Mountain Town

You will find this town where the river meets the sea. For that reason alone it is a remarkable place: coastal and nearly arctic.

(Be sure to open the annotated plan above in fullscreen mode for best viewing.)

There are small streams flowing in from the north, and the Kem River itself hems in the southern edge of town. If you listen closely you can hear the tidal and riverine currents washing up against one another. The buildings - all but the cemeteries - are perched on the edge of the land, as if they too are listening.

There are a variety of reasons to linger over the plan of an unfamiliar town.

First, the plan suggests that current features outnumber the planned features (11 to 8). Why was the official vision of the future of this Karelian center so minimal, even in 1828? Perhaps it was enough for a town to have vodka (H) and salt storehouses (F) and a flour mill (I) to boot?

Second, the plans, such as they were, focused on the center of town - see the features numbered 1 through 4 on the annotated plan. Note the proximity of current and planned features. It is one thing to lay out a new square and fill empty space with offices and shops, but in Kem it appears that planners wanted to build a new cathedral  (1) just a few meters from the Dormition Cathedral (A). What do you make of that? 

Third, and the plan notes the presence of 4 different "mountains," ranging in elevation from 35 to 112 feet. Not exactly towering peaks, to be sure, and all we have to go on are bits of text scrawled across the plan, but these mountains seem to provide the contours of the town itself. 

Finally, this is one of the few places in the collection where we find mention of maritime traffic. Just south of the planned storeroom complex is a note referencing a deep sea wharf (though the drawings on the plan suggest anchorages rather than a single wharf). And the presence of the Church of John the Baptist (B) out on Lepe Island also suggests that those who resided in Kem - and in the small village of Khaizheva - knew their way around rigging and oars and tides.

Go to the main page of the Kem plan.