One upon a time, two natives of Hiiumaa were standing in front of a low and patched house in the centre of Kärdla.
“Can you go in standing up?” doubted the first one.
“No, but I will on my knees,” answered the second. The year was 1997 and Maret Aron had bought herself a house.
Kärdla was once a Swedish village named Kärrdal. After reluctant Swedish peasants were resettled to Ukraine in the beginning of the 19th Century, Count Constantin Ungern-Sternberg founded the Hiiu-Kärdla Broadcloth Factory that has played a dominant role in the development of the town. By the end of the 19th Century, the factory—built in 1829—employed nearly 700 workers.
The broadcloth factory brought worldwide fame to Hiiumaa as well as to the entire Estonia. For producing high-quality broadcloth and providing the workers with good living conditions, the factory was awarded at a number of exhibitions from Saint Petersburg to Paris.
The factory itself burnt down in 1941, during World War II. Maret Aron’s Guesthouse Kertel is one of the few workers’ cottages left untouched and preserved to this day.
It was no news to Maret that “Tau Liisa’s house” had once been a home to the workers of Kärdla Broadcloth Factory. From the archives, she was able to find drawings with the construction year of the house: 1850. As it was one of the oldest dwellings in Kärdla, Maret did not want to alter its spirit, but to bring the house back to life.
Maret designed the house on the basis of the old drawings, but some fundamental changes were necessary for modern life, especially for accommodating guests. Above all, the changes concerned waterworks and building bedrooms on the second floor.
Although the help of local experienced builders was needed with more sizeable work, the lion’s share (for example, all the interior work) was done by Maret and her then teenage son Priit. “At one point, we watched the stars and moon from the kitchen..”
After the “cultural layer” deposited in one and a half century was carefully peeled off from the venerable dwelling, a few surprising and interesting details came to light that would have been buried in oblivion without a sensitive and sharp eye and caring heart. The findings are related to the birth and development of the entire town of Kärdla and, therefore, have a priceless value from the standpoint of local history.
For example, as the interior log walls were cleaned, it appeared that the principle of recycling was used here already in the beginning of the 19th century: some of the walls are made of time-worn and rock-hard logs taken from an ancient smoke cottage. Most probably these originate from a cottage of a former Swedish village, the residents of which were forced to abandon their homes in 1810…
Maret designed her new home with the same attentiveness—she searched the house for hidden memories and did her best to display them. For example, some of the doors were found in the shed under a woodpile. While peeling off old tapestry from the walls, she noticed an old beer bottle label reading “Dagö-Kertel”—the kind you would not even find in a museum. It stayed where it was and was also given a frame. Maret even named her guesthouse Kertel, “recycling” the former name of Kärdla in this manner.