Past to present
The story of Mooste manor (german Moisekatz) goes back to the 16th century when the king of Poland, Stefan Batory, gave its territory to the county judge of Võnnu, Wilhelm Sturtz. After that the manor’s territory went through the hands of many, before being obtained by the von Nolckens in 1810. They ran the manor for about a 100 years and left us most of the legacy we have now.
The Nolckens were the owners of 15 other manors in Liivimaa. They started developing Mooste’s manor complex at around 1905, during the infamous manor burnings. Major construction began at that time, starting on the southern bank of Mooste lake. The construction process to build the large manor complex took only 10 years, which is a good indication of the wealth of the von Nolcken family. The finished complex had 23 buildings of which 20 have remained. Most of them are renovated and in use to this day.
One of the newer manor complexes
Eduard von Nolcken made Mooste’s manor complex one of the most charming of its kind in Southern-Estonia. It is also one of the newer manor complexes in Estonia.
The manor’s heimat-style main building was built in 1909 following the project by August Reinberg. The two-story building has a slate roofing and plenty of cornices and dormers, as well as many other characteristically complicated and decorative details. The building’s doors and windows have brick borders and at the front of the main entrance you can find a beautiful inclined plane.
What makes Mooste manor special in addition to the stately main building, is the grand complex of well-preserved outbuildings. They are mainly built from granite with brick embellishments. The spacious complex is surrounded by a beautiful granite wall, which has sumptuous gates and is crowned with a bell-tower on one of its corners. The outbuildings are also eye-catching and gorgeously decorated.
Times of change
In 1919 the manor complex was dispossessed from the Nolckens. The manor’s main building was turned into a school which operates to this day and offers basic education to about one hundred pupils.
During the first period of independence, Mooste manor was operated as a state manor. Nothing changed in terms of maintenance, the distillery was still used to produce vodka, the mill was used to grind crop and the barns were used to house animals.
During the soviet times, the manor was turned into a sample-sovkhoz. The buildings were still in use, but not as originally purposed. For example, the horse stable and cowshed were instead used to storage crop and the saddle-horse stable was turned into a club that also operated as a cinema. The Folk House was also used as a crop storage and mill until the very end of the Soviet Union.
The saddest part of Mooste manor’s history took place in the 1990s, when the complex was sold to finnish businessmen. They got it for cheap and failed to do anything to preserve the buildings. The complex was abandoned, with its buildings dilapidated and the grounds overgrown.
The beginning of the 2000s showed great promise for the future of the complex, all thanks to the initiative of governor Ülo Needo. The buildings were bought back by Mooste parish (then Mooste county) and a major project to restore the buildings to their former glory, financially supported by the EU, was begun.
The beginning of the restoration
Many of the buildings, especially the distillery and the linen house, were in pretty bad shape when the restoration process began. The latter was the first to be restored, as if it had been kept untouched for even a bit longer, it would have most likely collapsed (the ceiling had already given up by that time). The building is called “the linen house” due to it being formerly used by the Estonian Crop Research Institute as a test-station for linen growth and has kept its name to this day. Today, the building has been turned into a guest-house with a cafeteria and an information desk on its ground floor.
One of the most famous buildings of the complex is definitely the Folk House. A true cultural hub of the area, it has concerts and other types of events taking place weekly. The Folk House, formerly a livestock stall, is a highly regarded performance venue which gathers people from near and far to listen to musicians both from Estonia and other parts of the world. The concert hall fits around 600 people. An annual festival of folk music, called Moisekatsi Elohelü, takes place here every spring, gathering musicians from different corners of Estonia to embrace their musical heritage. The Folk House also has a wool mill, where masters of the craft make and sell wool products
The buildings today
The former stable is now home to the Clay Plaster Company, in which you can learn about South-Estonia’s traditional clay construction, and a Bow Workshop, where Jaco Wessels, an archer from South-Africa, crafts beautiful longbows.
The Distillery, which once brought a lot of fortune to the manor complex, is a bit more secluded from the other buildings. It is situated on the bank of the Mooste lake, and is home to the Estonian Phototourism Centre.
The main building which used to be the governor’s house is now a manor school and the dairy farm is now used as a health centre.
The Folk House isn’t our only cultural hotspot. For example the mill is now home to the Folk Theatre and the former vodka celler is now known as Mooste’s Folk Music School, where the new generation of musicians is being brought up.
The saddle-horse stable is currently under renovation and will become the Centre of Estonian Traditional Building and Craft. We are also planning to fix up the barn opposite of the main building and make it an art gallery.
Mooste manor has, similarly to many other Estonian manors, gone through really turbulent times and at one point been almost forgotten. Nowadays, the manor has become the heart of entrepreneurship and culture in its area. For that reason, we are sure that governor von Nolcken would be proud.