Forward-thinking brothers Carl and Christian Luther sign their names to the statutes of an electrical engineering plant in 1899. The legendary Volta factory is born.
Italian physicist and chemist Alessandro Volta
had no idea that after his lifetime (1745-1827) not only would the volt bear his name, but also a large factory in the cold north of Europe, in what was at the time the Province of Estonia. Volta’s contribution to the field of electricity was enormous and he was also credited with the discovery of methane, among other things.
The main building of the factory is completed as early as 1900 and work commences under the guiding hand of Swiss engineer Konrad Schindler. Within a year the factory has 174 workers producing electric motors for the Russian market.
The factory’s employees, numbering 264 by 1904, earn wages of 30-35 roubles. A loaf of bread at the time costs one kopek.
“Let there be light!” is the motto of the factory’s owners, who construct an electricity generation plant in 1913 that gives Tallinn its first street lighting.
In the maelstrom of the First World War, production (meaning both employees and equipment) is evacuated to Russia. The factory stands empty for five years until 1918, when Estonia’s independence marks the start of interesting times.
The state issues a loan of 15 million roubles for the acquisition of equipment and the launch of production, and a new chapter begins in the story of the Volta Quarter.
Tennis courts, a perfume factory, the Kawe chocolate factory and the Keila cloth factory all operate in the Volta Quarter alongside the original plant. Life is good. In 1939 the Volta factory employs 244 people producing custom-made electric motors, transformers, pumps, ventilators and heaters.
In the midst of the Second World War the factory is nationalised before being dismantled and relocated yet again to Russia in 1941 – or at least attempts are made to do so, since much of its equipment is lost along with the ships transporting it.
The plant is reconstructed in 1947 and the independence-era Keila and Kalev factories are ousted in order to boost production volumes, since the Soviet era has seen the eastern market open up once again and there is high demand for modern electric motors. Volta goes on to produce almost 10% of all electric motors in the Soviet Union.
Volta’s legendary waffle-maker is one of the plant’s biggest hits (and remains as popular today as it was half a century ago). Almost 250,000 electric motors, 70,000 small motors, 190,000 irons and 6700 radiators are manufactured in 1963 alongside the waffle-makers.
Unprecedented production capacity in the 1980s enables all of the buildings we see today to be fully constructed. The factory employs 2725 people and is producing 1200 electric motors a day.
The 10 millionth electric motor is produced in March 1990. Bearing the serial number 10,000,000 and coated in gold, it currently adorns the foyer of the 47B Lofts.
The tumultuous 1990s bring with them changes to the Volta Quarter as well. The factory is privatised in 1994, with AS Volta becoming its company name. It continues to produce electric motors in smaller numbers made to order. Today the same plant produces aluminium casting parts, automatics for industrial equipment, LED lights, wind generator parts and much more. The factory now employs fewer than 30 people.
The latest chapter in the story of the Volta Quarter starts very promisingly in early 2017 with the completion of the 47B Loftid – homes in which there is more space for ideas.
Inspired by the industrial architecture of New York, the Volta Loftid reconstruction was completed in 2019.