Notable Riga mayor Armitstead turns 170

Take note – story published 6 years ago

October 27 marked 170 years since the birth of notable Riga mayor George Armitstead (1847 – 1912), reports Latvian Radio 3. 

As the fourth mayor of Riga, Armitstead helped turn the city into a modern European capital, with numerous of its landmarks built under his leadership. 

He was born into a Riga merchant family with Scottish and Baltic German ancestry. 

"Armitstead was the right man at the right time. His thinking was unusual for that time, more directed towards that of Western Europe. During the Russian Empire, Riga was quite a provincial nook, so his Western thinking was very important," says Gunta Laursone, director of the Jaunmoku manor, which was built in 1901 as a hunting lodge for Armitstead.

"He suited the requirements of Germans, Russians and that of us, the Latvians, who weren't represented at the Riga City Council at that time. Armitstead was the first one to ask Latvians to cooperate at the council. And he was the one who saw a possibility of finding a common ground for Riga's development in strengthening the nation," says Laursone.

While his achievements are too many to be listed in full, an anniversary publication is to list what he's done for the Latvian capital. 

"Riga - starting from the Vaļņu street to the VEF Bridge - was on both sides built in Armitstead's time. The city flourished under his management, becoming a European capital of culture. Fourteen new schools, three hospitals, a theater [the Latvian National Theater], and the zoo were build during his council. They built parks, unveiled the first European garden town - Mežaparks, as well as opened a tram line," says Laursone.

In addition, many of Riga's signature Art Nouveau buildings were made during Armitstead's time as mayor. 

Educated in Zurich and Oxford and having management experience in private companies, Armitstead was also well endowed with diplomacy know-how and was able to unite different people who spoke different languages in Riga by the turn of the 20th century.

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