Sponda took people to admire some stunning stairwells in prestigious old downtown properties.
The Erottaja fire station is located at the highest point of Kasarmikatu street. On the other side of the street, a group of city dwellers slips through a door into a magnificent Art Nouveau building designed by Lars Sonck.
A Sponda walking tour is about to start. Those attending will have the opportunity to visit the stunning stairwells of five historic properties. The first stop is Kasarmikatu 35, the old headquarters of the Helsinki Telephone Association.
As we enter the building, our guide, researcher Petteri Kummala, tells us that the building, completed in 1907, has a “staircase typical of the era with light columns and wood carvings” and a relief—”perhaps something to do with the phone company”—embedded in the plastered wall surface.
People take photos with their mobile phones. Kummala says that Sonck designed the Eira Hospital at the same time.
Popularity of walking tours came as surprise
When Sponda arranged the Sponda Legends walking tours earlier in the autumn, all four tours were immediately fully booked. The tours were attended by about a hundred people, who got to see Sponda-owned properties that were over one hundred years old.
Another hundred people had to be left out. The popularity of the tours came as a surprise to Sponda.
Therefore, it was decided to arrange additional tours—this time with slightly lighter arrangements. The new tour will focus on the public spaces of properties, that is, stairwells and foyers. Anita Riikonen, Marketing and Brand Manager at Sponda, says that Sponda’s historic buildings have some stunning stairwells.
“There is plenty to see just in the stairwells, which, in the old times, served as visiting cards for the properties,” Riikonen explains.
Leila Kettunen from Helsinki praises the tour. She was left out of the Legends tour. Now she thanks Sponda for offering her and others a chance to attend a new tour.
Kettunen says she wanted to attend because she is interested in Helsinki and architecture in general.
“These doors are usually closed. And you could not come here alone, anyway,” she says when we move on to the next place.
Kettunen finds it interesting that the people who attend the walking tours ask a lot of questions.
“I keep asking questions all the time!” she says laughingly.
Old buildings are part of cultural heritage
At Bulevardi 1 we find a building designed by Theodor Höjer, one of the most fashionable architects of the time. According to Kummala, the building houses the most opulent stairwell of the tour.
People take more photographs.
Kummala explains that the building was completed in 1890–91 and the stairwell was painted by the famous Vuorio decorative painters. The decorative paintings in the stairwell reflect the internal hierarchy of the building. The first floor is the most ornate one, and the decor is reduced as you go up. The servants’ stairs have the least decorations.
People listen attentively. Someone asks about the lift. Clearly, it has been retrofitted.
The lifts arouse interest in the other buildings as well. They seem to not only raise questions, but also stir emotions. People sigh when Kummala shows what a part of the stairwell looked like after a repaint in a renovation in the 1970s.
In the last building of the tour, the Renaissance Revival style Hermes Building, Kummala reminds us that similar houses were demolished in Helsinki in the 1960s. People shake their heads in disbelief. Everybody seems to have an opinion on the matter.
Anita Riikonen says that Sponda wants to highlight how important it is to take care of old buildings and the cultural heritage they represent. That is one of the reasons why Sponda wanted to open the doors of its properties to the public.
Originally, Sponda organised the Legends tour to celebrate the Finland 100 Centennial. As so many people have shown interest in the properties, Sponda plans to continue the rounds in some form next spring.
Watch a video of the splendid details from the stairwell tour.