Architecture

Architecture

Mulgimaa mansion houses

Mulks were the first ones who started building modern and imposing residential houses - mansions. New houses were not built anymore by following the ancestors’ examples, as it had been done for hundreds of years with barn dwellings, instead farmers got ideas from Baltic German manor houses and urban architecture.

The houses went through extensive makeover, both, outside and inside – they became more attractive, comfortable, cleaner and spacious.

The word „häärber“ (mansion house) refers to a house of masters or governors. 
Generally, „häärber“ referred to a spacious dwelling that was built separately from the barn  and was inspired from the design of manor houses, town halls, school buildings and townhouses. The word comes from German term „Herberge“ which means officials house of the manor. In Mulgimaa, the term „häärber“ referred to the main building of a farm and larger manor house-like dwellings.
Beside the practical purpose, häärber had great symbolic significance – through them farmers expressed their wealth and social status.

Over time, the architecture of mansion houses became more and more diverse, reflecting the owner's personal taste, insights, ambitions, economic opportunities, etc.

Especially demanding farmers had their houses designed by educated architects.

Mansion house had 4-6 living rooms, including a large hall or guest room and a family room, which can be considered as basic characteristics of mansion house. Mansion house also had a dining room, master bedroom, kitchen, several hallways and pantries, almost always a porch, seldom a writing room or master's office and even more seldom an internal toilet and bathroom. In newer mansions, they began to pay more attention to the workers' premises as well.

The last 50 years have been very dramatic for mansion houses – they have a lot of common with the destiny of Estonian manor houses. Since the mansion houses belonged mostly to wealthy farmers, only very few of them were left in the possession of their real owners. As a rule, the family of the owner suffered repressions, fled to the West, or had to change their place of residence. The houses were in most cases given to Soviet collective farms. Hundreds of mansion houses served first as central offices of collective farms, many of them even decades later.

Many mansion houses were used as local municipality premises or as a shop, a school, etc. Later on, the mansion houses were used to accommodate casual workers, the houses offered a home for many families but none of them took care of the premises. 

Today, most of the mansion houses have been returned to their owners, but quite many have still not been returned. The houses are often in very bad condition and people living there are lacking financial means to renovate them. All over Estonia, there are hundreds of completely or nearly destroyed mansion houses.