Merchant Kalmakov’s

A Gothic castle
in the Urals

A Gothic castle sits on one of the streets in central Irbit, with pointed turrets and lancet windows. Famous among locals, it is unlike any other residence built by a merchant family

Merchant Kalmakov’s House came to be known among city dwellers as the “house with turrets,” and they take pride in showing it to tourists. In fact, the building and its owner gave birth to an urban legend.


Pavel Kalmakov, a prominent merchant based in Irbit, made quite a fortune in wine trade

An entrepreneurial and forward-thinking person, he invested all his assets in the leather business. Kalmakov built a factory, streamlined manufacturing and bought a good spot on the central square to set up a shop. His venture succeeded, making him one of the wealthiest and respected residents of Irbit.
However, Kalmakov needed more than his trade to be happy. What he wanted was to help the city he loved so much by creating a clean, quiet and people-friendly urban environment. In 1898, Kalmakov submitted a daring initiative to the city council. He wanted to build a plant with a steam generator and the latest machinery that would clean the air of all impurities. Council members were not convinced by the project, but Kalmakov’s reputation and experience, as well as the fact that he earned a silver medal at a recent industrial fair in Yekaterinburg, tipped the balance in his favor and he got the funding.

«екатеринбургская неделя» В феврале 1870 года писала, что

Кожевенные заведения в Ирбите вырабатывают до пятнадцати тысяч кож в год, работают два мыловаренных заведения, два салотопенных, три свечных…

Yekaterinburgskaya Nedelya newspaper in February 1870:

Irbit’s leathermakers produced 15,000 tons of goods per year, with two soap-making factories, two tallow-melting facilities, three candle factories and so forth.

During World War I, Kalmakov became the chief of Irbit’s urban improvements and development

In 1915, he conceived a project to create a public park where people would go for walks and socialize. With the crisis caused by the war raging and resources scarce, the city council voted down the initiative, considering that there were better uses for the budget at the time of war. However, other merchants stepped in to vouch for Kalmakov’s project, since there was no one who could do this work as quickly and efficiently as him.
Women on holiday in Irbit public garden, 1912

in the city

People belonging to various social strata respected Kalmakov, including city clerks as well as other merchants. Everyone seemed to like and admire him

Just like his fellow city residents, Kalmakov rented out rooms to people coming to the Irbit Fair.
Famous for his hospitality, he accommodated merchants from other cities, including Davlen Kildeyev, Mohamed Mustafa from Petropavlovsk, Adbul Iskakov from Tyumen, who traded in all sorts of goods, leather merchant Ivan Reshetnikov from Tyumen – Kalmakov was not afraid of competition, as well as Fyodor and Sosipatr Reshetnikov, who were closely related to Ivan. Fur trader Farkhutdin Farkhutdinov from Tomsk also stayed at Kalmakov’s house. The fact that there were so many Tatar names among his guests was quite normal since Kalmakov lived in Irbit’s district also known as the Tatar Quarter, where buyers and sellers of Siberian furs converged.

two houses

Kalmakov, a hospitable host for people coming from outside of Irbit, did not have a spacious and comfortable home of his own for quite some time

He started by buying a one-story mansion built in 1858 at the corner of Torgovaya Street and Permskaya Street, now known as Lenina and Karla Marksa streets, respectively. The building has a rather modest and austere appearance: brick walls with just seven windows in the front and ornate brickwork as the only decoration. There was no garden there, just the building itself, a few outbuildings and a spacious courtyard.

In the early 20th century, Kalmakov decided to build a new home that would resemble a medieval castle

To make his dream come true, he turned to local craftsmen by recruiting V. Bering to design the new building. The massive brick walls were built to last for centuries. The building had lancet windows, stone scallops on the roof and elegant lighting turrets on the corners, as well as a gate and a forged entrance door. In fact, every element was reminiscent of a Gothic medieval fortress. Unique for its time, even today the Kalmakov House is an unusual sight not only for Irbit but also for the Urals in general.

Art club

A big art aficionado, Kalmakov took a keen interest in history, music and art, which may have influenced the styling of his new home

He had a grand piano in his home, three phonographs and 240 cylinders with music recordings, which earned him the reputation of a music lover among Irbit residents.
But Kalmakov’s hobbies went beyond music: he had a big collection of photographs and oleographs in his home, as well as dozens of gypsum statues. There was also a large library there filling several bookcases and shelves.


While all these collections perished in the post-1917 events, the Gothic castle still stands.