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Renovation of Rīga's historic Hāmaņa Muiža begins

Renovation work is underway at Hāmaņa Muiža (Hamann Manor), a magnificent wooden manor house from the eighteenth century that has suffered decades of neglect and abuse.

On the edge of Slokas Street, next to the University Botanical Garden, the abandoned and much damaged Manor has begun to be restored with the arrival of new owners, family company SIA Ad Verbum, which bought the building at auction.

Hāmaņa muižā sākušies sakopšanas darbiSintija Ambote

One of the owners, Viestarts Vidiņš, met Latvian Radio in the courtyard to reveal his plans for the building.

"The house itself is made up of two or even three parts. The oldest part is the wooden house located directly at the intersection of the streets. It is almost 200 years old. Further in is the longest part of the house with two annexes, which was hit hard by fire," says Vidiņš.

The historic building suffered a serious fire more than 10 years ago, after which it was taken over by private owner SIA Mono, which preserved the house in a tin-like casing. Vidiņš removed the covering this summer to breathe life in the manor and start planning for the rebuild. He found that parts of the building and roof were almost completely destroyed.

"We need to remove everything that is left over and then dismantle everything in stages, to preserve as many of the historical elements as possible. Here, out of 5,000 logs, about 100 will be the old ones, and the rest will have to be replaced," he explains.

Because the site has historic status, the new owners are also obliged to preserve the historic architectural elements - window shutters, window sills and carved columns, as much as possible. The manor as a whole will be restored based on original plans dating back to the mid-19th century. The oldest part of the wooden house will be olive green and will have a tile roof. But if all goes to plan it will have a very modern function says Vidiņš:

"There will be a co-op workspace that will be open to the public. Anyone can come and rent small offices or tables. It will be easy to rent an entrance card to have a coffee and sit outside in the manor garden, where thoughts tend to be more pleasant. It will be a modern office with conference facilities, high-speed internet - that is, new but with an old look."

Vidiņš admits that an enthusiasm for 18th-century German writer and thinker Johann Georg Hamann, played a role in the decision to buy the manor that bears the same name. Indeed Hamann, once revered as "The sage of the north" did live in Rīga for a period, though the building ante-dates his time.

Nevertheless Hamann and his compatriot and friend Johann Gottfried Herder could both be met in Rīga in the late 18th century and both had a profound effect on the course of European thought. Coincidentally, both thinkers were later the subject of classic essays by Rīga-born philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin. 

"We are aware, of course, that Hamann did not live here... but the name of the manor is his, and he must certainly have walked nearby, thinking and agonizing. As we have had some dealings with Hamann ourselves, there were some sentimental considerations for buying the manor, " says Vidiņš, who reveals plans to have a small philosophical library on site and to translate a selection of Hamann's work into Latvian.

The Riga City Council Property Department sold Hamann Manor at auction for nearly 84 thousand euros. The auction regulations stipulate that the new owner must renovate the manor building within four years in accordance with the instructions of the National Heritage Board.

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