Stenbock House is the seat of Government sessions and is where the Prime Minister and Government Office work daily. The first Government session in Stenbock House was held on 8 August 2000.
Although the building complex at Rahukohtu Street 3 has changed owners and functions over the years, it has always been called Stenbock House in works of art as well as historical sources and scholarly studies.
The representative house with a balcony with six Doric columns and a strictly Classical look was designed by architect Johann Caspahr Mohr for the courts of the province of Estonia but, when the house was finished in 1792, it became the town residence of Count Jakob Pontus Stenbock. After Stenbock's death, the house was used for various purposes until it first became a courthouse in 1891. It was the seat of courts until 1987.
After that, the house stood empty until 1996, when works began to restore it into the seat of the Government of the Republic and the Government Office. The first Government session in Stenbock House was held on 8 August 2000.
About the Architecture of Stenbock House
When describing the architecture of Stenbock House, it should be taken into account that it was not initially built to be a palace of nobility but rather a state office, and that is why its general impression is quite laconic and simple, both inside and outside.
However, the placement of the buildings of the ensemble with its main building, the arc-shaped outbuilding and the courtyard between them is in line with the idea in the nobility state of the time that state offices in towns should follow the characteristic layout of the nobility's country estates.
On the other hand, the house was built in conditions of dire financial difficulties, which is one of the reasons behind its unpretentiousness. The three-storey stone main building is an austere, massive and balanced classical building. The facades opening to both the courtyard and the side facing the sea are simple and regular, adorned by windows with stepped framings and dentil roof cornices, with pediments and cornices above the windows of the first floor.
The sea facade
The facade facing the sea has six strong-shafted pilasters that have been adorned with simple Doric capitals. There is also a balcony resting on six Doric pillars and reaching up to the first floor of the building – this was demolished in the course of the 1891 alterations but has now been reconstructed according to the original blueprints and descriptions of the building.
The courtyard facade
The axis of the facade facing the courtyard is accentuated by 6 pilasters and 2 half-pilasters stretching over the first and second floors, supporting a triangular frontispiece with a dentil cornice lining. The bases of the pilasters as well as the spiral, Ionic capitals are made of dolomite from Saaremaa. They are a suitable and dynamic decoration to the building's laconic facade, demonstrating the suitability of Saaremaa's "marble" as a building material with several centuries of tradition behind it, for classical architecture.
Courtyard and the outbuilding
There is an outbuilding opposite the main building of Stenbock House, originally designed as a carriage house, stables, a warehouse, living quarters for court attendants and jail guards, and partially also as jail cells. The outbuilding is semi-circular only on the side facing the courtyard; the walls facing the street follow the boundaries of the lot with all their irregularities. The building is intentionally enclosed on all sides to seclude and close off the courthouse so that it could also function as a jailhouse.
The outbuilding was not attached to the main building until 1891 in the course of reconstruction work, which is why the arched building creates the illusion of a winged building today.
Some of the first storey windows of the outbuilding have been reconstructed as oval windows, just as they were at the end of the 18th century. The horseshoe shaped courtyard that can be accessed from Rahukohtu Street through the vaulted main gate is at present paved with cobblestones at the edges and with granite parquet bricks and grey and red bricks in the centre.
There is an old linden tree growing in the middle of the courtyard. A terrace with greenery and paved with grey bricks is situated between the sea-facing facade of the main building and the limestone slope of Toompea hill.
A memorial plaque In Memoriam hangs on the façade of Stenbock House right beside the gate, dedicated to the heads and members of government who perished in the communist terror.
The names of ten heads of government are on the plaque: Friedrich Akel, Ado Birk, Kaarel Eenpalu, Jüri Jaakson, Juhan Kukk, Ants Piip, Konstantin Päts, Otto Strandman, Jaan Teemant, and Jaan Tõnisson. The names of 56 members of government are also on the plaque alongside the heads of government. They all perished in 1941 or 1942.