Writers’ House of Georgia, Tbilisi
Writers' House of Georgia is an alluring early 20th- century mansion in the Sololaki District of Tbilisi. Originally the residence of famous Georgian businessman Davit Sarajishvili, it served at the epicenter of local bohemian life and witnessed various historical events before opening to the public as a museum complex.
Davit Sarajishvili was a businessman, scientist, public figure and, as the founder of the first brandy factory in Georgia, played an important role in the history of Georgian business enterprises. Sarajishvili was born in 1848 into a family of wealthy merchants. In 1878-1879, he studied winemaking in France, and in 1888 he opened the first brandy factory in Tbilisi. Within a few short years, Sarajishvili owned several factories and stores in both Georgia and Russia.
Davit Sarajishvili dedicated much of his wealth to philanthropy, providing scholarships so that talented students could study abroad, funding archaeological expeditions and financing the restoration of Georgia’s historical monuments. A patron of the arts, he actively supported writers, publishing houses and musicians.
A year before his death, Sarajishvili wrote a will in which he specified that 3 million rubles be divided between various social establishments in Georgia, including the literacy and historical-ethnographic societies, Kutaisi Drama Society and several Tbilisi schools and universities. Finances were also allocated toward student scholarship programs, the establishment of churches, the construction of a theatre in Kutaisi and local arts programs.
After Davit Sarajishvili’s death, his wife, Ekaterine Porakishvili, took over her husband's charitable and commercial activities. Under her leadership, the volume of brandy production doubled and from 1889-1912 Sarajishvili Brandy garnered international recognition, receiving gold medals at exhibitions in Paris, Brussels and Chicago.
History of Writers’ House of Georgia
Writers’ House of Georgia was built in 1903-1905 by German architect Karl Zaar. While best known as the residence of Davit Sarajishvili and Ekaterine Porakishvili, it has served as the epicenter of many historical events over the years.
The mansion’s eclectic design encapsulates elements of traditional Tbilisi urban architecture and Art Nouveau. The creator of the interior, noted for its décor, wooden features, library and foyer, was Georgian craftsman Ilia Mamatsashvili. The two-story building overlooks a beautiful garden with traditional Tbilisian open wooden balconies distinguished by their special ornamentation. The unique ceramic tiles used on the porch were specially created by the German manufacturer Villeroy and Boch.
Davit Sarajishvili and his wife moved into their home on their 25th wedding anniversary. It soon became a hub of the city's cultural life, with gatherings and literary events regularly held at the home. Well-known public figures often visited Sarajishvili House, including Akaki Tsereteli, Ivane Machabeli and Arthur Laist, and the works of famous Georgian painter Gigo Gabashvili were first exhibited in the Sarajishvilis’ home.
Ekaterine’s brother moved into the mansion after the death of Davit. Upon Ekaterine's death in 1911, the house was bought by Georgian manufacturer Akaki Khoshtaria, who continued to use the estate as a literary and cultural center until 1921, when the country fell under Soviet control and Khoshtaria was forced to flee the country.
From 1921-23, the house belonged to the Georgian Writers and Artists Society and was referred to as the Palace of Arts. From 1923-2007, it housed the Writers Union and was patronized by many famous Georgian authors, including Paolo Iashvili, Tsitsian Tabidze, Mikheil Javakhishvili, Galaktion Tabidze and Konstantine Gamsakhurdia.
Writers’ House became symbolic of the political repression and terror of 1937-1938, during which time writers and poets were forced to renounce their principles, accept Soviet ideology and even report on one another during their meetings. After enduring false accusations and ongoing criticism, famous Georgian poet Paolo Iashvili committed suicide on the second floor of Writers’ House. Memorabilia from these tragic events are now on display at the mansion inside the Museum of Repressed Writers.
Writers’ House of Georgia Today
Today, Writers’ House of Georgia remains a beautiful mansion which is open to the public. It houses the Davit Sarajishvili House-Museum, Museum of Repressed Writers, the National Fund for the Development of Georgian Literature and the famous Litera Café, where guests can enjoy traditional Georgian cuisine and wine in the estate’s inviting garden.
In 2017, five residential rooms on the third floor of the palace were converted into guest rooms where writers, artists and others can stay in the very rooms which once welcomed famous authors from around the world. The 5 rooms at Writers’ House Residency in Tbilisi are named after Alexandre Dumas, Nizami Ganjavi, Boris Pasternak, Marjory and Oliver Wardrop, and John Steinbeck, each of whom either wrote about Georgia or dedicated their literary works to the country.
Writers’ House of Georgia, located on 13 Machabeli Street in Tbilisi’s Sololaki District, is the ideal place to step into the literary world of historic Georgia.