/Historic overview by historian phD Heino Gustavson/
The history of our building has grown out of the history of the ancient Hanseatic town on the shores of the Baltic Sea. The beginning of the town dates back to the 2nd half of the 2nd millennium B.C. when our ancestors settled down in the area. The settlement moved forward together with the backing sea, and today we still live on the shore of the same sea. The town has carried many names – Lindanise, Reval, and today Tallinn. The historic events of this Hanseatic town would not be fairly recorded without our house.
The first significant events took place in the middle of the 14th century when the moat surrounding the town was about to dry up. As a moat was not supposed to be dry, then King of Denmark Waldemar IV gave permission to Tallinn town council and the townspeople to direct water from lake Ülemiste into the town moats. On the basis of this right the building of a 4 km long water supply channel with lime stone bottom and walls started in 1346. The channel ended slightly to the west of the Harju Gate. The resultant small pond also fed the nearby watermill.
During the Livonian War in February 1577 when Russian troops had surrounded Tallinn, the siegers started to dig two mine galleries from their fort at Tõnismäe. The defenders tried to dig their own galleries probably under what is now Toompea Street. In March the Russian troops retreated from Tallinn, the town remained a secure bastion of the Swedish Crown and Tallinn had to suffer no more sieges during the Livonian War. And today we have the mysterious underground galleries.
In 1686 King of Sweden Karl XI approved a sconce project of Tallinn that also included building of the Inger Bastion (people call it the Harju Gate Hill), whereas all the sand and soil was carried from the outskirts of the town. The channel was later covered with lime stone vault, so that the town water supply would be cleaner. On the 1688 Tallinn plan the channel is already said to be vaulted. The building of the bastion was finished in 1699, that is directly before the Great Northern War. Another vaulted gallery was built during the same construction that might have been used for supplying cannons with cannon balls
and gun powder.
Today every resident and visitor can see the renovated and original reconstruction of the water supply channel when they visit restaurant Wana Tunnel and the mulled wine bar Karoliina. The medieval pearl of our plot was the Harju Gate that consisted of the main gate inside the town wall and two front gates. Having lost their defensive significance the demolishing of the gate structures began in 1862, whereas the main gate was demolished in 1875. Slightly toward Toompea alongside Rüütli Street a small army house was built that operated for some time as officers casino of the 90th Onega division.
Brisk construction followed the demolition—the most remarkable part being the 3-floor stone house ordered by merchant Alexander Ernst and designed by architect Rudolf Knüpffer the building of which started in 1879 and that adjoined the above-mentioned military establishment. We can still see the facade from that time in the Harju Street. The shop windows were relatively small, there were three doors all together. The 1st floor was decorated by high arched windows of luxury apartments; the 2nd floor, where the apartments were simpler, windows were smaller and their arches lower. The building was roofed in 1880 that is proved by a relevant archive record and the decorative plates above the main door. The left plate reads EDIFICATUM ANNO 1880, and the right one No.608 II REV.ST.T. A.ERNST where the abbreviation after the property number means II-nd district of the town and in the end the name of the owner is written.
Simultaneously with the main building a simple storehouse was finished in the yard by the Harju Hill and a residential building side by side with the town wall. The storehouse was soon replaced by a 2-floor residential building whose new owner Baron Eduard von Maydell was in the end of the century granted permission to add a third floor. The architect was Nikolai Thamm.
At least in 1900 the building hosted Marie Wellmann’s 3rd category private school for boys and girls. At the same time two rooms of the commercial space were used by Vitali Boroshkin, one was selling mixed goods and the other toys.
In 1913 a Christian Rubin book store is mentioned to lacate downstairs.In August of 1917 the Maydell property was purchased by a tavern owner Wilhelm Kirstein who planned to establish a cafe in Harju Street. But the times were heavy with political turbulence and the thought became reality only in 1920 when architect Franz de Vries planned an enlargement of the ground floor display windows and CAFE’ KIRSTEIN started business in the two middle size rooms.
The same year witnessed two other cultural events in the history of the building, namely the first Estonian book store that was owned by Varrak publishing company was opened, and Tallinn II Science School moved into the building. In 1922 the school was renamed to Tallinn Technical Gymnasium with classrooms on the 1st and 2nd floors of the building. Our dear song father Gustav Ernesaks attended this school.
In 1922 W. Kirsthein applied to the town government for permission to enlarge the cafe and after getting the approval opened up already on June 8th in the part of the building that is adjacent to Vabaduse Väljak. In the same year the location of the store doors was changed and the display windows were enlarged once again.
In 1923 the cafe was enlarged into a two hall 200 seat representative cafe withevening dance music. A noticeable fact is that no alcohol was served.
The owner energetically continued to renovate. In the summer of 1927 he reconstructed the Rüütli Street side of the main building and installed central heating! On September 5th of the same year he received permission from the Science and Art Department of the Ministry of Education to “make openings in the old town wall provided that the outer surface of the wall remains unplastered and the historic look of it would be preserved” (by today these openings have been closed up again).
But the same year of 1927 became fatal for the owner—in the end of the summer he suffered pressure for money. He soon gave up use of the second hall of the cafe and sold the neighbouring book store to publishing alliance “Rahvaülikool”. The new owner demanded both schools to leave the building and the whole property was purchased by the Merchants and Industrialists Alliance (Kaupmeeste ja Töösturite Ühisus) who opened a restaurant called “Küba” in 1928 in the main building and rented out rooms to the Bank of Property Owners (former Põhja-Eesti Ühispank) and K. Glaser’s foot-ware store. As the people tended to mock the peculiar name, then the restaurant was renamed “Savoy”.
In 1929 permission was granted to build a staircase to the 1st floor next to the outer wall of the south side. The new owner “Rahvaülikool” ordered blueprints from architect Eduard Jacob. The staircase was completed in 1930 and proved to be a magnificent advertisement for “Savoy”.
Peculiar changes took place in the building adjacent to the town wall where a hat factory started work in 1932. New boiler, steam engine, transmissions, electric engines, spooling aggregate, sewing machines and such were installed according to Dipl. Engineer N. Kamöshev’s project.
In 1933-34 the premices of the cafe were already occupied by restaurant-cabaret “Ampiir”. Thereafter the place transformed from alcohol breathing into bible scented, as the Young Womens Christian Association moved in. The bar was replaced by a reputable cantine.
Bigger renovations were undertaken in 1936 when architects Eugen Benard together with Viktor Tretjakevitsh planned a “long room” with a big kitchen next to the outer staircase. Two spacious halls were planned on the second floor on the same side of the building with total of 250 seats. The planning and construction costs were covered by baker Heinrich Gottleb Feischner who had decided to move his cafe from a building across Harju Street. The entire establishment had by that time been transferred to association “H.Feischner & Son” and the grand opening took place on November 17, 1936.
In 1940 he building was nationalised. Cafe “Tallinn” opened up after the War. The building was fully reconstructed in the 1960s and a bar-cabaret called “Tallinn” opened up on the first floor. The most popular cafe in Tallinn continued to operate on the first floor.