History of Villa Ammende
Villa Ammende dates back to the last turn of the century era of economic growth when bourgeois started to prefer private residences to luxurious apartments. From building styles modern mixed with traditionalism created by local architects was preferred. Villa Ammende represents the little used Belgian and Austrian flaunting modern style. The building that would have suited well to some St. Petersburg or Riga area of private villas, appears rather surprising in the province town of Pärnu.
The villa has got its name from the Ammende family. Christian Ludwig Ammende moved to Pärnu from Germany in the end of the 18th century. His younger son Jacob Diedrich Ammende (1811-1898) founded his own trade office. By the end of the 19th century Ammendes had become one of the most influential and well-off families in Pärnu. After Jacob Diedrich’s death his oldest living son Karl Heinrich inherited the family’s fortune, but he died three years later. The inheritance went to his brother Hermann Leopold (1855-1934) who was also the builder of Villa Ammende.
The design of the villa was ordered from St. Petersburg’s architectural and construction firm Mieritz and Gerassimov. In 1904 the site preparation and construction started. On the postcard of August 1905 the building is nearly completed but without the surrounding gardens and the fence. The building was realised in much richer manner than the initial design showed.
On the restless facades all at that time new methods and materials were used: colourful ceramic tiles, black wrought- and bluish grey fold iron, olive green wood-, light blue stucco- and hewn stone details. Interiors were rich as well. The intent of luxury was already seen from the list of representative rooms: twostory high lobby with balconies, a hall, salons in different colours, a dining hall, madam’s and master’s cabinets.
In addition there were several family members’ private rooms and guestrooms. The interior had a contrasting, often dark colour scheme. The main emphases in the decoration was put on stencil paintings and wallpaper imitations printed on the walls. They were complimented by powerful wood carvings around the door openings and relatively modest plaster details. Generally it could be said that the decorators were skilful craftsmen who didn’t pay too much attention to following the pure style, but considered an effective general impression more important. The least attention was paid to furnishings. The jugendstil furniture was used in the more public areas but mostly the rooms were furnished with eclectic furniture probably brought from former residences.
World War I and the Russian Revolution gave a serious blow to the family’s economic situation which lead to a total failure. In 1928 Jacob Diedrich Ammende’s trade office was liquidated and most of the real-estate went under the hammer. Villa Ammende was sold to the Town of Pärnu in 1927. The town architect at that time, Olev Siinmaa planned to use the building as a casino and a beach hotel. By 1929 Siinmaa completed the drawings for the ground floor reconstruction. The new design was influenced by the spirit of traditionalism. Fortunately the design was not completely realised. The biggest change was the removal of the partitions between the hall and the´salons and the jugendstil details.
The villa never became a beach hotel. It was used as a casino till 1940 when it went to the hands of Russian Army. During the German occupation the building was used as an officers’ casino. After the war the villa was a health facility. During that period no major reconstruction occurred. Because the pre-war reconstruction was limited to removing the jugendstil decorations mostly and the exterior was left alone, Villa Ammende was decided to be restored to its turn-of-the-century state. The research provided enough material to support this decision. Today Villa Ammende is a guesthouse that tries to reflect the atmosphere of a rich turn-of-the-century merchant’s home.
The year 1904
One of the richest merchants of Pärnu, Hermann Leopold Ammende, whose ancestors had moved from Germany to Estonia in the 18th century, was looking for a proper house for the wedding party of his beloved daughter Ellen. As he could not find one, he decided to order a luxurious project from Mieritz & Gerassimov, an architect’s office in St. Petersburg and to build a villa for his daughter’s pompous wedding party and for a summer residence of his family. The architects from St. Petersburg started to work immediately and a project for a Art Nouveau style building was completed soon. The town architect of Pärnu approved it on 5 May 1904. The plot development and construction process were initiated.
The year 1905
The building was erected in high speed: without greenery and fence it was completed by August. The final decor was significantly richer as compared to the initial blueprint.
All innovative methods and materials were applied on the facades, highlighting them by various colors as was common at that time: colorful ceramic tiles, black wrought iron and bluish grey rolled iron, olive green timber, light blue plaster and stone elements. Notwithstanding the plenitude of colors and materials, a stylish result was achieved.
The design of the interior was equally versatile. The pursuit of luxury showed in the list of official rooms: it included an entrance hall with a balcony through two floors, a hall, salons in different colours, and studies for Hermann Leopold Ammende and his wife.
In addition to that, there were a number of bedrooms for family members and guest rooms. The interior design included Art Nouveau paintings on the walls and ceilings, robust wood carvings on door frames, majestic candelabras, hunting trophies, plaster decor and noble stoves of glazed tile made in the Bohm’s factory in Riga. Most probably, the joyous style and innovative building materials fitted the somewhat upstart taste of Hermann Leopold Ammende.
The year 1927
The Ammendes decided to move back to Germany and the gorgeous building was sold to the municipality of Pärnu in an auction. At first, the municipality intended to use the building as a Kurhaus and a beach hotel. The town architect Olev Siinmaa made preparations for the reconstruction of the ground floor. The new design followed the classicist style; fortunately enough, they did not manage to carry out all their plans.
The year 1935
Ammende Villa was rented to a family who operated a casino here till 1940 when it was seized by Russian military authorities. There was a casino for officers in the villa also during the German occupation. In various periods after World War II, the building accommodated a health improvement establishment, a library and a restaurant.
The year 1995
Two Estonian businessmen decided to renovate the beautiful villa and open it for the public. As the pre-war reconstruction had mainly been limited to removing the Art Nouveau decor from the interior and had not touched the facades, the historical research and photos received from Germany provided sufficient background, it was decided to renovate it in the style of the beginning of the 20th century. The restoration design rested on the concept of the milieu of the home of a rich merchant of that time. Major renovation work was initiated in 1997.
The year 1999
Ammende Villa, a renovated exclusive hotel and restaurant with historical interiors and furnishing opened in September. The most stylish and well-preserved Art Nouveau building of its time has been revived and has become one of the most exquisite pearls of architecture in Estonia. Luxurious suites and penthouses, romantic salons and dining-halls – that is the building where guests are waited on as amicably and courteously as they were at the times when the merchant Hermann Leopold Ammende received his guests. Even a century later, the building still has that inexplicable touch of historical nobleness.