Real Fábrica De Tabacos, Sevilla
Tobacco consumption, hence, manufacture and sales, began in Europe almost immediately after Columbus' initial voyage of 1492. Initially the Spanish created the Fábrica de Tabacos facing the Church of San Pedro de Sevilla on top of the vestiges of an ancient Roman burial ground. Seville was also home of the Casa de Contratacion (House of Trade) and was adopted as a natural location for the fabrication and trade of this new commodity. The enterprise was continually in quest of expansion to keep up with the growing demand for powdered tobacco.
The expansion of the factory continued for over a century until the early 18th century when the Spanish Crown decided to erect the largest building dedicated to manufacturing in Europe. This colossal project outside the Puerta del Jerez, one of the gates of the city of Seville, was first initiated in 1728 and took an additional thirty years of on and off construction to finish. The primary endeavors were completed in 1731 including the foundations of the main structure and the canalization of the Tagarete stream propitious for the initial needs of power to work the 'molinos' (mills) for the grinding of the tobacco. The next phase in the evolution of this magnanimous project was the reworking of initial foundations to accommodate larger machinery and workstations. These modifications began in 1733 and lasted a mere two years before the project was shelved and then revived and completed in 1750.
The factory began production in 1758 and the very first tobacco auctions took place there in 1763. There were over one thousand workers with 170 mills and 200 horses. The production of snuff was heavy work as the making of snuff required the manipulation of great sheaves of tobacco hauled manually while the equine powered mills ground the leaves into the polvo or rapé that was then sold on the market as snuff. The factory also served as lieu for the fabrication of cigars, as smoking of rolled tobacco leaves became more popular across Europe. By the beginning of the 19th century 700 men were employed for the making of cigars and one thousand for snuff. Unfortunately, the reputation of Seville cigars was less than stellar and by 1811 production was halted. The establishment had kept its workforce exclusively male until reopening cigar production in 1813 with an entirely female staff to hand roll the leaves. By the early 20th century, over half the work force of 6000 strong was replaced by mechanization. The numbers atrophied over the decades of the 1900's to about 1100 employees by 1940. Eventually moved to the Los Remedios neighborhood, the structure was repurposed in 1950 as the headquarters for the University of Seville.
This is a monument to the tobacco plant and remains testament to one of the largest factories in Europe at close to 300,000 sq. ft. The only building larger is the monastery-palace of El Escorial in San Lorenzo. The factory at Los Remedios was eventually closed on December 31st, 2007. In June 2009 plans were announced to turn over the facility to the University of Seville.