we was called Josh or Jossie. He received English education as a graduate from the technical department of the London University.

Like his brother William Heerlein, Joseph Lindley IVth started his professional career working for his father in Frankfurt am Main. He received a passport from the Foreign Office in London on March 20, 1880, and on the same day Russian Consulate General granted him an entry visa to the Russian Empire. From that time on, Joseph spent nearly 25 years in this part of the world. Albeit the youngest son, he seems to have performed important missions for his father and served him as a close advisor in serious matters as we can see from the surviving two letters written by Joseph from Frankfurt to his brother Robert in Warsaw in 1881. “This may look almost like a business letter,” Joseph admitted in one of those letters as he tried to explain to Robert why his letter contained such a highly technical passage. In another letter written in November, he wrote to his brother representing William Heerlein in Warsaw: “Dear Bob, you wrote such a long and nice letter that I feel embarrassed by not responding so long. I have come here [Frankfurt] with a huge amount of work to do (...) Belgrade wants a sewage system too. Willie [William Heerlein] and myself are busy writing correspondence and sending cables. But I see you keep making progress. You must get your new office as soon as possible. Why do you not talk directly with Starynkiewicz about this (...),” he advised.

When William Lindley retired, Joseph continued working for his brothers. He managed a number of projects, among them, the construction of a sewage system in Elberfeld, took part in the design of such systems for St. Petersburg and Düsseldorf, replaced his brother at work in Frankfurt when he was out on his frequent business trips. Their father, living far away in Blackheath, tried not only to keep in touch with his youngest son but also offered him advice. “The most important goal you should reach is to deserve and receive remuneration for your own abilities, moral standards, and commonsense,” he would write after Joseph made his first successful financial operations. “Enterprise and perseverance will always be the most reliable key to wealth of all sorts! Your current position is an excellent starting point for further development of your talents and character. Right now you are a chunk of pure gold but it can be turned into a piece of rotten wood by a single touch,” he would warn his son and added: “I hope you are going to win respect of all people you meet and, therefore, your opinions and outlooks must be very well justified.” Quite critical of his son, only 23 years-old at the time, William also urged him: “Pray for the skill to keep silent whenever you are in doubt, voice your opinions only after a thorough analysis of all circumstances and after a serious judgment. Public positions require wise and cool-headed people (...). We all want your success so keep studying and keep working hard [all emphasized phrases by W. L.] because you have already lost quite a lot of time.”

William Lindley supported his reflections and advice with a strong example of the success of the great American inventor, industrialist, and President. “I send you a book ‘The Life of Benjamin Franklin’ which I read 50 years ago and I have just read it again. You read the book and see how an ordinary man can grow into one of the greatest figures in the world history.” William closes his letter full of good advice with this: “Write what you are now working on. Your loving father W. Lindley.” When the works commenced in Elberfeld in 1882 began to run full swing two years later, Joseph was made the resident engineer acting on behalf of his brother William H. Lindley. He served at that position until December 1888 when he had to replace Robert as manager of the construction of water supply and sewage system in Warsaw. The author of a note about Joseph Lindley wrote: “The construction of a pumping station and water filters for the upper part of the city, including wide arched water reservoir and filters, building the core network of 105 miles-long sewers removing runoff water from the city, and trigonometric measurements of the town and its outskirts, were all done under his personal supervision. Working together with his colleague engineer Alfons Grotowski, Joseph Lindley continued to manage the systems after the construction had been finished. The success of the projects he carried out was largely owed to his perfect planning and unusual attention he would attach to performing all his tasks and to the energy he showed in solving various problems many of which—being of administrative nature—were quite inseparable from the works proper and could hardly be considered minor problems in Russia.” Joseph Lindley was also responsible for monitoring of the works and making reports. Members of his Polish team remembered him as the organiser of meetings held every evening by the sewage system’s management and as the author of reports delivered to the town mayor almost every day. He worked only with Polish staff, took an active part in the life of the city, read and sponsored the Przegląd Techniczny (Technical Revue) magazine. He was respected by his employers and loved by the people he worked with on the daily basis. People who knew him stressed that he had a good sense of justice, kindness, and was ready to help anyone who asked for it.

We know that Joseph Lindley used to live at 5, Hortensji Street in Warsaw (today: Górskiego Street). The apartment he chose for himself and his family was in a four-storey house built before 1886 for its owner Icek Rothenberg. A surviving photograph shows a neo-renaissance rusticated facade with balconies and cast iron ballustrades. The street was built in the years 1882-1883 and it ran across land owned by a well-known Warsaw publisher Samuel Lewental, also a co-owner of the Kurier Warszawski paper. The street was named after Lewental’s second wife Hortensja, daughter of an art historian and collector Matias Bergsohn. Then, the Wojciech Górski Gymnasium college was built here in 1880s, and the street was renamed Górskiego Street in 1938. Buildings along the street were all residential at the time when Lindley lived there and the street was very quiet because its eastern part was a dead end, closed with a large flower ben of a roundabout size. Pedestrian access from the Nowy Świat Avenue was possible through the gates of building No. 41 and vehicles could get there only from the Szpitalna Street. A prestigious house was built at the Hortensji and Szpitalna Streets in 1893. It was designed by Franciszek Brauman for its owner Emil Wedel. The 5, Hortensji Street building became the property of Countess Eugenia Potocka in 1890s. Jerzy Kasprzycki wrote: “[the street] had well kept facades designed in good taste for its several-storey buildings. It was an enclave of calm and safety at the back of the Nowy Świat Avenue.”

NWe do not know too much about Josephs private life. Family documents say that he married Emmy Emilie Suermondt of Wrocław on February 1, 1894. He would take his son Henry William along for his trips abroad. Some photographs shot in Warsaw in early 20th century show Joseph accompanied by his son when inspecting some construction sites. Joseph had his social life after work, he and his wife would meet with the family Lesser who owned what is now known as the Śleszyński Palace at 17 (now 25) Aleje Ujazdowskie Avenue in the years 1863-1912. He loved to play tennis at the place called Dynasy in Warsaw. He would spend his summer vacations in Sopot. He kept two fashionable English terriers Jackie and Topsy. His cultural and political contacts are unknown. The Lewentals, who lived nearby, had a salon where all the prominent figures of Warsaw used to meet and Joseph Lindley and his wife must have been frequent guests there. Those photographs which have survived to our time show him surrounded by a group of friends from the Dynasy Tennis Club and a group of other, unidentified people. He was also a member of the Russian Association of Water Engineers and many other European organisations. It is hard to imagine him to be quite indifferent to the economic life of the country where he lived, especially that he is known to have held shares in the Society of Iron Blast Furnaces and Ostrowiec Factories in 1897. So say the minutes from the General Meeting of Shareholders and it allows us to presume that it was not the only company in which he bought some stake. Joseph Lindley became a member of prestigious English Institution of Civil Engineers on March 3, 1891. He would document his professional work by making photographs of various phases of Warsaw sewage and water system construction works. A record in his passport says that Joseph left Warsaw on a train, as he usually did, and crossed the border at Aleksandrów Kujawski on December 25, 1903. He travelled to London in 1904 where he got a Russian visa, and was back in Warsaw on September 5. We know that he was not well at the time. A note about Joseph Lindley included in the Minutes of Proceedings of the Civil Engineering Institution in London says that he was persuaded to give up his position for health reasons in 1905. The fact is also mentioned by authors of the work titled “Water Supply and Sewage Systems of Metropolitan Warsaw, 1886-1936.” Authors of the Great Illustrated Encyclopaedia wrote: “(...) during 16 years, he carried out very useful works here. Warsaw owes the completion of those [water and sewer] projects to his great devotion for work and energy. Nervous suffering caused Lindley’s premature death.”

Lindley died on April 20, 1906, at a hospital in Ober Ursel (Oberursel) at the age of only 47. Emil Sokal wrote: “(...) his premature death was caused by being overloaded with work which, in turn, caused nervous complaints first and then, when medical treatment proved ineffective and trips to southern climates caused new complaints rather than improvement, the patient came back to Frankfurt and was treated at a centre for people with nervous disorders, where he eventually died.” He was buried at the Haupt Friedhof cemetery in Marburg. Joseph’s granddaughter Margret Schulz moved the tombstone to her back garden in the same town in connection with the destructions the place suffered during World War II.

Joseph Lindley had a son Henry William and a daughter Julia Anita. He had good language skills as he spoke fluent German, French, and Russian. He also learnt Polish to be able to communicate with the labourers and read Polish press. He spent nearly 17 years of his life in Warsaw, his young adult years and most of his professional life passed here. Publications about Warsaw’s water and sewage systems usually mention father of this family of engineers William Lindley and his successor and head of the family company. Let us refresh the memory of Joseph, that one of the Lindleys who had the strongest bonds with Warsaw in all the family, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his birth.

Professor Ryszard Żelichowski
author of a monograph of the Lindleys, historian, specialist in Warsaw studies