BUSINESS AND RESIDENTIAL BUILDING AT 2 SUUR-KARJA STREET
At the heart of the Tallinn Old Town, at a superb location in the immediate vicinity of the Town Hall Square and beside the old market place, there is one of the most interesting buildings in the Old Town. The fact that many foreign missions (an embassy, an ambassadorâ€™s residence and a cultural centre) have found their place in the neighbourhood makes the location even more impressive. Additional value is created by the views from the building to the old market place, Suur-Karja Street and Niguliste Church. A building has been situated on the property already since the 13th century and throughout the history its owners have included, besides honourable tradesmen, altogether three aldermen and one burgomaster of Tallinn and one alderman of Narva. Now this historic building has been freshly renovated. In the course of careful and cautious reconstruction all the details (including also details that are very rare and unique in Tallinn) and structures with historic and aesthetic value were preserved, cleaned and conserved. The complete restoration of the entire house, which was carried out under the guidance and direction of the National Heritage Board, took almost five years. In the beginning of this year, the work performed was recognised and the building was awarded the title of the best restored building in the heritage conservation area of the Tallinn Old Town in 2008. Now this carefully reconstructed house waits for worthy tenants.
About the History of the Building (on the basis of an overview prepared by the historian JĂźri Kuuskemaa) When standing in front of the relatively simple three-part faĂ§ade of the building at 2 Suur-Karja Street, one cannot imagine the extensive and romantic labyrinth of wings and rooms behind its bends and turns built around a small and irregularly shaped yard, not mentioning the breathtaking views from windows facing different directions.
The cellars under the right part of the building are very robust and archaic as are the main-floor rooms withdrawing from the street in an enfilade manner. Three cellars out of four are arched. The most attractive cellar with its mighty centre pillar and four bays of vaults is the one situated on the street side.
Throughout centuries, building parts, structures, rooms and ornaments from different eras representing the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicistic styles have merged in the house. The property has seen good days and bad days similarly to the developments in the town, but it has always belonged to the representatives of the town elite and tradesmen, including aldermen and burgomasters from very famous families. There should be no doubt that the plot adjacent to the old market place, where before the fire in 1288 the first town hall was located, was improved with buildings already in the 13th century. Unfortunately, the documents from the Danish era do not name the possessors of the property. The first owner whose name has been recorded was Thidericus Lange in 1360. From 1396 until 1468 the property belonged to the Lore family. At that time the residence was splendidly finished and it became a so-called diele-dornse type of tradesman’s residence with two main rooms. On the street side, there was a spacious and high hall (diele) which ran throughout the house and of the structures of which the base of a mantle chimney with its several-sided corner pillar has been preserved in the right back corner where the kitchen used to be; in the left corner, there are wall stairs which used to connect different floors; and in the left wall, there is a worn ogival portal to shop rooms behind the middle part of the façade. The original family room (dornse; in Latin “dormire” – to sleep) with an arcade resting on magnificent Gothic cut consoles in its right wall is located behind the diele.
In the following more than 200 years, the house had several owners who repaired and renovated it as and when possible. For example, Simon Korffmaker, who owned the house from 1606 to 1622, added artistic window columns to the dornse, i.e. the family room in the main building, which originally must have been finished in colour.
In 1673 the house was put to auction and a bailiff transferred it to Dirick Witte, a tradesman who came from a renowned aldermen family and became an alderman himself in 1681. He took it upon himself to fix up the house in accordance with the Baroque design in fashion in Tallinn at that time. On the façade, we can see the “ram’s horn” wall anchors which were used to fasten the wooden inserted ceilings reconditioned then. It is believed that some of the cellars, which used to have beam ceilings, were arched at that time, new wall stairs and inner portals were made, the “saw-toothed” gables on the façade were removed and the two-levelled French roof, which has been preserved until today, was completed. The most artistic of Dirick Witte’s renovations which have been preserved until today are the beam ceiling with leaf paintings in the family room on the first floor and fragments of an extremely rare painting in the same room. The fragment of the painting imitates a laced drapery with flowers and cornucopias.
Berend Nottbeck from an aldermen family that emerged in the 18th century became the owner of the property in 1784. Again an extensive modernisation took place and this time in compliance with the Classicistic architecture then fashionable. Since trading was no longer as intensive as during the Swedish era, the storage and bin rooms were remodelled to become residential areas which could be rented out. Somewhat rotten inserted ceilings had to be replaced again. Even the height of the rooms was changed and this in turn caused the façades to be redesigned. Merchandise hatches with stone borders and wheepholes were replaced with regularly positioned six-pane windows. Some of the first-floor rooms on the street side were designed to form an enfilade of living rooms. The rooms were decorated with Classicistic stucco rosettes and dog-tooth cornices. They also had high folding doors, window casings and wall panels covered with gloss paint and new parquetlike floors. The main staircase with fine lathed balusters originates from the 19th century.
Later reconstructions did not add to the house any more value; they were only limited to its inner layout and consisted mainly in the installation of new partitions. During the Soviet era, the building housed a sanitary and epidemiology agency and people could order rodent control or so-called “deratifying” services there. The façade of the building looks almost exactly the same today as it did already 200 years ago. The valuation of historic styles in the last quarter of the 20th century favoured the exposure of certain stylish details and structures on the façade, in the front hall and
also in the ground-floor and first-floor family quarters of the main building already at the end of the Soviet era. However, the metamorphosis of the entire house from its cellars to its roof framing units has taken place only in recent years. Careful and cautious reconstruction was carried out in compliance with the heritage conservation rules. All the details and structures of historic and aesthetic value were preserved, cleaned and conserved.
The building has been restored with a view of it becoming a building representative of its tenants. The rooms on the ground floor continue the tradition of being used as trading premises and several shops selling quality goods are located there. The remaining floors can be used as an ideal venue for holding receptions or as office premises or even apartments. The rooms in the basement have been restored to become suitable for an exclusive winebar, chocolate cafĂŠ or any other similar business.
The building at 2 Suur-Karja Street is waiting for tenants who would add a worthy chapter to its colourful history.
Rental information and showing:
Urmas Tehver Tel. +372 5131 410 Urmas.Tehver@upc.ee United Property Consultants www.upc.ee
Annexes: Floor plans
Basement (204.1 square metres in total)
Ground floor (355.8 square metres in total)
First floor (402.8 square metres in total)
Second floor (280.8 square metres in total)
Third floor (263.6 square metres) Plus the fourth floor with the area of 95.2 square metres.