The Old Pharmacy in Valmiera – the oldest, built in the most archaic way wooden building in Latvian cities

The Valmiera city municipality during the reconstruction of Valmiera Old Pharmacy at Bruņinieku street 1 (the middle of the three buildings) for the exposition of Valmiera Castle Cultural Environment Center during the implementation of the European Union project “Development of Valmiera Historical Center”, discovered hitherto unknown architectural-historical evidence with significant historical, scientific and cultural-historical value.

The laboratory of dendrology, institute of history at the University of Latvia, while performing dendrochronological dating by biology doctor Māris Zunde, it was confirmed and clarified that the construction of the Valmiera Old Pharmacy house was completed in 1736. Thus, it has been confirmed that the Valmiera Old Pharmacy, which is mentioned in the sources as the oldest wooden building in Valmiera, is also the oldest wooden building that has survived to the present day in Latvian cities, built in the most archaic way. It is known that from 1756 to 1965 the building housed a pharmacy.  

The restorer – a master of his craft, who carried out the architectural and artistic research of the building, Ilmārs Dirveiks has concluded that currently the Old Pharmacy is the oldest known wooden residential building in Latvia, built in a log building with logs and log ends under the wing. The Old Pharmacy in Valmiera with secondary outbuildings is a very valuable historical artifact of Baroque wooden architecture with elements typical of the building crafts of that time.  

The documentation of the National Cultural Heritage Board and Valmiera City Municipality in the 1980s concludes that, “due to the fact that the building is clad in both facades and interior, it is not possible to find out the original planning and facade solution”, as well as “the research of the building can be carried out in full after the premises are vacated and the wall cladding is dismantled”. The construction works of the Valmiera Castle Cultural Environment Center are currently underway in the historical center of Valmiera, for which the approval of the construction project of the National Cultural Heritage Board and the work permit have been received. During the reconstruction of the wooden building and the eastern extension of the Old Pharmacy, it was found that the external walls were not homogeneous and consisted of both aerated concrete and mostly rot-damaged, partially prosthetic timber. At the same time, the partial dismantling revealed previously unknown values. Work on the building was suspended. In accordance with the opinion of the specialists of the National Cultural Heritage Board, architectural and artistic research was carried out, as well as the status of the newly discovered cultural monument was determined for the building.  

The documentation of architectural and artistic research reveals the construction history and cultural-historical and architectural heritage ​​of the building built in the 18th century. Significant planning changes took place in the 19th century, but from 1965 to the end of the 1980s the building was converted into an apartment building. The original substance of the three groups of buildings also decreased significantly after the reconstruction and renovation measures carried out in the second half of the 20th century and at the end of the 20th century. As a result of the research, recommendations for maintaining authenticity have been defined. Among the values ​​to be preserved are the structural system, proportions of original openings, principles of construction of opening frames, principles of finishing of log building surfaces, type of fixing of first floor ceiling boards (original board deck on beams), original opening elements and fragments, original door leaves, facade paint remains.  

As a result of the excavations carried out in connection with the works started at the site, it has been revealed that the building of Valmiera Old Pharmacy is much more significant and a larger amount of the original substance has remained in it than was known until now. In order to preserve the cultural and historical values ​​of the Old Pharmacy Building in a new quality, based on the research results, Valmiera city municipality will organize the development of changes to the construction project, including the restoration section of the building to maximally preserve and partially exhibit the historic pharmacy building structures. Reconstruction, renovation and restoration of the Valmiera Old Pharmacy complex and related infrastructure is implemented as part of the European Regional Development Fund Operational Program “Growth and Employment” priority section “Environmental protection and resource use efficiency” 5.5.1. within the framework of the project “Development of Valmiera historical center” within the specific support objective “Preserve, protect and develop significant cultural and natural heritage, as well as develop related services”. The project also includes the creation of a virtual exposition, as well as the reconstruction of Ziloņu street. The European Regional Development Fund co-financing up to 2,000,000.00 EUR and state budget grant up to 70,588.24 EUR have been received for the implementation of the project.  

Information prepared by: Kristīne Melece, Head of Branding and public relations department, Valmiera city municipality, Mob.pho.: +371 26553317

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