The history of Heinola

History from the year 1700

There is evidence of people living in the area that is now Heinola from the very distant past, but these parts remained hunting grounds, with very few inhabitants, up to the 1700s. From long ago however, the great Savo road from Hollola’s Lahti to the north crossed the Jyrängönvirta River. The district was part of the Hollola parish.

The importance of Heinola, this wilderness village belonging to Hollola, underwent a fundamental upheaval in 1776 when King Gustav III consolidated it as a new civic centre, an official residence in the Kymenkartano province he had divided into two parts. The north bank of the Jyrängönvirta River was thus instantly transformed into an economic and administrative centre.

Civil servants began to settle in the area in the 1790s. The area got a doctor, an apothecary and a hospital. The markets held in the grounds of the official residence became famous in the surrounding area. There are plenty of tales about them, including an epic poem entitled “Ensign’s market memories” from “The Tales of Ensign Stål” by the national poet of Finland, Johan Ludvig Runeberg.

The grid-based street layout, which is still preserved to this day, has its origins in a plan from 1785, which also included the present-day Governor’s Park.

Old Heinola was a typical administrative and trading centre, with various craftspeople,  blacksmiths, woodcarvers, goldsmiths and watchmakers, dyers, tanners, weavers, spinners, bricklayers, painters, tailors, and so on. There were windmills and watermills, and later sawmills, leatherworks, and even a machine work.

In the early decades of the 1800s, the official residence and its surroundings had about a thousand inhabitants. Local news sheets contained advertisements for workers, and a prominent group of craftspeople moved to the area. The brewing and distilling industry expanded significantly from the 1700s and into the 1800s.

Finland’s change of status to a Grand Duchy of Russia in 1809 moved the country’s eastern border further to the east, and a new official government seat was established in Mikkeli. Heinola petitioned for official status as a city as compensation, and it was finally granted in 1839 by Tsar Nicholas I.

In the last years of this period of Russian rule, Heinola enjoyed a quiet existence as a small rural town. The population passed 1000 in the mid-1870s. At the turn of the 20th century, two institutions were established which would have a far-reaching effect: the public baths in 1891 (this facility was popular among Finnish and foreign spa guests alike and livened up the summer atmosphere in Heinola) and the teacher training college in 1899. The baths were closed down at the time of the Second World War, and the teacher training college stopped training teachers after a reorganisation in 1972.

Timo Herranen 1998
History of Heinola City, Vol. 3, 1998 Pekka Rautamaa

Selection and layout:
Paula Forssell