Centennial Baltic buildings restored in Kars


Thanks to a new project, century-old historic buildings, mostly in Baltic architectural style, are being restored to their former glory in Turkey’s northeast Kars province. The project “The province of Kars with its historical identity” aims to highlight the historical and cultural texture of the city.

The Baltic architectural style takes its name from the Baltic Sea, as it was used in surrounding towns in the early 1700s. The style is particularly notable for its single-storey basalt stone technique.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry building is being restored, Kars, northeastern Turkey, August 30, 2022. (AA)

Kars features examples of unique Baltic architecture due to Russian occupation from 1878 to 1918 during the Russo-Turkish War. Russia declared the city a military province and proceeded with new town planning as it did in 1706 in the cities around the Baltic Sea. Grand boulevards were established as well as the construction of hewn basalt stone buildings in the city.

From 1890 until 1918, they built one-storey, two-storey and sometimes three-storey buildings of carefully cut basalt stone in the Baltic architectural style on these grand boulevards. The entrance facades of these buildings are decorated with columns and relief stones, and their interiors are usually composed of chambers and halls arranged along a long corridor.

Another unique feature that draws attention to the buildings is the heating system in the form of a chimney called “peç”.

A restorer works on the restoration of historic buildings, Kars, northeastern Turkey, August 30, 2022. (AA)

A restorer works on the restoration of historic buildings, Kars, northeastern Turkey, August 30, 2022. (AA)

Some 190 structures built in the Baltic architectural style have been recorded and are now under protection. Most are used as privately owned residences, while some are used as workplaces and a few others as official institutions.

Thanks to the project “The province of Kars with its historical identity”, the facade of 32 buildings built in the Baltic architectural style will be revamped with a budget of around 5.2 million euros (5 million dollars). The project was prepared by the Serhat Development Agency (SERKA) and financed by the European Union (EU) Pre-Accession Financial Assistance Fund.

As part of the project, buildings on Haydar Aliyev Street in the city are being restored, with layers of modern paint on the buildings being removed as a first step.

A photo of the Tax Authority building in Kars, northeastern Turkey.  (Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

A photo of the Tax Authority building in Kars, northeastern Turkey. (Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

Russian architecture

Among the buildings on Haydar Aliyev Street are Kars Provincial Health Directorate Building, Revenue Office Guest House, Kars Chamber of Commerce and Industry Building, Office Building revenue and the governor’s mansion. These structures are the best examples of Russian architecture in the city.

The tax office building attracts attention with the cartouche decoration on the outside. The three-storey building was used as the office of the governor of Kars from the declaration of the republic until 1980. After being restored, it later served as the revenue office building. Also noteworthy are the decorative pillars and cartouche motifs of the eastern entrance of this triplex belonging to the Provincial Health Directorate, which was built in the manner of Baltic architecture in 1907. The building served as a hospital for some time after the declaration of the republic. After its restoration in 1980, it was transformed into a building of the Provincial Health Directorate.

A photo of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry building in Kars, northeastern Turkey.  (Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

A photo of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry building in Kars, northeastern Turkey. (Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

Across the avenue stands the Revenue Office Guest House, which was built in 1897 and used as a courthouse for a time.

The Chamber of Industry and Commerce building and the former governor’s house (Stavuski Mansion) are also located close to each other. The mansion was built by the Russians in 1883, is one story and was designed in a ”U” shape. The most important fact about this building, decorated with false pillars and reliefs on its eastern entrance walls, is that this is where the Treaty of Kars was signed on October 13, 1921. The building, which has was used as the governor’s residence after the declaration of the republic, was registered as a ”cultural property” from 2010 following restoration efforts that began in 2005.

The Chamber of Industry and Commerce building opposite the mansion was another structure commissioned in the late 19th century. The structure was designed as a winter house with hewn basalt and tuff stone and was also used during the republican era. This historic structure, with facades adorned with sidewalk ornaments, was visited on October 6, 1924 by the founder of Türkiye, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

A photo of the governor's office, Kars, northeastern Turkey.  (Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

A photo of the governor’s office, Kars, northeastern Turkey. (Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

SERKA Secretary General Nurullah Karaca told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they aim to increase the competitiveness of tourism in the city and create a suitable investment environment for tourism businesses.

“As part of the project, scaffolding has been erected for nine historic buildings. At present, restoration efforts are underway. Work is underway to repair the roofs of 22 registered buildings and 10 unregistered buildings. , restore their windows and doors to original condition, and to remove extra paint. In addition, sidewalks and street roads will be reconstructed and illuminated,” he said.

A photo of the Kars Provincial Health Directorate building, Kars, northeastern Turkey.  (Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

A photo of the Kars Provincial Health Directorate building, Kars, northeastern Turkey. (Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

Expressing that 30% of the technical work has been completed, Karaca said, “The official completion of this project will hopefully be at the end of 2023.”

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