Today’s Kalamaja was born in the wake of the industrial revolution at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. At that time, large and small factories which required hundreds and thousands of workers sprang up here.
The outdoor exhibition “From screw to Piano. The Story of Kalamaja’s Industries” introduces 12 of Kalamaja’s historic industrial enterprises, most of which have now closed their doors and oftentimes have even been demolished. Visitors will find out where in the Kalamaja district lemonade, bicycles, locomotives, trams, socks and cigarettes were produced. Old photos and advertisements help to revive the factories that once provided bread and butter for local people.
The outdoor exhibition covers 12 locations in the Kalamaja district.
The outdoor exhibition locations are the following:
Kalaranna 15, Kopli 24. Kalaranna 4, Jahu 5, Kungla 41, Kopli 70, Tööstuse 43, Kopli 5, Telliskivi 60a, Põhja Puiestee 23, Volta 47.
Exhibition idea and organisation: Kalamaja Museum
Exhibition curator: Jaak Juske
Exhibition design: Kärt Hennoste, Fly Illustration OÜ
Exhibition stands: HN Steel OÜ
Italian physicist and chemist Alessandro Volta (1745–1827) developed the electric battery and invented the electrophore, a device that produced static electricity. He could not have imagined in his wildest dreams that one day a factory in the Governorate of Estonia of the Russian Empire would bear Volta’s name.
At the end of the 19th century, there was a large meadow between the settlements of current Kalamaja and Karjamaa. On 15 April 1899, a group of respectable businessmen and the Commerce Bank of Riga signed a decision to establish AS Volta. Immediately, the construction works for factory buildings began on a ten-hectare plot.
Volta started operating on 5 January 1900. It was equipped with modern German machinery; electric motors and generators from Russian raw materials for the Russian market were manufactured there.
During the First World War, electrical equipment for the submarines built in the neighbouring Noblessner shipyard was produced in the factory. 600,000 hand grenades were manufactured for the Russian army. In the summer of 1917, the factory was evacuated to Russia.
After the war, the factory stood empty for nearly five years. It was then taken over by the government of the Republic of Estonia. In 1939, Volta employed 244 workers. The factory produced electric motors, transformers, pumps, ventilators and heating equipment to order. Some of the premises were rented out to companies, such as Feival Perfume Factory, Kawe Chocolate Factory and Keila Broadcloth Factory.
In July 1940, Volta was nationalised. A year later, due to the war that had started, the factory was evacuated to a place of safety in the Soviet Union. In 1947, the factory was reconstructed with trophy equipment obtained from occupied Germany. In Soviet times, engines that met the requirements of nuclear power stations were produced there among other things. In 1963, 242,000 electric motors, 70,000 small engines, 190,000 irons, 2000 waffle makers and 6700 radiators were assembled there.
After Estonia regained its independence, Volta was privatised and production was gradually decreased. Construction of the modern residential and business district is currently in full swing in the Volta quarter.
The legacy of the inventor of batteries.
Baltic Railway Main Factories
Telliskivi Creative City quarter is the site of the large, old railway factory.
In 1870, the company Baltic Railway Main Factories was established together with the Baltic railways in Tallinn, where the required trains were built and repaired. There was a depot for 12 locomotives, warehouses and workshops. In the years 1873 and 1874, a workshop and a depot for six locomotives were built, where a carriage repair shop was located until spring 2015.
After Estonia gained its independence, the factory and the railway were nationalised. Several types of train carriages and electric tram carriages were produced there.
In August 1940, the factory was called the Mikhail Kalinin Locomotive and Wagon Factory as the then Soviet head of state had worked there for a while in his youth at the beginning of the last century.
In 1958, the old factory was renamed the Kalinin Factory of Mercury Rectifiers and nine years later it became the Electrical Engineering Factory. The Electrical Engineering Factory produced power converters, semiconductor valves, power transformers and high-voltage equipment.
In 1994, the establishment became national public limited company Estel, which moved its production from the old quarters to Kuuli Street at the turn of the century. Currently, the old industrial quarter has two owners. The better known of the two is Telliskivi Creative City, established in 2009. A closed industrial area has been transformed into a modern, open and beloved urban environment.
The predecessor of Telliskivi Creative City, bearing the name of the Soviet head of state.
AS Rauaniit (Iron Thread)
In the new building of the Academy of Arts, which opened its doors at the corner of Kotzebue Street and Põhja Avenue on the border of Kalamaja, the old lace and sock factory lives on.
In the autumn of 1919, Rauaniit, the lace factory established by Ephraim Lerenmann, began operating on the first floor of the two-storey stone building located at the aforementioned street corner. Its first products were bootlaces, shoelaces, garniture ribbons, elastic bands and clothes laces. Production expanded rapidly.
In June 1924, Lerenmann submitted a request to the city government to build an additional two-storey production building. In January of the following year, the building was completed. Eight years later, the construction of the four-storey main block was completed. The modern production building was designed by Eugen Habermann. In 1935, Rauaniit’s hosiery department became a separate new hosiery industry Cotton.
The Soviet government nationalised the companies in July 1940. On 17 October of the same year, several other textile industries, e.g. Cotton and Ikla, were merged with Rauaniit and the factory was given a new name – Punane Koit (Red Dawn).
In the post-war years, the old equipment was used, but there were great difficulties in repairing it. Despite this, the factory was able to produce 129,000 metres of silk fabric and 371,000 pairs of socks and hosiery products in 1945. It started to produce capron stockings in addition to silk fabric and hosiery products.
In 1965, the factory’s new production building was completed on Kotzebue (then Johannes Käsperti) Street. The finishing of the fabrics and the production of the artificial silk dress fabric was discontinued. The vacated production space was used to increase the production of stockings and socks. The factory expanded further along Põhja Avenue.
In 1991, Punane Koit became AS Suva (derived from the words SUka VAbrik, the Stocking Factory). Exactly a quarter of a century later, the reconstruction of the empty old factory into the new building of the Academy of Arts began.
Stockings and socks used to be produced in the building of the Academy of Arts.
Lausmann’s Engineering Factory
The area between Vabriku, Valgevase, Tööstuse and Volta streets in the heart of Kalamaja was known as Lausmann’s meadow due to the proximity of the engineering factory that used to be located here, where workers held large rallies in the revolutionary year of 1905.
Lausmann Engineering Factory was a company operating between 1881 and 1909 on the city centre side of the corner of Volta and Tööstuse streets in Tallinn. Among other things, the factory produced vodka distillery equipment and agricultural tools.
At the end of the 19th century, the Engineering Factory of the Lausmann brothers mainly fulfilled the orders of the Baltic Railways and Pskov-Riga Railways. In 1900, the factory had 225 workers.
In 1901, due to financial difficulties, the Lausmann Engineering Factory was declared bankrupt; however, at the end of the year, the factory was rented and started to produce cast iron pillows and lampposts for the Troitski Bridge in Saint Petersburg. In 1903, the factory was bought by Saint Petersburg businessmen, who started to produce railway switches and steam boilers and repair locomotives there. Nearly 800 people worked in the factory. In 1909, the factory went bankrupt for good.
During the first period of independence, Salme Park was created in the heart of the former Lausmann’s meadow, where the large building of the current Salme Cultural Centre was built in the first half of the Soviet period.
The factory that gave its name to the meadow in the heart of Kalamaja.
Krull’s Engineering Factory
AS Franz Krull’s name is proudly displayed on the old remained oven doors and manhole covers.
In 1875, coppersmith Franz Krull sold his workshop in Narva and moved his company to Tallinn, where he founded a factory by Paldiski Road. In 1899, Krull’s sons moved the company to a new location on Kopli Street in Kalamaja, where they built a modern factory complex with 12 large production buildings as well as an office and residential building.
The Krull’s factory specialised in the production of powerful refrigeration equipment and ice generators. The former were built with the government’s permission for state companies, cargo and military ships and fortresses. They also built steam boilers, wood-processing machinery and vodka distillery and starch factory equipment.
Before the First World War, the Krull factory had begun to fulfil military orders. In the early years of the Republic of Estonia, it produced various consumer goods: cast iron oven rings, dampers, oven doors, cast iron pots, bench legs and burial crosses. The factory also received orders to produce small steam boilers for dairy factories and machinery for the peat industry. It started to produce steamrollers and gravel sorters, locomotives for narrow-gauge and broad-gauge railways as well as equipment for the country’s oil shale industry and the cold storage of the Port of Tallinn. The first tunnel furnaces for Estonia’s oil shale industry were designed and built in the factory.
The Soviet government named the factory Punane Krull (Red Krull) at first and later the Johannes Lauristin Tallinn Machinery Plant. Air coolers for Soviet oil refineries were produced there. The biggest achievement was the original design of an oil shale harvester. The main production of the factory consisted of a variety of complex equipment for the oil and oil shale industries, mobile homes for gas line builders, central heating boilers, steam boilers for the dairy industry and non-standard equipment for many more industries.
During the new era of independence, the large-scale industry began decreasing in Kalamaja. Currently, the new development is in full swing in the Krull Quarter. Tallinn Machinebuilding Factory is now located in Maardu.
A factory born in Narva, whose name lives on on drainage covers and oven doors.
In 1938, A le Coq had a fine soft drink factory with a modern beer warehouse built on Suur-Patarei Street.
A 135-metre-deep artesian well was drilled to obtain water for the production of soft drinks in the factory. Beer brewed in the Tartu brewery was brought to Tallinn in cisterns or barrels and bottled using new equipment. All the walls and floors of the cellars were insulated with a double layer of cork tile. The ice cellar and ice tower contained 1800 cubic metres of ice in total.
The story of the company began as early as 1896, when Viktor Auster initiated the production of fruit lemonades in Tallinn. In 1924, the company was named Tallinn Soft Drinks private limited company; in 1928, the name Talko was used for the first time. A le Coq acquired majority shares there. Besides Kalamaja, a large portion of the production was located in the Old Town.
The company was nationalised in 1940. Soon after, carbonic acid factory Tasüt, Vellamo and Soft Drinks Workshop Tervis were merged with it. Between 1944 and 1951, the name Soft Drinks and Carbonic Acid Factory Talko, was used. In 1951, the factory was renamed Tallinn Lemonade Factory and in 1984, Tallinn Soft Drinks Experimental Factory. Later, mayonnaise was also produced In the building on 20 Suur-Patarei Street.
The old industrial building that had been empty for years was demolished and new apartment buildings were constructed on this plot in the early 2020s. Admiral Johan Pitka’s workshops were located on the neighbouring 18 Suur-Patarei Street during the War of Independence.
A brewery that has also produced soft drinks and mayonnaise.
Klausson’s Sweets Factory
In 1926, Rudolf Klausson founded a sweets factory on Jahu Street. A decade later, it had become the fourth largest confectionery manufacturer in Estonia that produced mainly chocolate sweets and chocolate bars, halva and biscuits.
Klausson’s sweets factory was both a workplace as well as a home for the owner; the Klausson’s family apartment was situated in the wooden part of the factory building and his sister’s apartment was in the attic right above the production area.
Rudolf Klausson was one of the most successful sweets, chocolates and biscuits manufacturers in Estonia. Black lorries carrying goods were constantly going in and out of his factory courtyard. People were milling around there just as frequently. Although there was no sweets shop in the factory, damaged chocolate bars and biscuits were sold at a very affordable price at its gate. There was an apple orchard on the property of the factory and the jam made from the apples was used in making sweets.
After nationalisation in 1940, the confectionery production continued on Jahu Street as a department of Kalev confectionery industry and since the 1990s, under the name of AS Marmiton.
In the early 2020s, the new development of the Klausson’s factory was completed as a residential building.
One of the most successful sweets factories in Estonia.
Wiegand’s Machine Works
In 1861, Friedrich Wiegand’s coppersmith workshop, which he had founded in Rakvere a couple of years earlier, was relocated to Tallinn. Over time, watermill equipment, steam engines, factory equipment, threshing machines and other agricultural tools were produced there. Ships were also repaired there.
In 1920, on the initiative of Estonia’s leading figures of that time, AS Ilmarine iron casting and mechanical engineering factory was founded there, based on the former factory. The factory started to manufacture stone crushing and road construction machinery, road graders, oil shale and phosphorite industry equipment and other mechanical engineering products. Production of oil engines also continued.
In summer 1924, a family company J. Puhk and Sons acquired majority shares in Ilmarine. In the 1930s, the factory produced steel central heating radiators, locomotive parts, wagon wheels, oil tanks, petrol stations, bridge support structures and projectile cases for the defence forces.
During the Second World War, mainly equipment and machinery were repaired there. In 1945, the factory continued to produce equipment for the oil shale industry and agriculture. It also manufactured peat-collecting machinery and equipment for the briquette industry as well as tram wagons.
In 1951, the Ilmarine factory was placed under the control of the Ministry of Heavy Machinery Construction of the Soviet Union. It became the only factory in the Soviet Union specialising in the production of auxiliary equipment for boiler units. The factory manufactured soot blowers, jet cleaners, gas oil burners, combustion devices with rotary sprayers, liquid fuel injectors, ignition and protection devices and the automation devices necessary to control their work. Consumer goods and household items also had an important role in the production: metal kitchen hobs, cast iron enamelled kitchenware, steerable children’s sledges, grass shears and hot water boilers.
At the end of the last century, the Ilmarine Quarter was rebuilt into a residential area.
An old factory that became Kalamaja’s first real estate development in the 1990s.
Estonia Piano Factory
The beginning of the Estonia Piano Factory is considered to be the year 1893 when piano master Ernst Hiis founded the E. Hiis Piano Factory.
In 1950, a company was formed from Estonia’s small-scale piano makers that started to produce grand pianos and pianos under the name Estonia. During the following 40 years, nearly 500 pianos were produced per year.
In 1993, the enterprise was privatised to the management of that time and partly to employees. Between 1995 and 2001, Indrek Laul bought the shares that were on sale and became the sole owner of the company.
Estonia Piano Factory produces up to 200 grand pianos per year. Pianos are mainly made to order. The factory produces black and white instruments as well as instruments covered with mahogany, bubinga, walnut and dalbergia veneer.
Most of the pianos are sold to the United States and Canada. Estonia’s pianos can be found in homes, concert halls, music schools as well as in churches. The instruments made in the piano factory have achieved major awards in international competitions for both design and production quality.
The factory is still operating on 41 Kungla Street.
The piano factory whose products are appreciated around the world.
Bicycle Factory Säde
A little workshop belonging to Otto and Kristjan Saar on 11 Kopli Street grew into a considerable bicycle industry in the mid-1930s.
In 1935, a special industry bearing the name of Otto Saar, Kristjan Saar’s son, was registered in the business register of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry as Mechanical Metal Industry Otto Saar in August.
Raw material was ordered from Sweden, England and Germany. Quality was important. Up until the Second World War, it produced nearly 10,000 bicycles. In 1937, for the first time in Estonia, Otto Saar’s metal industry began the serial production of motorbikes.
In summer 1940, the Metal Industry Otto Saar was nationalised and renamed the Bicycle Industry Säde in November of the same year. In January 1941, Säde became the subordinate of the bicycle industry Kiir. After the war, the bicycle industry under the name Säde continued its production in the old premises of Saar’s factory on Kopli Street until its liquidation in 1949. During that time, several thousand bicycles were assembled.
In the bicycle museum in Väätsa, Järva County, you can see the rare bicycle Famos with front suspension, which was made in Kalamaja bicycle factory.
The cradle of Kalamaja’s bicycle culture.
Tobacco Factory Havanna
In the early years of the Republic of Estonia, Tobacco Factory Havanna was located in the courtyard house of 22 Kopli at the corner of Malmi Street.
OÜ Havanna started operating in 1921. One of the founders was William Tomingas.
A newspaper wrote at that time: “The factory started to operate on 18 January this year. All equipment is new and ordered from Germany, which cost 1,200,000 German marks. The Technical Director of the factory is Mr Schur, who was previously active in Moscow and knows his specialty well. The factory has raw material supplies for three months. Tobacco is ordered from abroad – Caucasus and Turkey. The factory is in contact with Macedonian and Turkish companies that send tobacco. Current Turkish tobacco is from the 1912 harvest and is therefore the best. The older the tobacco, the higher its value and the better it is. The factory processes about 56,666 bushels of raw tobacco per day. The factory can make half a million cigarettes per day, although now just 360,660 of them are produced, as the factory started operating only very recently and the workers have not had much practice yet.”
Just a year later, the competitor AS Laferme bought the factory, but it continued to operate in the same place until 1926, when the factory was moved to Laferme’s premises on Pirita Road. After that, the entire production actually came from the Laferme factory. In the first half of the 1930s, the name Havanna was scrapped entirely.
In 1930, a newspaper wrote: “Apparently, our smokers still demand large, fancy boxes and long, thick papirosa cigarettes. But actually, large and hard boxes are uncomfortable to carry in a pocket and thick, long papirosas are ugly. Compare them with Finnish cigarettes, for example! It is also because of market demand that we don’t make cigarettes. OÜ Havanna tried it a couple of years ago, but its work was stopped due to too little demand.”
Kalamaja’s own little Cuba.
Kalaranna fishing industries
A fish market was already active in Kalaranna in the Middle Ages. This was the place from where to go to sea during fishing season. Later, some of the oldest Estonian fishing industries were born here. After 1844, when tin cans were introduced for making tinned food, Kalaranna became an important centre of Estonian fishing industry.
Vassili Demin’s Fish Industry was located on Suur-Patarei Street and tins of sprats produced there were labelled Revel’s Sprats. In 1898, Demin’s factory’s sprats received a silver medal in Moscow, followed by medals from Baden-Baden, Lübeck, Berlin and more. Vassili Demin’s became an official supplier of the Russian Imperial court. In 1898, J.M. Leesmann Fishing Industry was founded on 12 Suur-Patarei Street.
Malahhov’s Fishing Industry, founded by Pavel Malahhov and inherited by Feodor, and Rudolf Anderson’s and Eva Behr’s fishing industry were also well known. The products of all of them received recognition at Russian food competitions. At the end of the 19th century, tinned sprat production grew exponentially in Kalaranna.
In 1946, the Soviet border guard piled up the Estonian war refugee boats, which Sweden had returned, and at one point they were simply cut in half. The sea had been filled before in Kalaranna; during the Soviet time, the land area was expanded even further. The Kalasadama basin and coastline in their current form were created. In 1957, Tallinn Fish Factory buildings were constructed here and at the beginning of 1960s, a large Tallinn inter-collective farm shipyard (formerly the location of the small collective organisation Rool) was built. The Tallinn office of Hiiu Kalur was located right next door and their boats were in the harbour.
Some of the area’s old historical fishing industries’ buildings have remained on Võrgu Street. The city restored the Fish Market (Kalaturg) in 2010.
The birthplace of Tallinn’s sprat tin.