The Baltic Exchange's grand, marble hall, which served as a trading floor and ballroom, was damaged in IRA bombings in 1992, but its more valuable stone elements were preserved and will be restored.
TALLINN - Like a giant Lego set, a historic London building has been dismantled, packed in crates and shipped to Tallinn for reassembly. The building is known as The Baltic Exchange, a grandiose marble hall that once served as the main center for trade between Baltic Sea ports and England. It was badly damaged during the 1992 IRA bombings and was removed piece-by-piece from its central London location.
Two Estonian businessmen, Heiti Haal and Eerik-Niiles Kross, have now purchased the remains of the building and plan to rebuild it in central Tallinn.
On Saturday June 9 the first of 50 containers arrived at Muuga Port, carrying the over 1,000 tons of granite, marble and interior fixings that make up The Baltic Exchange.
"It's an architectural gem," said Sander Pullerits, project manager of the reconstruction.
"The French once brought massive monuments over from Egypt. We're doing something similar. We are bringing a part of the Baltic Sea history back to Tallinn."
Kross discovered the building by accident. He stumbled upon a website listing the pieces for sale while researching architectural antiques to find distressed wood for his apartment floor.
It had languished in storage for over ten years after being damaged in the IRA bombing, which also destroyed several office buildings nearby.
Built in 1903, the exquisite marble hall served as a trading floor, ballroom and even a set for the Anthony Hopkins film "Howard's End."
Its heritage listing was removed after the bombing. In its place now stands one of the most recognizable icons of London, the Swiss RE tower, better known as "The Gherkin."
Last summer Kross and Hall signed off on the purchase for 800,000 pounds (1,183,000 euros).
They are now negotiating with several agents to find a suitable location for the building in central Tallinn.
The building will feature office space, a restaurant and a ballroom.
The owners hope to attract maritime companies to maintain a link with the building's history, and the Estonian Maritime Museum will open an exhibition space on the first floor.
Pullerits said much of the building will have to be built new, as only the expensive stone elements were preserved.
"They didn't preserve the cheaper stone, but there is still a lot of the original interior. There are marble columns, arches, staircases, balustrades, several fireplaces, wall paneling, and even old telephone booths.
"Unfortunately some of it was destroyed in the bombing, including the beautiful glass dome, which was one of the most important parts. We will restore the rest as the building is constructed."
The rebuilding effort could take as long as two years, and specialist restorers will be required to piece the fragments together.
When complete, Pullerits said the building would stand as an icon of Tallinn's maritime history and its renewed economic success.