The Palace Hall
18th century – the Establishment of the Palace
The Great Northern War (1700–1721) was not yet over when Tsar Peter I, certain of his claim over the conquered territories by the Baltic Sea, started to build a new summer palace in the vicinity of Tallinn which would be worthy of Russian aspirations to become one of the great powers in Europe.
Peter, who wished to appear a very European ruler, consciously stressed that he and the whole of Russia belonged to the European cultural space.
In his attempts to create a new Russian reality and people, Peter I began by changing the appearance of the country and its citizens, and architecture played a significant role in this process.
To construct new residences for the ruler, masters and artists were brought to Russia from all over Europe.
Among others, Peter I asked for the services of an Italian, Nicola Michetti (1675–1743), whose first job in Russia was the construction of the tsar’s summer palace in a nice grove near Reval, as Kadriorg was called before the mid-18th century, when it was renamed in honour of Katherine I. The story of the palace begins in July, 1718, carefully recorded by a stonemason’s hand on a memorial plaque in the foyer.
The construction work in the palace was a joint effort of several foreign masters: in addition to the Italian chief architect, parts of the job were carried out by:
1. The Roman architect Gaetano Chiaveri;
2. The Venetian stucco master Antonio Quadri;
3. Salomon Zeltrecht from Sweden;
4. The sculptor Heinrich von Bergen from Riga;and many others.
Several of those men later worked in St. Petersburg; the founding of a new Russian capital also provided employment for another Kadriorg Palace architect, Mikhail Zemtsov, who was in charge of construction after Michetti returned to Italy.
Workers were ordered from Russia, and more difficult tasks were fulfilled by soldiers from the Tallinn garrison or forced labourers.
In the town, which was nearly empty of people and severly damaged by war, the construction of an unprecedentedly magnificent palace to replace the modest summer manors of Tallinn citizens, seaside rocks and junipers seemed like a miracle.
Unfortunately, the builders did not manage to carry out all of Michetti’s and Peter’s grandiose plans because, after the death of the tsar in 1725, the interest of Russian rulers in the Baltic Sea, its navy, Tallinn and the palace died down for quite a long while.
The 19th Century – Kadriorg’s New Heyday
A new chapter in the history of Kadriorg began in the year 1827.
As in earlier days, changes were linked to the arrival of the ruler.
In that year, Emperor Nicholas I visited Tallinn for the first time, and was very disappointed by the fact that he had to stay at Toompea, not in the imperial palace built by Peter I, as Kadriorg Palace was in such bad condition that staying there overnight was impossible.
After the visit, the emperor gave orders to transfer the palace, which Paul I had given to the civilian governor of Estonia, back under the administration of the Ministry of the Tsar’s Court, to immediately start renovation work on the building and park, and to provide the palace and its annexes with everything necessary.
The reconstruction of 1827–1831 was in accordance with the changes which had taken place in the lifestyle of the imperial family and the court.
Family relations and feelings, and a natural way of life were considered more important than exterior pomposity.
To enjoy the healthy sea air more comfortably, an awning with curtains was placed on the balcony, the festive stairs leading to the Flower Garden were replaced by a semicircular enclosed veranda, and a new staircase was added to the seaside wing.
All rooms were fitted with fancy furniture, bathrooms were built, lamps, Persian rugs and works of art were brought to Tallinn, and special porcelain sets and glazed earthenware were ordered from the Kiev-Mezhigorski factory.
The use of rooms was also altered. The most respectable rooms on the main floor in the seaside wing were the apartment of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna; above her, on the third floor, the living rooms of the emperor and the crown prince were located; the bedrooms and living rooms of the emperor’s daughters covered both floors of the right wing.
The 18th-century ceremonial enfilade of rooms became the summer house of a large family.
In the 19th century, visits of high society to Tallinn were connected with more than politics.
People came here to enjoy the healthy sea water and air, or stopped over on their way to western Europe, which was often the destination of Friederike Louise and her children. Friederike was the daughter of the Prussian King Frederick William III and, as Empress of Russia, had taken the name Alexandra Feodorovna.
An illuminated path leading to the beach, a pier and a bathing house were built for them.
To house visitors and numerous courtiers, the old keeper’s house and pleasure house were rebuilt, an attic was added to the kitchen house, and pavillions with little columns were erected in the lower garden.
The imperial family was followed to Tallinn and Kadriorg by most of St. Petersburg’s high society and intelligentsia.
Kadriorg became a modern resort for spending summers and improving one’s health.
A district of lovely turreted wooden villas was erected around Kadriorg Park.
The district was full of bathing salons, water treatment establishments, hotels, pensions and restaurants.
Towards the end of the century, the area became a bit less glorious, as the imperial visits became rarer, particularly after the end of the Crimean War and the building of a railway line to the Crimea, which decreased the St. Petersburg aristocrats’ interest in the resort in Reval.
Kadriorg became a living area and summer resort for the wealthy Estonian bourgeoisie.