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The article provides a thorough survey of the history of the planning street and plot structure of the Supilinn settlement based on the maps and plans compiled for Tartu between the 17th century and the present day. Historical maps are used to collect information using both the ordinary observation and comparison and digitally laying the old maps on today’s plan. This method allows to specify a number of aspects that otherwise would have been ambiguous. In the case of Supilinn the digital comparison of three historical maps with modern one identified that the city limit of Tartu in the end of the 17th century (and probably earlier) run along Piiri Street, not along Meloni Street as assumed until now.
Entire built-up area of Supilinn was included in the city of Tartu as of 1867. Later, in 1923, the vacant un-built sports park area behind Supilinn was merged with it. The district’s initial structure developed spontaneously. Until the first few decades of 19th century, when the corridor with of Kroonuaia, Tähtvere, Emajõe and Väike-Emajõe Streets, and the beginning of Oa and Meloni Streets, came into existence, the development occurred primarily based on practical needs. In connection with the considerable growth of Tartu’s population in the early 19th century, a need developed for the densification of Supilinn’s sparse habitation. Initially, four new streets (Herne, Kartuli and Marja Streets, as well as the part end of Meloni Street by the river and the end of Oa Street) were delineated in Supilinn in the first decades of the 19th century. Until the 20th century, new lots were distributed on these streets by dividing hereditary lots or creating new lots from the city’s meadow belonging to the city. In this way, Supilinn’s characteristic structure of lots was created, where long narrow lots reach deep into the interior of the city blocks. The building along the streets was also densified, which resulted in the buildings being densely located along the streets with long allotment wedges behind them. Similar structures have also existed in other Estonian towns, but by today, they have survived, to any extent, only in Lihula.
In the first decades of the 20th century, two more streets – Lepiku and Allika – were established, in addition to those that already existed. From the 1920s until the 1980s, plans were made for the thorough renovation of Supilinn. Since the plans were never realised, most of the district survived in its Tsarist-era, pre-Modernist form.
During the last quarter of a century, a fundamental change has occurred in the assessment of Supilinn’s value. If in the vision for Supilinn’s reconstruction, prepared as recently as in 1986, only Emajõe, Lepiku and Tähtvere Streets were designated as being worth preserving, then in the draft of the latest thematic planning for Supilinn, being compiled in 2012, the majority of the historical buildings, as well as the streets and the layout of the lots, have been deemed to be worth preserving. During the last decades one new small streets has been establishes and tens of new houses built on existing plots. Still, the street and lot structure has not significantly changed and according to the latest planning proposal it will stay this way in the future.