• Posts
  • From a machinery dealer to a casino

From a machinery dealer to a casino

In 1912, machinery dealer Aatra constructed a five-storey commercial building on Mikonkatu.  The Mikonkatu building later became the property of the Nikolajeff car shop, which gave it its current name. The building has lent its facilities to the sales of machinery as well as a number of restaurants. Now, this high-value property is populated by Grand Casino Helsinki.

Mikonkatu 19 is a part of the Fennia Quarter. The Quarter derived its name from the architecturally, culturally and historically important hotel and restaurant building next door to the Nikolajeff building.

The land under the high-value properties used to be a bottomless bog. Due to this, the first buildings in Mikonkatu 17–19 had to be demolished in mid-1800s as they threatened to tilt towards the neighbouring buildings. The life in the neighbourhood was transformed by the completion of the railway in 1862. A traffic hub was created around the railway, and it was decided to plan a large marketplace next to the station. The railway station drew new accommodation businesses and restaurants to the area.

The commercial building constructed by Aatra in Mikonkatu 19 was designed by architect firm Palmqvist & Sjöström. Representative of the late Jugend era, the building is a part of the decorative architecture of 1910s commercial buildings.

Aatra Oy, the developer of the building, operated in the agriculture and factory machinery business, imported cars and manufactured Leijona bicycles. In addition to its headquarters, the company also operated in Tampere, Turku and Vyborg. The company closed down in 1922.

A restaurant in promotion of cleanliness

In the 1910s, the building hosted the Kansanravintola restaurant, Pensionat Victoria and the information office Bureau Russe. 

V.A. Koskinen, the owner of Kansanravintola, advertised its new premises in the Aatra building with a newspaper advertisement:

“A new, modern Kansanravintola is now open. I have closed down my Kansankeittiöliike business in housing company Vilhola due to the impracticality of the facilities and opened a new, modern Kansanravintola restaurant on the corner of Mikonkatu and Vilhonkatu in the Aatra building, featuring a smart and spacious smart dining room. The food is nourishing and tasty and the portions are large. Thorough cleanliness is observed in the preparation of the food and the cleaning of the tableware.”

In the 1930s, the building hosted a hotel and restaurant Paris. In 1930–1931, market hall Mikonhalli was constructed on the ground floor. Later, the building became the property of the Nikolajeff car shop. The restaurant changed its name to Lucullus. The dining hall was converted into an exhibition hall in 1950.

Grand Casino Helsinki, the current occupant of the building, moved to the high-value property in April 2004. Casino Ray, its predecessor established by Finland’s Slot Machine Association, had operated in Kamppi.

Photo: Kari Hakli, Helsingin kaupunginmuseo

A facade of granite

The Nikolajeff building is listed. It is a valuable property in terms of architecture and cultural history and cannot be demolished or renovated in a manner that would tarnish its value or style.

The monumental staircase of the building is divided into two with a half landing. The walls of the staircase have been partially painted with a resemblance of green marble. The doors are original. The facade towards the Rautatientori Square is clad with granite and the roof features a dome.

Basic information:

  • Address: Mikonkatu 19
  • Year of construction: 1912
  • Architects: Wäinö Palmqvist and Einar Sjöström
  • Style: late Jugend
  • City block: Kameeli

Published 15.8.2017