Buildings where people would go together or those intended for common use were parts of peasants’ environment for centuries.
Among these, churches and chapels initially erected by desire of foreign conquerors in the vicinity of major roads, usually in higher places, can be considered the oldest. For hundreds of years rural population would have baptisms, confirmations and weddings there as well as perform burial services over those who had passed away. The pastor also organised education for the locals.
For centuries a roadside inn was a good source of income for the estate owner, provided essential night’s lodging to travellers, could become the place where a peasant would perish, but for many it was a jolly good place to have a chat after a sermon and hear the latest news.
School building secured their place as integral parts of rural landscapes around 150 years ago. It was already in the 17th century that the Kingdom of Sweden started demanding that churches and manors establish schools for country children, but the construction of school buildings became more extensive only after commune councils took over the management of school life from farm owners in 1866. It was required by law, and new farm owners could certainly benefit from reading and numeracy skills.
Shops where the local population could buy rare foods and goods started emerging in rural settlements at the end of the 19th century. By the beginning of the 20th century, a rather dense network of village shops had developed. Fire stations in village community centres, where volunteer firefighters’ societies kept their fire-fighting equipment, have been around for about a hundred years as well.
Since the middle of the 19th century, important decisions concerning the organisation of rural life were made in commune offices. Then the rural community was released from the manor owner’s guardianship. At the end of the century, when communes were joined, new substantial-looking commune offices were built, and many old ones were turned into alms-houses.
At the beginning of the 19th century, in accordance with the Tsar’s decree, a communal granary was built in each commune to store mandatory grain supplies. If necessary, farmers could borrow grain from these granaries.
At the beginning of the 20th century rural societies started building community centres for their purposes.
At the Estonian Open Air Museum, visitors can take care of their souls in Sutlepa chapel of Noarootsi parish, smarten up in Kuie commune school brought from Järva-Jaani parish, have a meal in Kolu Inn brought from Kose parish, go on a shopping spree in the 1930s Lau village shop from Juuru parish or make friends with Ruudi the firefighter in Orgmetsa fire station.