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Sutyagin House: the world’s tallest wooden house was built by a Russian gangster

Anastasia Kolomiets

In the city of Arkhangelsk in Russia, an icy northwestern port, there was an unusual building thought to be the tallest wooden house in the world. The port where Nikolai Petrovich Sutyagin, the builder of the house, was born and raised was mostly home to fishermen. Sutyagin was a Russian businessman who was infamous for earning most of his fortune through crime.

He didn’t have much as a child, which was the reason he became so obsessed with building his dream home. In 1992, Sutyagin started the construction with only two floors but as the building progressed, he added more because he always felt that there were not enough. He finally stopped at thirteen floors, when he stood on the top and experienced a breathtaking view of the area.

The composition of the house is magnificent. Surrounded by ice and snow in the middle of the simple fishermen’s homes, it looks as though it belongs to an evil villain from a fairy tale. With its tall pointy roof, it was the only structure that could clearly be seen from the opposite bank of the Northern Dvina River.

The dream house of the Russian gangster Nikolai Petrovich Sutyagin.

The dream house of the Russian gangster Nikolai Petrovich Sutyagin.

Sutyagin was the richest man in the city at that time and one of the reasons that he built the house up to 144 feet was to reflect his important status. After the first five floors were finished, a roof was installed to complete it, but a few years later, Sutyagin visited Japan and Norway and, deeply inspired by their magnificent wooden structures, continued to expand the building.

The 144-foot-tall house can clearly be seen from the opposite side of the Northern Dvina River. Author: Sasha Krotov. CC BY 3.0

The 144-foot-tall house can clearly be seen from the opposite side of the Northern Dvina River. Author: Sasha Krotov. CC BY 3.0

It is said that the design was made by the Russian businessman himself who was familiar the principles of construction and started to work on it without a building permit. A huge bathhouse was installed inside which was used for entertaining guests and the owners of the companies who helped him with most of the materials.

It was considered the tallest wooden house in the world.

It was considered the tallest wooden house in the world.

Unfortunately, the other eight floors of the house were never finished because, in 1998, Sutyagin was arrested for racketeering. He claimed that he was jailed because his rivals who stole everything that he had and ultimately threw several of his cars into the river. They even destroyed his equipment and only the base of his dream home was left undamaged. While he was in prison, the neighbors started to complain to the city authorities that the house was taking up a lot of space in the area.

It was never finished and for four years it stood abandoned because Sutyagin went to prison on racketeering charges.

It was never finished and for four years it stood abandoned because Sutyagin went to prison on racketeering charges.

For four years it stood abandoned and unprotected which was very dangerous for the rest of the neighborhood. When he was released from prison, they warned him that if a house of such proportions caught fire it could destroy a large part of the port or even burn down the whole town. They condemned it as a fire hazard because it was the biggest structure in the middle of many wooden houses that could have been severely damaged if something went wrong.

The remaining part of the house in which Sutyagin lived for a short time after he was released from prison. Author: Paramecium. CC BY-SA 3.0

The remaining part of the house in which Sutyagin lived for a short time after he was released from prison. Author: Paramecium. CC BY-SA 3.0

Sutyagin continued to live in what was left of his house until 2008 when a court order was given for demolition. The reason for this was that even though the authorities had forbidden him to build a wooden house bigger than two floors, he added a roof on top which he claimed to be only for decoration. It was slowly demolished the following year.

The house was demolished in 2008 because it was condemned as a fire hazard.

The house was demolished in 2008 because it was condemned as a fire hazard.

Visitors who dared to climb the unsecured house before it was torn down spent time with Sutyagin himself and heard the story about his home and what it would look like if it were completed. Today, only a few wooden fragments can be seen on the spot. According to The Telegraph, the Russian gangster dubbed his dream house as “the eighth wonder of the world.”