Historic manors fall into decay, few are being restored

Take note – story published 8 years and 9 months ago

There were once countless historical manors in Latvia, built by the German aristocracy that had dominated, culturally, for most of Latvia's written history. However, the 1905 revolution, followed by the two world wars, did a lot to reduce the number. 

There are about 600 manors left now, but many of them are left to fall into ruin, and only old photos are witness to their former splendor, reported a story by radio Pieci.lv on Saturday.

Broken windows and doors, the roof leaking and falling down in some places. It seems that the place is stripped of anything valuable. A couple of young people are drinking beer by the fire below the arch of the main building.

That's how the Kaucminde manor in Rundāle looks like. The only inhabitants of the manor are storks, a pair of which has settled on the chimney of the abandoned building.

And there is many a similar sight in Latvia. 

"Well, nobody has counted them all. There are some [manors] that are abandoned but not yet crumbled, some on the bring of destruction, and still some with only the walls left," said Jānis Zilgalvis of the State Inspection for Heritage Protection.

He said that both municipality and privately-owned manors are declining. Even though they are protected, vandals still find ways to enter them. That's the case in Kaucminde, which can be accessed quite freely both by foot and by car. 

Pieci.lv met some young vandals who confessed to damaging the manor. "We have nothing to do, do you understand?" one of them said.

While others, like Ilze Melgalve and Aldis Melgalvis, have dedicated their lives to restoring manors similar to Kaucminde. They are renovating the Berķene manor to create a village for senior citizens. Admittedly, it is smaller than Kaucminde, but the two have brought the place up again since they bought it in 2004. 

It is a formidable task, renewing a manor. Ilze and Aldis say that it requires a lot of money, and every step has to be coordinated with the State Inspection for Heritage Protection.

Meanwhile, others try restoring manors in the so-called Scandinavian manner, meaning they don't build anything anew, just restore what is already there. This way onlookers don't have any doubt about the true age of the building.

As for now, the funding for upkeep of heritage sites remains unchanged. It means that the state won't be able to save the manors facing decline, so the hope remains for private investors that are ready to use their own money to restore the old manors.

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