THE HOME OF LATVIAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Detached house currently located in Riga, 35 Kr. Valdemāra Street, formerly situated in the Petersburgh suburb Outer Riga, on Nikolaja Street, in the 1870s was owned by Eduard Wolf-Stomersee. The author of the building design is the architect Gustaf Rudolf Winkler. It was built in 1875 in Eclecticism style for the Baron of Stāmeriena Manor Estate E. von Wolf as the winter residence. In 1884, the Baron’s heirs sold the house to the Swiss consulate general, the industrialist and trader Sturtz. He also bought more land lots and expanded the garden. Following the death of Sturtz in September 1925, the widow of the consulate general sold the building to the Latvian Union of Traders (today, Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry). The freedom and international recognition of Latvia following the First World War was a major event and simultaneously the beginning of difficult work to restore the land, culture and economy destroyed during the war. The level of people’s excitement to work had never been this all-consuming, because this time Latvians knew that the fruit of their labour will remain in their own hands and not in those of foreign masters. By 1937, around 450,000 buildings were newly constructed in the Latvian countryside. As the number of farms grew, the area of arable land also increased along with a major growth of harvest and herds. In 1934/1935, Latvia was already exporting 87,000 t of rye and 30,000 t of wheat abroad. Latvians started producing sugar. Three Latvian sugar factories not only supplied the whole country with sugar, but a part could also be exported to neighbouring states. Following suit of other highly developed agricultural countries, the production of high-quality dairy and meat products was fostered, and the new state soon ranked among the world’s six top biggest butter exporters. Alongside agriculture, the manufacturing industry was extensively developed, too. The large Ķegums Power Station with the greatest capacity in the Baltics at 70,000 kW was constructed. Such notable companies as the Liepāja war harbour workshops, Liepāja Cable Factory, “Vairogs” in Riga (making train cars, vehicles and airplanes), and the State Electrotechnical Factory (VEF), which manufactured electronic devices, radio receivers, optical instruments, flourished. In the 1920s, the recently established State of Latvia had any many new institutions and organisations. The richest of those could afford to buy buildings in Old Riga or its vicinity. The Latvian Union of traders could not afford a city villa in the circle of boulevards, so it sought more suitable premises further away from the old town and found them at 35 Kr. Valdemāra Street. The building was in a rather decrepit state and most the villa with the size not exceeding that of a large detached house had to be turned into a public building. In 1926, the architect Eižens Laube prepared the building reconstruction design. The architect designed the façade of the new single-storey masonry building in the neo-eclecticism style favoured by himself and his clients, including large semi-circled windows characteristic to the renaissance era. In the former private house, the architect built a new staircase from the entrance lobby to the left leading to the attic and the basement; he altered the hall interior in the old part of the building, by embellishing it with columns and new fire-places, set up the dining hall, a library and many other rooms with lavish interior design elements, stained glass windows and sculptures. The building hosted traders’ conferences and congresses, several important Latvian companies were established there. In 1936, with the decision of the Minister for the Interior, it was instructed to liquidate the Latvian Union of Traders, and in 1937 it ceased its operations. From 19 March 1937, the owner of the building is the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which was established on 21 December 1934, to represent and promote commerce and industry in Latvia. In July 1938, the Latvian Chamber of Commerce started the long-overdue repair works. The building façade was painted in white with white lead, thus briefly gaining the nickname of “The White House”. In August 1940, in the requisitioned building of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic was stationed. Following subsequent repairs, the building façade lost its white hue. The lavish interior design features of the building were distributed among several establishments, but some valuable items ended up with high-ranking officials, party members and Soviet functionaries. In the 1980s, the house hosted science societies and “The palace of technologies” was established. Since 2000, the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has been back in its historic home in Riga, at 35 Kr. Valdemāra Street. The building was in a very poor technical state: the roof of the building cannot withstand water caused by snow and spring flooding, the interior walls and floors were soaked, historical ceiling and wall decorations and the floor covering were damaged. Repairs were needed for the roof and façade of the building, and restoration works are due in the interior of the building. The LCCI found itself at crossroads of whether to sell the building and move into a more modern office or to fight and try to preserve the building. This matter was put up for a vote at the LCCI Members’ Meeting of 22 March 2011, and with a majority of votes it was decided to renovate the building step by step. From 2012, constant restoration works have been under way in the LCCI building. The LCCI building still hosts activities for the enhancement of the Latvian business environment, along with various festive events, conferences and exhibitions. The LCCI represents more than 2500 companies, which are active in all sectors of the economy. The LCCI is also among the largest and most long-standing public organisations of Latvia — it has been the voice of businesses since 1934. After the restoration of independence of Latvia, many prominent persons have been at the helm of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, including the President of the LCCI, later the President of the Republic of Latvia Andris Bērziņš. When visiting Riga, do not hesitate to come and visit the LCCI building which is and will remain the home of Latvian entrepreneurship!