Development of the Supilinn Settlement Supilinna asustuse kujunemine 18. ja 19. sajandil

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Lea Teedema


The article provides a thorough survey of the development of one of Tartu’s oldest districts – the Supilinn settlement. Information about the lots in the area and the building on them exists from the end of the 16th century. However, the development and ownership of most of the lots can be traced continually since the middle of the 18th century, when there were a few dozen lots basically in use as gardens in Supilinn (in the area around Tähtvere and Kroonuaia Streets by the Emajõgi River). The gardens belonged to the wealthy town citizens, who mostly rented them out to the poorer city residents (Einwohner). The latter often also erected buildings on the lots. The majority were buildings typical of farm households, which were often referred to as such (Bauernhaus, Gehöft).

The reopening of the University of Tartu in 1802 was accompanied by almost a tripling of the town’s population, which, in turn, caused the densification and expansion of the town, including in Supilinn. Until the middle of the 19th century, this settlement basically expanded on account of the lots measured from the flood plain that belonged to the town.

In Supilinn, where the ownership relations were constant and the noteworthy part of the territory was comprised of hereditary lots, a new stage of development started after the death of Pastor Gehewe in 1856, when building on the giant lot spread through parcelling to the sparsely settled blocks between Kroonuaia, Tähtvere, Herne and Marja Streets. By the end of the 19th century, Meloni, Kartuli, Emajõe and Kroonuaia Streets have been totally developed. The division of lots on the remaining streets also continued in the 20th century. Members of the peasantry increased among the owners. In the mid-1870s, building was started on the Emajõe River side of Oa Street, as the building on Marja Street and the densification of Herne, Meloni and Tähtvere Streets continued.

By the end of the 19th century, the differences between the streets had taken shape. The fanciest streets in Supilinn were Tähtvere and Kroonuaia, where the largest number of people in higher social positions lived. Meloni Street, with its buildings dating mostly from the first half of the 19th century, and Piiri Street were more reminiscent of a village than a town. Marja Street formed sort of a transition between agrarian Meloni and elite Kroonuaia Streets. The industrial enterprises in Supilinn, except for the Tivoli brewery that was built on Jakob Hill, were converged in the blocks comprised of Emajõe, Oa and Kartuli Streets. A few workshops and small grocery stores, with one to two workers, existed alongside them. 

Despite the parcelling of the lots and the densification of the building that occurred during the last 30 years of the 19th century, compared to the other districts in town, Supilinn was still a quite sparsely built-up settlement, with residential buildings surrounded by large gardens, which had roots in both rural and urban living where planned building did not occur. In the first decades of the 20th century, a new stage started in the development and construction of Supilinn. This caused the development of Lepiku Street, which was uniformly built up, making it different from the usual milieu of the settlement, as well as the expansion of the built-up area to the blocks bordered by Piiri, Herne and Tähtvere Streets. 

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