History of Kumna manor

Kumna village, like many North-Estonian villages, was first mentioned in the Danish Census Book originating from the 13th century. This places the written attested date of birth of Kumna village to 1219-1220. The size of Kumna village was indicated to be 10 ploughlands and the owner (vassal) was recorded to be Thitmar, who was most likely a local nobleman (he was also the owner of Humala village). The place wasn’t called Kumna at the time, rather it was known as Engael, which was later adapted to Engla. The name Engla disappeared from use about 100 years ago. The first definitely local vassal (landlord) known by name was Ohtra Jürgen.  He was one of the men who contributed to Sweden’s success and to ousting Russians from Estonia. His payment was a vassal letter received from the Chief of the Tallinn stronghold on 20 May, 1581, which awarded him an inheritable title to the Kumna farmstead (village) in the size of 4 ploughlands in the Keila parish. In exchange, Ohtra Jürgen had to pay 20 marks cash during each autumnal payment period and supply one light horseman for the army. In the classical sense, the date of birth of the manor may be deemed to be 10 June, 1627, on which date the Governor of Estonia Johann de la Gardie established the borders of Kumna. The pastor of Tallinn’s St. Nicholas’ Church Johann Knopius (Johannes Cnopius), whose name was the inspiration for calling the manor and village also Knoobus, became the first owner of the manor. Johann Knopius’ heir was his son cavalry captain Hans Knopius. His successor for the manor was sister Katharina (+1685), who was married to Kirbla’s pastor Daniel Göbel (+1656). Her heir was the son, cavalry captain Heinrich von Göbel. The manor was recalled, but was given to Heinrich von Göbel for permanent lease. The owner of the manor following his death was his widow Anna Gerdruta Göbel (née Elfering). After the Great Northern War, the manor was completely empty due to the plague.

In 1722, Anna Gerdruta von Göbel sells Kumna with her daughter’s and her son-in-law’s permission to captain Franz Lemberg, who buys it for his wife Margaretha Christina Brasel. The latter leaves the manor to her son Johann Friedrich Lübecken. In 1778, Anna Johanna Lübecken (née Harpe), the widow of Johann Friedrich Lübecken, sells the manor to Lieutenant General Karl Reinhold von Kosküll (1731-1804). In 1805, the manor is inherited by his son Peter Friedrich August Kosküll (1763-1827), who sells the manor to Johann Lütkens in 1816. In 1838, the State Councillor doctor of law Johann von Lütkens pledges the manor to the Major General Georg von Meyendorff. The pledge agreement is changed to a purchase and sale contract in 1844. Until the land reform of the Republic of Estonia in 1918, Kumna manor was under the ownership of the Meyendorff family. Meyendorffs rose to high positions in the Russian court and enjoyed winter social life in St. Petersburg. Kumna was used primarily as a summer residence. The family had a strong military tradition: Georg von Meyendorff was Adjutant General and Chief of Stables for the Emperor Alexander II, and four of his five sons were also generals. One of them, Teofil von Meyendorff (1853-1919), Adjutant General and a recipient of the cross of St. George like his father before him, was the last owner of Kumna before the land reform. Teofil’s song Georg fought in the Baltic battalion during the Estonian War of Independence and after the war cheaply leased the Aia farmstead that constituted the manor lands, which housed buildings that were later used to construct the new manor building. Later, two additional farmsteads where the family gathered in the 1920s and 1930s were purchased to accompany Aia farmstead. Meyendorffs used their international connections and made a real effort to claim (buy) back their relatives who had fallen in the grasp of the red terror from the Soviet Russia. In 1935, Georg Meyendorff (1894-1982) sold Aia farmstead to Emmeline Kromel (Stackelberg), using the money to buy foreign passports for relatives that had been left behind in Russia. In 1937, Kesk-Kumna (Central Kumna) farmstead where the manor’s old main building was located was returned to Teofil’s widow Helene Meyendorff (born countess Shuvalov).

Meyendorffs left for Germany in 1941, having previously shared living quarters with the Soviet army following the post-relocation. During the war, the manor housed the Abwehr intelligence school inspected even by Abwehr’s highest superior Admiral W. Canaris. After the war, the manor was home to the Soviet army and collective farm office. In 1980, the manor buildings were used as housing for a student working camp, then it stood empty for a while after being looted, until Loodustoode OÜ acquired to manor’s new main building through a public auction in 1999.

Historical-architectural value of Kumna manor

At the heart of Kumna manor, we will encounter an unusual combination: single-storey buildings with Russian-style carvings next to a festive palace with classicist white columns. This manor landscape creates a telling connection between Russian and European culture, saying much about Baltic nobility and locals in the imperial courts of St. Petersburg and Berlin. Kumna’s new manor building was built during the first quarter of the 20th century at the height of the neo-classicist tidal wave that followed the Ionic style. While the Ionic classicism often made use of softer and smoother shapes, as if softening the cold pompousness of classicism, the palace here hints at ceremonial Empire style: half columns decorated with Ionic capitals, laurel wreaths interlaced with ribbons on the roof gable, etc. The interiors are also remarkable. Despite relatively small spaces, the interior was attempted to be made as theatrical as possible. A hall with a mirrored arch on the second floor was decorated with columns and horizontal cornices, walls were divided into rectangular areas with stucco reliefs. The new building built next to the old manor house wasn’t so much intended for living, but foremost for festive receptions that the lords of the manor, Meyendorffs who had lots of connections from St. Petersburg to London, were quick to make the most of.  Thanks to their hard work and tenacity coupled with marriage connections with influential noble families (Shuvalov, Sheremetyev, Trubetskoy, Rayevski, etc.), Meyendorffs rose to high power positions in the tsarist court, but never forgot their home, the summery beautiful Kumna. After the revolution, Kumna became a safe place for them where they fled to wait for better times. Then the land reform happened and Kumna manor lands were divided into farmsteads. Hard-working Meyendorffs were able to cope under the new conditions – first they leased the lands, later purchased a total of three farmsteads from the state, plus one farmstead where the manor’s old main building is located, was returned.

The contemporaries say that Kumna manor house included valuable Rococo furniture and spectacular art. The large library, part of which has been preserved in the National Library of Estonia, was particularly impressive. Until December 1949, Martin Luther’s bronze statue made by professor Clodt von Jürgensburg from St. Peterburg stood next to the highway on the manor lands. The monument of Luther was commissioned in 1862 by Georg von Meyendorff, who was the president of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Russia at the time. Having served as the Chief of Stables at the court of Alexander II and having been an “insider” in his family, his merits in acquiring a building permit for and establishing St. John’s Church in St. Petersburg are difficult to overestimate. The 150th anniversary of this church that has a significant importance in the Estonian cultural history was celebrated in 2010.

His son Teofil von Meyendorff was also a meritorious public figure. He was one of the founders and the first honorary chairman of the Russian Olympic Committee. Teofil von Meyendorff was also the founder of the heavy athletics association Bogatyr in St. Peterburg and he played a part in our first Olympic medallist Martin Klein (who lived and trained in St. Petersburg) making it to the Stockholm Olympic Games in 1912. Teofil’s son Georg as the captain of the Baltic battalion deserves to be brought to prominence as well.

Kumna manor has also left its mark in the history of Estonian tennis. In 1911, Kumna Sports Club, which joined the All-Russian Association of Lawn-Tennis Clubs that same year, was founded in the Kumna manor. One of the Meyendorffs, William von Meyendorff, became the first Estonian Champion in Tennis in men’s doubles in 1920.