Karlamuiza Country Hotel

Hidden in Noble Silence

In the second half of the 18th century, in the picturesque ancient Amata river valley, about eight kilometres from the district centre of Cēsis, an independent administrative holding - Kārļumuiža (Gute Karlsruh) - was formed. From 1747 to 1755, the manor belonged to Alexey Bestuzhev-Ryumin (Бестужев-Рюмин, 1693–1766). In 1755 it was purchased by Johann Gottlieb von Wolff. At first, the manor was called Wolff Manor (Wolfsruh).

Landscape park

In 1777 the manor was bought by Karl Eberhard von Sievers, and the name of the manor was changed to Kārļumuiža (Karl Manor; Gute Karlsruh). The Sievers family did not just rebuild their main living quarters in Cēsis; in the 1780s, they formed a Baroque-style central building complex in Kārļumuiža suitable for their needs at the time. On the initiative of Karl’s brother Peter Christian von Sievers, they installed paths, lanes and romantic resting places to create a charming landscape park. The beautiful surroundings with a striking terrain, sandstone cliffs on the banks of the river, wooded knolls and flower-rich lowlands, formed an expressive background for the planning of the manor buildings while at the same time highlighting special conditions. The desire and ability of the former owner to unite practical needs with aesthetic pleasure allowed Kārļumuiža to become a well considered, beautiful and tasteful set of buildings skillfully place in the natural landscape. The manor was a source of pleasure not only for its inhabitants but also for travellers and tourists from the near vicinity and further afield. The landscape park, formed at the end of the 18th century, was a testament to the best tastes and appreciation of the beauty of the era. The gorgeous surroundings with the magnificent Amata riverbank became a beloved place to visit for travellers at the end of the 18th century through the 19th century. Interest was so great that, in 1796, Vidzeme district administrator Wilhelm Friedrich Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg recommended setting up a comfortable house where the many travellers could spend the night and purchase food. The former owner of the manor, court advisor Karl Eberhard von Sievers, also considered building a hotel.

James Pierson of Balmadis

An advertisement in a 1795 edition of the newspaper Rigasche Anzeigen announced that Court Councillor Karl Eberhard von Sievers had sold Kārļumuiža to Angela Maria Pierson (née Trompowsky).  Angela von Trompowsky’s husband was James Pierson of Balmadis.The wealthy English merchant was born in 1741 in Montrose, Scotland, to lawyer Robert Pierson of Balmadis (1701-1763) and Anna Fraser. He was brought to Vidzeme by commercial interests: in 1768 James Pierson was accepted into the Riga Brotherhood of the Blackheads. His oldest son James Pierson and his youngest son Robert Pierson both joined the organisation in 1791 and 1795 respectively; he had five other sons and four daughters. In Riga James Pierson, together with the most prosperous local merchants, set up the trading company Pierson, Huhn, Trompowsky & Wale. The company exported various goods (timber, beer, wax and hemp among others), mainly to England. The business developed successfully and the profits could be invested in property. 

After twenty years of marriage, when their sons had reached adulthood, the married couple decided to buy properties in the Cēsis area under the wife’s name. First, in 1791, they bought Ieriķi manor; four years later, as mentioned, they purchased the neighbouring Kārļu manor. Being in the later years of his life and perhaps no longer thinking about children, he decided to reorganise Kārļumuiža and bring about changes to the beautiful landscape which reminded him of his Scottish childhood. Pierson began by building a new presentable manor house in a style untypical of local architecture. He changed not just the main building of the complex but also removed the square farmyard which by that point was seen as old-fashioned. He built a new stockyard and stables significantly further from the residential house and extended the park closer to the manor house with magnificent plants, pathways and avenues. German craftsmen were hired for the job, as confirmed by entries in Āraiši church records.

James Pierson died on the 16th of July, 1804, in Kārļumuiža at the age of 63. Two years later, on the 26th of February, 1806, the widow pledged the manor to family friend and business partner, senior trader of the Riga Great Guild and banker Bernhard Christian Klein. However, on the 1st of November, 1819, the manor was bought by Russian colonel Count Joseph von Koskull. His only daughter and heiress Elisabeth married the actual privy counsellor Count Emanuel von Sievers; after the death of Joseph von Koskull in 1863, Kārļumuiža once again came into the possession of the Sievers family.

Fruit garden and gardening school

In the nineteenth century, the manor’s central building complex was expanded with new buildings. The first serious reconstruction works were undertaken by Count Joseph von Koskull when he began living at Kārļumuiža. As can be seen on an 1834 map of the manor, the central complex of buildings was joined around this time by new stables, cattle sheds, a tavern, a gardener’s house and a water mill. Slightly further away, a crypt for the landlords was built. In the second half of the 19th century, development of the complex continued: both farm buildings and housing for the manor’s workers and servants were built.

In 1876 there were 21 buildings at the centre of the manor; by 1908 there were 32. In the middle of the century, the farmstead was expanded by adding the newly built water mill on the river Amata and a sawmill. At the end of the century, a shingle factory was added powered by a turbine. In 1900, the leaseholder of the factory was Gottfried Jakobsohn. The needs of the manor as well as of two half manors, Bellevue (Priedes) and Cecīļi, were served by a brick kiln.

In the second half of the 19th century, a fruit garden and gardening school was created at Kārļumuiža; it was the first gardening school in the Baltics. At the beginning of the 20th century, a large garden centre had formed which supplied the local area with park plants, fruit trees, berry bushes and other plants; the garden centre also grew these for export, sending a wide range of products to the manors of Russia. In just over 21 hectares, around 30,000 plants were grown for sale each year. The products were publicised in a catalogue issued annually at the beginning of August. The tree nursery was one of the largest in the Baltics and offered a very wide selection: fruit trees, decorative trees, shrubs and flowers. In the 1911-1912 catalogue, more than 1450 names are mentioned.

The first losses at Kārļumuiža occurred during the revolution of 1905 when the beautiful manor house was burned down. Using a loan the house was rebuilt over several years. The complex suffered more profoundly after the First World War. In June 1919, during the Latvian War of Independence, the manor house was burned down a second time. This time it was not rebuilt.

Believing that the future of Kārļamuiža is based on respect for its previous achievements, excellence and entrepreneurship, the history of Kārļamuiža continues with forming of the Karlamuiza Country Hotel in the gardeners quarters of the ancient manor. They were built during the ownership of Count Joseph von Koskull in the middle of the 19th century and they were fully renovated in 2006.

History of the manor in writing:

  • Pārsla Pētersone, Jānis Stepiņš. ‘’KĀRĻU MUIŽA. Eras and Fates’’ The history of the Kārļu muiža (in Latvian)
  • Taimiņa, Aija. Voyage Pittoresque. Jeb gleznains ceļojums uz Kārļiem pie Amatas. Iespiedgrafika. #3 (271/2004).
  • Lancmanis, Imants. My Home is my Castle. Mistera Pīrsona celtais nams pie Amatas. Māksla Plus. Kultūras žurnāls. 2007. 4.
  • Gailītis, Paulis. Kārļu vecais pomoloģiskais dārzs. Dārzkopības un Biškopības Žurnāls, 1940, Nr. 5, 226. lpp.

Latvijas Radio: Latvijas pērles. Kārļamuiža – a building with Scottish accents, the first pomological school. Zane Lāce 2. oktobris 2016, 9:30.