Route 3: The First House of Norilsk

Route 3: The First House of Norilsk

June 23, 2020

Today we are going to visit one of the most picturesque places of the industrial city, its first house - a wooden one a little defenseless against the background of other modern buildings. People call it Urvantsev’s house.

In the summer of 1920, coal seams and continuous sulfide ore outcrops were discovered in the Norilsk region. To continue scientific research and the prospects for mining in this place, it was decided to organize a wintering. An expedition of eight people, headed by a great geologist, arctic explorer and iconic person for the Arctic Nikolay Urvantsev came here. During the wintering his expedition had to carry out meteorological observations, the initial mining work – to lay reconnaissance adits, as well as to build residential buildings.

In the summer of 1921, Urvantsev and the members of his geological team built the first residential building at the Zero Point of the village of Norilsk (the reference point of the future city). It became their main base for many months. Later other buildings appeared – a bathhouse, a hostel, etc. Historians say that reindeer sleighs loaded with cargo from Krasnoyarsk arrived to this house, and valuable samples of ore were sent from here on the same sleighs.

The First House of Norilsk at the Zero Point
Nikolay Urvantsev spent his first Norilsk winter in the house
The memorial is protected by the state

Today it is the oldest building in the city, its historical value. The house is made of larch and is a classic Russian hut with three rooms and a kitchen, its area is about 90 square meters. It was situated in the Old Town at 23 Gornaya Street. People lived in it for some time, then there were different institutions, a store, and a warehouse.

In the 1960s and 70s, the house looked something like the photo above. In May 1978, the Norilsk integrated geological exploration expedition began restoring the house. Every log was sorted out, rotten trunks were replaced, a memorial plaque in honor of the first Norilsk residents was put on the house.

In 1980, the restored building was visited by Nikolay Urvantsev and his wife Elizaveta. In 1992, due to soil failure, the house was transferred to the Museum of Norilsk development at 47a Leninsky Prospekt. At this place it stayed for ten years. Then – together with the museum – the house’s trip continued. Its second relocation took place in December 2002- at 14 Leninsky Prospect and a permanent museum exposition was opened there in 2003.

The Urvantsev’s house is located behind the Norilsk Museum’s building nowadays
It is constructed of the larch logs
The interior is kept as it was in Urvantsev’s time

Now the wooden house is located in the very center of the city, right behind the Norilsk Museum. This place is magnetized. You can walk around the small museum square next to it for a long time considering the hut as an urban curiosity with traces of the heroic past.

If you buy a ticket and go inside, it will be even more interesting: you can see household items of the Urvantsev’s expedition, his bedroom, books, dishes, rare photos and original documents of those years. All those things make up a portrait of the time, tell about the difficult and dangerous period of the development of the polar North by the first geological parties.

Text: Marina Khoroshevskaya, Photo: Nikolai Schipko and Norilsk photo archives

June 23, 2020

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