Summer - holiday season in old Kuressaare

The treasurer of the Saaremaa Museum gives a review of the formation, development and problems of the resort of Kuressaare in the years 1840 - 1940. Her article is mainly based on newspaper articles of that time.

The opening of the first mud spa in 1840 and the foundation of the town park in 1861 initiated the formation of the resort. Soon the cafe and music pavilion "Tivoli" (demolished in the 1920s) and a bandstand were built in the park. The most important centre of resort life became the Kurhaus (built in 1889) where one could find a restaurant, a reading - room, and a theatre -, concert - and dance hall. During the summer both, local and visiting musicians and actors performed there. Art exhibitions were organized and movies were shown. In 1922 the "Variety theatre" was opened and artists from mainland spent their summers performing in Kuressaare.

The extensive expansion of the park began in 1887, a reading - house was built in 1898, and in 1901 a tennis court was constructed. Integral to summer - life were the concerts in the bandstand. A special orchestra was hired for that purpose, however in the l920s a military band from the mainland was asked to play there. Three mud spas, built in the second half of the 19th century, and a number of boarding houses surrounded the park.

Another centre of summer - life was the seaside where the first bath - houses were built in the 1870s. In l884 a beach coffee house was built (burnt down in 1916). A new one was built in its place in 1929. With the popularity of sailing and boating at the time, there were all of three harbours on the shore of Kuressaare, the most beautiful and newest of them, built together with the yacht club in l930, belonged to the Saaremaa Sea Sport Society. During 1929 - 1932 the seaward part of the park was expanded once more and an unsuccessful attempt to make an artificial beach was made. In 1936 a beach building of functiona style was erected at the location of the present stadium.

The bathing committee of the town government arranged the summer holiday activities. By the end of the 1920s the Society of Decorating Kuressaare was involved as well. Over the years the most acute problem was the herding of cattle through the streets, upsetting the tourists. The annual number of visitors averaged between 3,000 to 4,000 before World War I. In the period of the Estonian Republic the number was reduced by more than half. Prior to World War I most of the distant guests came from places in Russia, but later tourists came mainly from Latvia, Finland and Sweden.

MARET SOORSK "Yearbook of Saaremaa Museum"