Wood wizards from Estonia
Two brothers restore buildings of a 19th century
Sometimes the events, peoples, and places from ancient times can be resurrected from the past. In the Estonian village of Alatskivi, old buildings from the estate of 19th century Baron Arvid von Nolcken are rising again due to the entrepreneurship of local residents.
Origins of Baron von Nolcken
The Baron's genealogy originated in Westphalia nearly six hundred years ago. From time to time, members of his famous family served the sovereigns of Estonia. According to Wikipedia, one of the Barons von Nolcken was an ambassador to Sweden.
"Our" Baron, Arvid von Nolcken, loved to travel. During a visit to Scotland, he was impressed by the royal residence of Balmoral. After returning to Estonia, he built his own castle in a similar style. Construction continued from 1876 to 1885. Today the small Estonian village of Alatskivi is known throughout the world because of the beautiful castle built in the Gothic Revival style.
Around the year 1900, the estate was considered to be the most lavish and expensive home in the surrounding area. The full estate included outbuildings, sheds, barns, and homes for peasants that still exist today.
"Until 1976, seasonal workers from the Soviet communal farm lived in this house," shares Roman Buk, a young local resident, pointing at a recently restored stone building. "But then the house was vacant for 20 years and it fell into ruin." Roman shares photos of the ruins. The basement and lonely fireplaces can hardly be distinguished.
In the early 1990s, the local government put the house up for auction for the incredible price of 100 euro. However, even at that price, not many were interested in taking on such a significant restoration project. However, Roman Buk viewed it as an opportunity. He bought the Baron’s servant’s old ruined house. Altogether he paid about 400 euro.
In 1996, he started working to restore the old ruin, slowly but surely transforming it into a beautiful cottage once again. The stone foundation, heating system, and bricks were all preserved in the renovation.
"The house is actually quite large. A total of six families originally shared this house," tells Roman. "And now my family and myself live here." Roman and his wife Olga have one son, Eldar, and another child is due to arrive soon.
A Sawmill aids the restoration project
As with any construction project, Roman needed a steady supply of lumber.
"I own my own private forest, and manage it myself, clearing the fallen and dead trees. Previously, I would take them to a local sawmill. I remember that about ten years ago, I had an aspen log that was quite difficult to cut. I was told to contact another sawyer in the area. When he arrived, I was introduced to a Wood-Mizer sawmill for the first time."
The Wood-Mizer style sawmill is designed for projects such as the one Roman was involved in. The mill runs a narrow band blade, which removes only a kerf of 2mm of sawdust per cut. The resulting boards are smooth and additional planing is not needed if the lumber is intended for outdoor projects such as a fence or pergola.
Since the day Roman received his aspen lumber, he hoped and dreamed of getting a sawmill of his own. Finally, in 2012, his dream came true.
"All my family and relatives helped raise the money needed and now it is here!" Roman’s new LT20 sawmill sits outside under a tent. His dreams of being able to produce his own lumber for his projects have come true, and looking around his yard, it becomes quickly obvious he has put it to good use.
"This gate I made from an oak log from my forest," Roman points. "Look at the texture, truly beautiful!" Roman’s LT20 is configured with a petrol engine and a trailer package so it can be towed to sawing sites. When builders have several construction sites, the mobility of the sawmill is very helpful.
The second restoration
Inspired by his older brother’s successful building restoration, Andrew Buk bought another nearby building – an old forge. At least, he bought what was left of it, as it was only a skeleton of the original building and a ruined smithy.
"As times have changed and Estonia is now a part of the European Union," shares Roman, "The forge that my brother purchased was considered historical heritage, and that restoration had to be made in such a way that it reproduced what the building had looked like in the Baron’s times."
After Andrew and Roman discussed the possibilities, they decided to proceed with the restoration of the forge, and afterwards build it into a new business. They turned it into a guest house called ‘The Forge Guest House’ - Sepikoja Külalistemaja. The house sets just above a beautiful pond and is surrounded by trees, making it a lovely and relaxing place to visit. The giant fireplace in the living room is in operation once again. On the second floor are the guest rooms, each one themed – the Old Smythy’s room, the Mistress’ room, the Girl’s room, the Boy’s room, and the Hammerman room. Although the house is quite old, it now features modern technology, such as a Swedish earthen pump heating system.
The house now serves as an attractive venue for weddings and parties that are themed from the 19th century, and the village of Alatskivi has added yet another attraction for bringing in tourists.
So starting with the creativity and vision of the Baron von Nolcken, and continued in the modern day by the Buk brothers, things from the past are able to be preserved for future generations.
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