House of the Blackheads (Riga)
House of the Blackheads (Latvian: Melngalvju nams, German: Schwarzhäupterhaus) is a building situated in the old town of Riga, Latvia. The original building was erected during the first third of the 14th century for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried merchants, shipowners, and foreigners in Riga. Major works were done in the early 17th century, adding most of the Mannerist ornamentation. The sculptures were made by the workshop of August Volz.
The building was bombed to a ruin by the Germans on June 28, 1941 - a week after the launching of Operation Barbarossa - and the remains were demolished by the Soviets in 1948. It was rebuilt between 1996 and 1999 with funds provided by Valērijs Kargins, the president of Parex Bank. Part of the funds was also donated from all the people who wanted participate in rebuilding process, by joining in event ''I build the House of the Black Heads'', where by donating 5 lats (7,11~ EUR) could symbolically put the brick on the wall. There were more than 5000 participants. House of the Black Heads was officially opened in December 9, 1999.
Today the House of the Blackheads is a museum. In the upper level are located grand ballrooms, where historically many luxurious events happened - welcoming ceremonies for kings, queens, presidents, and also many cultural events - balls, classical music concerts, theatres, operas with many world famous guest-stars. On another floor it is possible to visit Historical cabinets - former work-space for the President of Latvia, who moved the Presidential residence to the House of the Blackheads from 2012 to 2016, while the permanent location in Riga Castle was under reconstruction. The historical cellar is the only original part of the building which survived World War II and during the Soviet Occupation times (until the 1990s) was buried underground and not visible. Historical cellar is one of the most unique places in Old Riga, where it is possible to walk through authentic underground of Old Riga where the remains - wall fragments, floor and even the wooden stairs are originals, and some of that is dated even in 14th century. This is former storage for goods and part of it was space for hypocaust - warm air furnace. Now there are interesting, interactive exhibitions relating to trading in Riga and the Brotherhood of Blackheads history.
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