Käsmu, an Estonian-Finnish-Swedish village of captains has also been called Kesemo and Casperwiek at different times. The village was mentioned for the first time in 1453. In 1697, the first ship was built in Käsmu for the baron of Palmse. Boats and smaller ships have been built in Käsmu for almost 200 years. The original fishermen village evolved into a sailors' village by the 19th century. Larger sailing ships have been built since the end of the 19th century. Käsmu men, however, bought their first ocean sailing ships from Finland for the money earned by smuggling salt. After that they launched their local ship construction business. In 1891 a light beacon and the first ocean sailing ship were built, for Käsmu bay was one of the major ports for wintering, in some years of 60-70 ships. The first regatta of local fishing boats was organized by Nikolai Dellingshausen in 1889 in Käsmu.
The pillars of North-Estonian maritime business were Käsmu captains, the brothers Joosep (1839-1917) and Jakob (1846-1927) Kristenbrun. In 1884 Käsmu Maritime School was founded, which operated until 1931. Altogether 1664 students studied in this school, 94 graduated as captains. The most significant graduates are admiral Johannes Pitka, diplomat Aleksander Varma, leaders of Estonian Navy Johannes Sandbank and Joosep Pruun.
Before World War I, there were a total of 56 vessels in Käsmu. Every summer, 150 seamen were on water. A limited liability company O/Ü Käsmu Laevaomanikud (KLO) was founded in 1926, it owned the largest Estonian cargo ships.
The development of Käsmu village was influenced by sailors who had been to many cities of the world, and many celebrities from Baltic-German, Russian and Estonian intellectuals who spent their summer holidays in the village. General Nikolai von Dellingshausen was the first who discovered Käsmu as a great place for holidays. He built his family summer manor here in 1840. There is also a chapel that was built in memory of him, now known as the Chapel of the General. Since then, a large number of artists, painters, writers and university lecturers have visited Käsmu. First ones were Baltic Germans, followed by Intellectuals from St. Petersburg and Moscow. List of celebrities who have enjoyed their summers in Käsmu includes Edmund Russow, Anastasia Tsvetaeva, Peter Ustinov, Romulus Tiitus, Igor Vsevoloþski (buried in Käsmu), Nikolai Rakov, Ülo Vinter (buried in Käsmu), Arvo Pärt and Gustav Ernesaks.
NUMBERS ON THE MAP
1) A cairn of rocks bringing good luck (“Õnnekivi hunnik”). They say that the first stone was laid by The King of Sweden Carl II Gustaf as a recognition for his escape from a shipwreck in the 17th century. The cairn was vandalised in 1940 and rebuilt in a new place in 1973.
2) Sepa homestead – the beginning and the end of the Estonian seafaring. Jakob Kristenbrun (1846-1927) and Oskar Tiedemann (1874-1963) have lived here, both men having had an impact on the history of Estonian seafaring. Now is here the Lainela Holiday Camp.
3) At the site called Sepa ninas was the boat-building place of Sepa homestead. The ships, named Salme (1891), Julia (1899), Hermiine (1900), Liisa (1901), Kristenbrun(1902) and Anette (1912) were all built by Joosep Kristenbrun (1839-1917). There is a stone with the engraved names of the ships that were built here. Under the water lies a pier from the period of Carl XII. At Sepa homestead, four sons of Rudolf Valter, the Käsmu maritime school´s teacher, have spent their childhood. Their names were Kõu, Jarilo, Uku and Ahto, all of them became seafarers. In the period of 1930-1944 they crossed the Atlantic several times. From 1938 to 1940 Ahto Valter made his around-the-world voyage starting and finishing in New York with his boat Ahto. It was built in Saaremaa, carrying the Estonian flag.
4) During his childhood and student days, the composer Arvo Pärt has spent his summers in this house.
5) The home of composer Ülo Vinter.
6) The community centre. Built in 1918 by the sailors of Käsmu Merchant Fleet.
7) The house of captain Eduard Kristenbrun, which was originally built to be the home of the headmaster of the maritime school. At the moment the creativity centre of the Estonian Writer´s Union.
8) Käsmu Maritime School built in 1887. The school was run in this building from 1884 to 1918. Now it is the property of Tallink company.
9) In 1872 the czarist border-guard station was built. From 1918 to 1931 a maritime school was run here. During the Soviet occupation it was used as a Soviet border guard building. Since 1993 the Käsmu Maritime Museum.
10) The beacon or lighthouse of Käsmu, built for the money donated by local people in 1891. The initiative was taken by the Käsmu Maritime School to make sailing into the home port easier, especially in the autumn weather.
11) At the site called Kaevu valgama Jakob Suksdorf (1849-1918) built three ships, Polaris (1898), Egmont (1899) and Agina (1900).
12) The Paalberg`s house. In 1922 the last sailing ship of Käsmu was built in Hara bay, the most beautiful four-masted barquentine Tormilind. It joint owner and the first captain was Rudolf Pahlberg. The book published in 1952, titled Sailing to Freedom, describes the 8000-mile voyage of Harry Paalberg with his 16 companions from Stockholm to Norfolk, Virginia, on the 70-year-old yacht Erma in 1945.
13) In 1846 the General´s Chapel was built in memorial of Nikolai von Dellingshausen.
14) On the burial place of the Tiedemann family is the sculpture “Signe” by Juhan Raudsepp. It is one of the most beautiful tomb monuments in Estonia. 25 Käsmu captains are buried in this cemetery.
15) Käsmu Fire-Engine shed
16) Käsmu chapel, was completed in 1864. One of the oldest organs in Estonia) is the pride of the chapel. Built probably in the end of 18th century.
17) On the boatbuilding site near the Tõnikse homestead, Jakob Kaskni was the man to build the first two-masted ships of Käsmu named Aleksander (1890) and Julius (1890). Here the maritime school started its activities in 1884.
18) The Otsa Homestead. From here Jüri Vilms, the member of Estonian Provisional Government left for a diplomatic mission to Finland.