Leaning House

The 3-storied building on the main square, which is known as the “Leaning House”, was built in 1793 together with vaulted cellar, ancillary building, stables and coach house. The building was sold in 1819 to the countess Auguste Helene Barclay de Tolly, the wife of famous general count Mihhail Barclay de Tolly, giving the reason the building was long called “The Barclay House”. Ownership of the building was exchanged several times, until in 1879 a pharmacist named Theodor Köler founded a pharmacy, which operated in the building for more than a century. Also the beloved Estonian writer Oskar Luts was working there.

During 1950s and 1960s, acknowledged artists Kaarel Kurismaa and Tiit Pääsuke stayed in the dormitory of the boarding school that was based on the second floor. Ado Vabbe, the persecuted pedagogue, but today admired artist, was living in the same building.

The leaning is caused by the building’s uneven ground surface. The whole of Tartu oldtown is built on the soggy bank of the River Emajõe, therefore the foundations are mostly laid on logs. Due to the decreasing level of groundwater, one side of the building has sunk over hundreds of years. According to legend, the building has deviated even more after the bombing of the nearby Stonebridge (Kivisild) in the Second World War. In the 1980s extensive restorations were realised by Polish builders, thanks to which the sinking has suspended. The “Leaning House” is under 5,8 degrees, which is greater than the Pisa tower.