Diverse nature and an open-air museum

Seurasaari bridge under construction in 1892 © Helsinki City Museum, photographer unknown
The City of Helsinki purchased the island of Seurasaari, which was called Fölis at the time, in the 1870s. Prior to this the island belonged to Meilahti Farm and was used as a cow pasturage. In 1889, Helsingin Anniskeluyhtiö, a company specialising in the sale of alcoholic beverages, established a folk park on the island, five years after the establishment of Helsinki Zoo.

The folk park was a recreational area for the city’s poorer residents, where everyone was allowed to lounge around, spend nights and make fires, unlike in other parks owned by the gentry. In the following years the area underwent significant construction, including a road network, a steam ship pier, an alcohol-free restaurant, wells, stairs and lookout spots as well as two dance halls. The buildings were designed by architect Frithiof Mieritz. The bridge under construction in the main picture was completed in 1892. The open-air museum showcasing Finnish wooden buildings was established in the 1910s.

Seurasaari is known for its May Day celebrations, and is one of the most popular destinations in Helsinki for Sunday strolls. For several decades, the island was also the daily jogging destination of former President Urho Kekkonen. Even today, the island is often visited by Finnish presidents.

Seurasaari, rantatieltä 1890. Kuvaaja tuntematon, Helsingin kaupunginmuseo.

Seurasaari, photographed from the coastal road, in 1890. Photo Helsinki City Museum, photographer unknown.