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Sponda Legends an homage to hundred-year-old Finland

Sponda congratulates hundred-year-old Finland on Independence Day.

This year, regardless of their sector, Finnish companies have joined in the Finland 100 celebrations with different campaigns and events. Sponda discovered a natural way to celebrate the centenary at the heart its business: old premium properties that have been in existence throughout the hundred years of our country’s independence.

Sponda owns 13 premium properties in central Helsinki that are more than a hundred years old. Those properties have been in the limelight this autumn thanks to the Sponda Legends campaign.

Every week starting from September, an old premium property has been profiled on Sponda’s website and on social media, showcasing information about the property and stories from the course of its history. The schedule was designed so that all of the stories would get told by Independence Day. You can find the stories of the buildings here.

Particularly popular were the walking tours arranged in autumn, which provided participants with the opportunity to take a peek behind many doors that are usually closed.

Seurahuone has always been an important meeting place. The meeting room adjacent to the restaurant has been the scene of many an important meeting, with Field Marshal Mannerheim among others. (Image: Kari Hakli/Helsinki City Museum)
View of the restaurant hall of Seurahuone from the peephole of Mannerheim’s meeting room. The peephole made it possible to keep an eye on possible Russian spies.

The idea for Sponda Legends came about last spring when the good people at Sponda started to think about ways in which Sponda as a company could celebrate the centenary of Finland together with Helsinki residents and other Finns interested in the history of buildings. They found the answer at the heart of Sponda’s operations.

The Fennia Building on the edge of Rautatietori is interesting, not only architecturally but also historically.
The Finnish Lion on the facade of the Fennia Building was a bold political statement during the Russian reign, as was the name Fennia itself, which refers to the Finnish identity of the entire building.

“Sponda has a more extensive role than just being the buildings’ owner: As the premium properties are part of the city’s cultural heritage, their owner must also document, file and pass on the buildings’ history to future generations,” says Anita Riikonen, Marketing and Brand Manager at Sponda. Maintaining and restoring these premium properties is treasuring cultural heritage at its best, and to this end, Sponda is collaborating, for instance, with the National Board of Antiquities.

Cultural acts by walking

Walking tours open to the public have been arranged at some of the historic Sponda Legends buildings. Led by a tour guide, the tours have enabled the public to learn things about the history of the buildings and Helsinki itself known to few.

For example, the Hermes Building on Aleksanterinkatu has been under the threat of demolition. Built in the 1960s, Makkaratalo was initially supposed to extend all the way to Aleksanterinkatu.
The building still stands and is an essential part of the architecture of this important shopping street of Helsinki.

“This is a cultural act!” exclaimed a participant of one of the walking tours in the autumn. Both Petteri Kummala, the Helsinki City Museum researcher who has acted as a guide on the tours, and Sponda’s Anita Riikonen confirm that the overall feedback has been extremely positive.

Different types of walking tours have become more popular in Finland and other countries alike. Kummala thinks that the reason for this is a growing interest in our living environment.

“Perhaps tours like this offer a new perspective on a familiar city,” he ponders.

According to Anita Riikonen from Sponda, there was so much interest in the first tours that some people were left in queue. This gave birth to the idea of arranging follow-up to the tours held in September and October, and as early as in November, there were tours organised in the Legends buildings’ staircases decorated by stunning pieces of art. (https://sponda.fi/legendat)

“Naturally, the people who’d been left in queue were delighted to be able to join a tour like this,” says Riikonen. Once again, the artwork in the staircases revealed new stories and opened new aspects, not only into the buildings themselves but into the history of Finland and Helsinki.

Meetings of significance

The tour groups were fairly small, so the conversations were lively and people were keen to share their own memories.

Kummala was only too happy to listen to people’s stories. He had worked hard to unearth all possible sources of information regarding the old properties owned by Sponda, but even the most diligent of researchers can’t learn all anecdotes.

“I love the fact that there’s lively dialogue,” Kummala said as early as in September, after the initial tours.

“The popularity of the Sponda Legends has encouraged us to plan different kinds of real estate tours. For example, some of our properties in Ruoholahti could be the source of many fascinating stories. Next year, we are planning to offer tours primarily to our own customers, but also some tours open to the public,” says Anita Riikonen, shedding light on Sponda’s future plans.

The building on Mannerheimintie 6 hosted a Russian language gymnasium in the late 19th century.
Nowadays, the building is two storeys higher and includes, for instance, a night club.

Sponda would like to thank everyone who has read about Sponda Legends online or visited the sites in person and we want to extend our warm congratulations to a hundred-year-old Finland! Let’s cherish our mutual history for the next hundred years, too. 

Published 4.12.2017