Built in the Sable block in 1898, the Hermes building is located in a prime spot at the corner of Aleksanterinkatu and Keskuskatu in Helsinki city centre. The current owner of the building, Sponda Plc, took over the building in 2003.
The attractive Hermes
Built in the Sable block in 1898, the Hermes building is located in a prime spot at the corner of Aleksanterinkatu and Keskuskatu in Helsinki city centre. Many of the block’s old buildings have already been demolished but Hermes, designed in the Neo-Renaissance style, has remained as a historical architectural jewel, even after extensive renovation and expansion work.
The western end of Aleksanterinkatu, where the current Hermes property is located, was established in the 1830s. When the filling of Kluuvinlahti bay began in the early 1800s, intendant Carl Ludvig Engel created the plans for Helsinki’s new street and block division during 1837–38.
Plot number 24 of the Sable block transferred into private ownership in 1845 when goldsmith Erik Öhman bought the plot from the city of Helsinki for the price of 686 silver roubles. Already at the end of 1849, Öhman sold the plot and the residential building made of timber on it to wigmaker Anders Wilhelm Appelroth for a good profit, for the price of 2,300 silver roubles.
From the backwoods to the heart of the city
In early 1800s, the region of the Sable block was a faraway backland, wet fields and pastureland, that was of no interest as a place to live for the Helsinki residents of the day. Today, the Hermes building located at the address Aleksanterinkatu 19 is part of the attractive retail and commercial property complex, Citycenter, in the heart of Helsinki.
In the Sable block, you can find numerous actors in the field of trade as well as services ranging from health care to banking and restaurants. Transport connections from the destination are excellent as the Helsinki Central Railway Station is located only a short walk away.
The contractor of the building was Swedish architect Carl Gustaf Hiort af Ornäs. He bought the plot in 1891 from Helsinki’s oldest foundation for elderly care to which the property had been passed on after a bequest by the Appelroths.
Founded in January 1896, property company Kiinteistö Oy Hermes was led by Doctor of Philosophy August Ramsay who also acted as the Minister of Finance, the owner of the property Hiort af Ornäs and his Finnish architect colleague Knut Edgar Wasastjerna. In 1977, the property company ceased to exist and it was merged with the Helsingin Osakepankki bank.
The current owner of the building, Sponda Plc, took over the building in 2003.
Spacious homes and brand boutiques
In the early years, the Hermes building was inhabited by many well-known commercial actors alongside households. There were no lifts in the property back then as they were only starting to arrive in Helsinki’s block of flats.
The apartments in the building were spacious: they had six or eight rooms, and there was a large market hall selling foodstuffs downstairs.
Originally, a bowling alley was designed to be built in the basement but this plan was rejected already in the construction phase of the building. The street level and part of the first floor housed Suomen Teollisuuskauppa shop, the idea of which was to showcase Finnish industrial production, such as furniture, textiles and toys, in the premises. In 1909–1910, the cinema Arkadia also operated in the building.
In the 1930s, Gentlemen’s Emporium M. Waltonen was located on the corner, and later clothes shop Valioasu was found in the same place. Many cafés, such as Nissen, Colombia and Café Paulig, have also called the Hermes building home.
Protected by the National Board of Antiquities, the Hermes building rose to a height of six floors with the attic renovation realised in the 1920s. Parts of the building now also have a seventh floor on which two apartments and technical premises are located. The acquisition of Hermes was a natural continuation for Sponda in the development process of the commercial complex of Citycenter.