Hopner House, located at Raekoja plats 18, is a building complex of beautiful architecture and great historical value. It includes the gabled main building at Vanaturu kael 3, the side building by the Town Hall Square which has a convex wall, and a newer ancillary building in the courtyard. The building complex comprises four historical premises which were united in 1665 when they were owned by merchant Johan Höppener (Hoeppener).
Johan Höppener bought the buildings in 1662 and the dwelling received its current look at the end of the 17th century. The Höppeners owned these premises for approximately 50 years and numerous changes were made in the interior of the building during that time. A carved gantry from 1681 remains in the dornse from that time, created by Christian Ackermann, the most scandalous and most talented woodcarver of the Estonian baroque era (his best-known works are the clock on the wall of the Church of the Holy Spirit, the altarpiece of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tallinn, the pulpit of St. Michael’s Church in Tallinn, etc.).
Most of the medieval residential buildings in Tallinn are made of local limestone, as the construction of wooden buildings had been prohibited by the city government since the 14th century (because of repeated and extensive fires). The buildings in question were first mentioned in 1352. According to the hypothesis of restoration architect T. Böckler, a merchant’s tower house with several storage floors and a defence function was on the property initially. By 1367, however, a building complex consisting of a residential building and three shops had been built.
The medieval merchant’s dwelling at Vanaturu kael 3 was simultaneously a residential building and a warehouse.
On the side of the street, there is a gable wall featuring the main entrance of the older part of the building – a carved stone gantry with a sharp pointed arch. The position of the living quarters is marked by large windows with carved casements; the storage floors have openings for storage hatches, ventilation slits, and the pulley beam. The roof is adorned by a lion-shaped weather vane.
As the doorway was significantly above street level, a perron – a stair platform with so-called sitting stones on two sides – was built in front of the main entrance. Tall perron stones with the coat of arms of the house were placed on the street end of the stone benches.
There are two rooms on the living floor of the medieval dwelling:
the front hall – diele (from German: diele – the front hall)
the family room – dornse (from Latin: dormire – to sleep, dormitorium – sleeping hall)
The building was heated with a hot-air furnace located in the basement. The arched furnace was made of bricks and heater rocks were laid on top of it. There were two to three floors above the living floors which served as a storage space for goods. The storage or warehouse floors were named for the storage rooms and warehouse space situated there. There were spacious cellar rooms beneath the living floors.
Owners of the building through time
The first owners of the building were two well-known citizens: Heydemann, who was presumably a city councilman later, and merchant Hermann de Hove, who was the burgomaster of Tallinn in 1361–1379.
In 1385–1387, the children and co-successors of Hermann de Hove sold the land to Arnold van Halten (senior), who also bought two shops by the marketplace. In 1414, Arnd (Arnold) van Halten (junior) assigned his father’s real estate along with the shops to Herman Lyppe (councilman of Tallinn in 1414–1434).
In 1662, the land was owned by Johan Höppener for half a century. Höppener was born in Lübeck and came to Tallinn as a merchant’s apprentice. Here, he married merchant’s daughter Anna Rodde in St. Olaf’s Church in 1652, thereby gaining citizen’s rights, and became a member of the Great Guild.
After the Great Northern War, the court bailiff assigned the premises to merchant Christian von Minden on behalf of the heirs of Höppener. After his death, the premises were owned by his widow as well as his son Arnold von Minden. As dowry for his daughter Dorothea Amalie, the property was given to her husband, merchant Christoph Gottfried Intelmann, in around 1770.
Dorothea Amalie Intelmann (née von Minden) died in 1832 and the property went into the possession of Russian merchants. It was first acquired by Ivan Germanov, who made various alterations in 1834–1836, primarily in the buildings by the Town Hall Square. In 1836, the building on the corner, which featured two shops, was rebuilt. In 1856, the property was given to Aleksandra Ivanovna Lunin, the daughter of Ivan Germanov; in 1906, Ivan Lunin became the owner of the property. The Lunins owned the property until 1940, when it was nationalised.
In the 1970s, during the Estonian SSR, the rooms of the building complex were slowly being acquired by their only user, tourism club Tallinna Turismiklubi, who had been renting the building from the executive committee. The tourism club managed the building starting from 1975. The complex was restored and adapted to serve as Tallinna matkamaja (hiking house) in 1981–1984; historical structures and details were preserved. The restoration was done by PKZ, a Polish restauration company; Teddy Böckler and Ants Evart were the architects, and Aili Nurk the interior architect.
Until the early 1990s, a lot happened in the hiking house: several committees for types of hiking were active, there was a specialised library consisting of about 5,000 books, and the hiking club sent an average of 200 groups on categorised hikes every year. After this, the building was owned by MTÜ Matkamaja, who mainly rented the rooms for various events.
On 3 October 2013, Hopner House was founded in the building managed by the Tallinn City Centre Administration with the objective to preserve and develop culture, organise events, and provide services related to culture.
Today, early music studios for children and young people, art studios, theatre hobby groups, a club for old dances, seniors’ university, and a yoga class are operating in the building. Additionally, there are lectures on different subjects, concerts, a permanent exhibition on historical costumes and mediaeval glass art, art exhibitions in the concert hall, etc.
Hopner House is a partner in organising several large events with long traditions, including to the organisers of Tallinn Old Town Days and Medieval Days.