Open search
« Tuna 1 / 2021

The Maneeži Street Archive Buildings

The archive on Maneeži Street has already existed for 80 years. Yet how much do we know about the past of this area, of its development, and of how things have gone for it in the time leading up to the erection of the archive buildings? What do we know about this area at all?

This area was too damp in the 17th century and was unsuitable as a place to live. This entire area was called Kompasna. This district apparently got its name after the pub named Kompasna/Kompass that was located in the area. The single storey manège built out of horizontal logs that belonged to Tallinn’s Society for Promoting Horseback Riding was opened on 1 May 1876. The current Maneeži Street was named after it. The year of origin of the street is considered to be 1877. The merchant Prohorov’s two-storey wooden house was erected on the lot at Maneeži Street 2 in 1879. That house remained there until 1939. The Linda Estonian Merchant Ship Society built its storehouse on the lot at Maneeži Street 4 in 1882. The architect of this grandiose building was Rudolf Otto von Knüpffer. One of his best-known buildings nowadays is the Haapsalu Kursaal. The City of Tallinn acquired this building in 1914 and the City of Tallinn Pawn Office began operating there. Since the Pawn Office prospered, the city acquired the adjacent lot at Maneeži Street 2. A new 5-storey stone building designed by Asti Valamaa was built in place of the merchant Prohorov’s wooden house. The building was completed in the spring of 1940, yet the Pawn Office’s joy arising from the new building proved to be short-lived. The Red Army coveted the building in the summer of 1940, but it was not sufficiently suitable for them. The Soviet regime started collecting vast amounts of archival materials from the institutions of the Republic of Estonia. The Pawn Office was deprived of the building’s 4th and 5th storeys in September of 1940 for this purpose. The 2nd and 3rd storeys were added in 1941. Regardless of this, the archives were so short of space that archive storage rooms were located in many places throughout the city. It was even believed that if other buildings could not be acquired for the archive, the Church of St. Olaf or the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on Toompea should be put to use for this purpose.

The bombing of Tallinn by the Soviet air force on 9 March 1944 affected Maneeži Street quite significantly. The archive building at Maneeži Street 2 caught fire and a substantial amount of archival materials there was destroyed. The main building of the Pawn Office located at Maneeži Street 4 was struck by a bomb and only its exterior walls were left standing. The buildings at Maneeži Street 6, 8 and 10 were destroyed. Building no. 1 of the Room Hotel on the other side of Maneeži Street was damaged in many places. The rest of the buildings were practically destroyed. Only the buildings at Maneeži Street 2 and 3 remained standing after the March bombing on Maneeži Street. New buildings started being built on Maneeži Street in the post-war period. Surprisingly, it turned out that they were all meant for employees of the ESSR Ministry of Internal Affairs. It was not until 1960 that the Pawn Office ruins were bulldozed. The archive building was erected there, and it was completed in 1965. The archive depositories were fully completed in 1970.

The City of Tallinn Pawn Office had remained for a long time on the first storey at Maneeži Street 2. It moved out of that space in 1982 and from that time onward, the buildings at Maneeži Street 2 and 4 have been entirely at the disposal of the archive. The archive will also move out of this space quite soon. Corresponding rooms should be completed for the archive in the Estonian National Library building.