(b. 1873, Rantasalmi, d. 1950, Bloomfield Hills)

Suur-Merijoki Manor: exterior

Museum of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki

Suur-Merijoki Manor in Viipuri Province was a Finnish Art Nouveau masterpiece, a 'total work of art' that became one of the most famous Finnish homes of its era. It was commissioned by Swiss-born Maximilian Neuscheller (1860-1919), a wealthy, cosmopolitan businessman based in St. Petersburg who travelled widely and was a knowledgeable patron of the arts.

In 1900 Neuscheller purchased the Suur-Merijoki estate on the Karelia Isthmus, a popular vacationing spot among the St. Petersburg elite. Two years later, he enlisted the services of the promising Finnish architect trio to design a summer villa for himself and his family.

The young architects Herman Gesellius (1874-1916), Armas Lindgren (1874-1929) and Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950) founded a three-man architectural practice in 1896, while all three were still undergraduates. They made their first breakthrough as designers of the Finnish pavilion at the Paris World's Fair. Wealthy Neuscheller offered the young architects a unique opportunity by giving them the chance to design a 'total work of art' in the Art Nouveau style, sparing no expense, complete with furniture and textiles. The architects were assisted by a large team of artisans, painters and sculptors. The manor was built in 1902-03.

Suur-Merijoki Major was situated in an unusual location atop a small hill in the middle of a spruce forest. The main villa had the look of a Gothic castle with medieval touches such as turrets, nature granite boulders in the plinths and elevations, and tapering windows.

Neuscheller died in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution in 1919, after which his family sold the estate to the Finnish government in 1927. The manor was badly damaged during the Winter War, but some of its furnishings were salvaged and evacuated to Finland. The estate was relinquished to the Soviet Union in 1944. Today there is nothing left of the once-splendid manor but rubble and ruin.

Eliel Saarinen's watercolour of 1902 shows the exterior of the manor.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.