|BEST WESTERN PREMIER Hotel Katajanokka fulfills the expectations of travellers looking for an exceptional quality. Inside the old brick walls, a fascinating world of contrasts opens up; a modern premier-class hotel built in a historic prison setting.-The red brick walls house 106 magnificent and luxurious rooms. Stylish decor and unique atmosphere effectively take your mind away from the busy working day and intensive travelling.
-In this peace and quiet it is easy to forget that downtown Helsinki is just 10 minutes away by tram. On foot the trip takes about 15 minutes.
-Restaurant Jailbird is a relaxed and cosy restaurant for dining, located on the ground floor of our hotel.
-BEST WESTERN PREMIER Hotel Katajanokka is a charming location to organize occasions, which fulfill the expectations of travellers looking for exceptional quality. Our unique milieu and atmosphere will make the occacions special and unforgettable.
-Enchanting wedding party in a historic milieu
Edit by admin:
Got a picture from Joanna Kupiainen
from Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki>>>
Joanna sent some interesting facts about this hotel. It is actually The oldest hotel building in Finland. 170 years old this year.
Best Western Premier Hotel Katajanokka opened its doors in a historical prison milieu in May 2007. The oldest part of the building is 170 years old this year. The Katajanokka prison has also been called Skatta and Nokka, and the building enclosed by walls is a part of the historical Katajanokka.
History of Katajanokka
The name Katajanokka derives from its geographic location, the Skatan cape. The area remained a peripheral part of Helsinki until the end of the 19th century. In the 17th century there were only a few fishermen’s cottages, the Tullhäll brick works and a storehouse owned by the state on the rocks of Katajanokka. In the 18th century Katajanokka started attracting sailors and craftsmen. New sod roof cottages were built here and there. There were also taverns along the winding and narrow alleyways – and some of them housed vagrants and delinquents.
The first prison of Katajanokka was built as early as in 1749 and went by the name of Helsinki Crown Prison. It was a wooden building with five rooms and a vestibule. In the year 1800, a new prison building was built on the lot. The new building was made of stone and could accommodate 20 prisoners. In 1837, yet another new prison was erected on the lot – the Helsinki County Prison – with 12 rooms for prisoners, two rooms for guards and a chapel that is nowadays the second oldest church in Helsinki. Later on the prison was extended so that the former prison building was converted into an administrative building with new prison wings.
The barracks and the naval base of the Finnish naval equipage constructed in the 1820’s and the Uspenski Cathedral built on the highest point of the cape in the 1860’s contributed to the new face of Katajanokka. Before their time, the area had housed the school of old man Granberg, which was attended by, among others, Finland’s national writer Aleksis Kivi. Young upper elementary student Aleksis Stenvall, who was later to be known as Aleksis Kivi, lodged in the house of prison caretaker Windblad in the mid 1800’s. By then he had already displayed a literary talent. Kivi’s “robber play” was presented in the Katajanokka prison hall, and many in the audience had paid to see the play.
During the 19th century Katajanokka began to gain status as a district of Helsinki. Architect Engel drafted a plan for Katajanokka as early as in 1832, but the plan was never realised because of the challenges posed by the rocky terrain. The project of building a channel to Katajanokka was realized in the 1840’s. The channel was to shorten the time it took to row from the South harbour to the North harbour. The first building plan for Katajanokka was approved in 1864. In 1879 a retired city engineer named Tallqvist was commissioned to draft a new plan for Katajanokka that would take into consideration the demands of trade and seafaring. The turn of the century saw a boom in construction and soon there was not a single vacant lot on Katajanokka.
Current prison building
In 1888 a new county prison was built on Katajanokka. All the country prisons built in the late 19th century were based on a similar plan. These mostly red-brick buildings had a floor plan in the shape of a cross that was more or less symmetrical. The buildings had usually 3-4 floors. The Brick Gothic architecture of the country prisons was meant to look sinister from the outside and depressing in the inside. The county prison’s lot is 9,595 square meters in size, and the floor area of the building is 5,082 square meters.
The Helsinki County Prison was damaged when Helsinki was bombed in the Continuation War. The north-eastern corner of the prison wall collapsed at a length of nearly ten meters in an air raid in 1942. The prison sustained another hit on 6 February 1944. That evening an aerial bomb exploded near the prison bakery, killing guard Johannes Tuominen and starting a fire. One of the people injured in the attack was writer Hella Wuolijoki, who had been convicted of treason. She described the night of the bombing in a book that was published after the war. After the bombing the building was reconstructed and modernised thoroughly, and the façade was not altered much until the prison was closed down.
The Helsinki County Prison was a remand centre. Offenders were sent to Katajanokka from all around the Province of Southern Finland to wait for their trial. Remand imprisonment was enforced, if the impending sentence was expected to be more than two years. Katajanokka also housed default prisoners, who had not paid their fines. They were accompanied by regular prisoners and foreign prisoners on remand. The Katajanokka prison received some 40% of all prisoners transferred to Finnish prisons. Nowadays, the Vantaa prison built in 2002 has been charged with this function.
Politicians in prison
Alongside regular prisoners, Katajanokka has accommodated also political leaders. In the 1930’s, Hertta Kuusinen, a staunch left-wing politician, spent a lot of time here because of her communist views. After World War II, many of the political and military leaders of Finland were sentenced to imprisonment. The most famous prisoners of Katajanokka included former president of the republic Risto Ryti and seven ministers Johan Rangell, Edwin Linkomies, Carl Ramsey, Väinö Tanner, Antti Kukkonen, Tyko Reinikka and Toivo Kivimäki, who were convicted of war crimes. The privileged status of these men was underlined by respectful treatment and exemption from hard labour. Risto Ryti is said to have noted, that “he has been in harsher conditions than those of the prison.” He was detained on Katajanokka during his trial from September 1945 to February 1946.
The former politicians spent most of their time reading and writing. The most productive of them was Väinö Tanner, who translated four books, published three volumes of his memoirs, and also finished the manuscript for the fourth volume during his term of imprisonment. Not only was the political nature of these prisoners exploited, but some people wanted to make money out of it, too: one of the most novel attempts was by a fellow prisoner, who tried to sell autographs of the popular statesmen that he had gotten off signed package receipts.
Everyday life and strange stories
The societal changes from the late the 18th century to the 21st reflected in the everyday life of the prison. The facilities were modernised and the operations were relocated according to changing needs. Practical issues often produced creative solutions. For example in the 1930’s the prison yard always had dark nooks and crannies, because there were only a few lights dangling on the prison wall. The lack of illumination was compensated by a German shepherd that could better spot escaping inmates. The small ”mushroom” still found in the backyard was the only shelter the wall guard had regardless of the weather.
An interesting tunnel construction exposed in 1946 shows how creative the prisoners could be: the wall between the men’s common space on the 3rd floor and women’s cell no. 13 had been broken through. The work had taken a couple of weeks. This simple product was different from all the known tunnels in prison and camp literature in that it was not meant to lead to freedom, but to the adjacent ward, where there were women!
Sometimes even the guards were taken by surprise by how different the prisoners could be. After the Continuation war several high-ranking officers were sentenced to prison for having organised a plot to conceal arms in case the Soviet Union decided to invade. A former guard remembers the first encounter between an officer and a regular jailbird: ”Upon entering the cell, the officer stood at attention, then bowed gracefully and extended his hand to the prisoner in the cell to introduce himself. This made a tremendous impression on the prisoner. He did not know what to do, and just sat there quietly on his chair with his hands on his lap. All foul talk and bad manners were a thing of the past.”
The well-being of prisoners received more and more attention in the course of the 20th century. In the 1940’s there were 14 walking booths in the backyard, where men walked in half an hour turns. Women were not subjected to walking booths, but could walk in a circle in the yard. The walking booths were removed in the 1950’s, and the prisoners were allowed to move more freely in the yard. The possibility of physical exercise was considered important, as were increasingly also pastoral care, education and edification. Prayers were held in the corridors of the prison every morning and evening. The prisoners were encouraged to study and to participate in group activities. In 1950 Nokka had a study group, a gymnastics and sports group, a singing club, an English club and a chess club. A choir of male prisoners assisted during the divine services.
In 1967 the Helsinki County Prison started organising tours for groups, who wanted to see what life in prison was like. A variety of people participated in the tours, including schoolchildren and students. This had a positive impact on the atmosphere in the prison. Even the guards were pleased: transparency increased, but not at the expense of order.
From a prison to a hotel
The Helsinki County Prison on Katajanokka was closed down in 2002. The closure of the prison had been debated for years, because it was felt that the prison no longer met the requirements of modern correctional treatment with regard to its structures and facilities. However, no one wanted to leave the building to decay, and hence it was to be placed in active use.
The prison building, which is protected by the National Board of Antiquities and Historical Monuments, was assigned a worthy new purpose of use in May 2007. The former prison building now houses Hotel Katajanokka that provides its guests a historical surrounding for both sojourn and recreation.
Jaana Veikkola, Helsingin lääninvankilan historiikki, Tummavuoren Kirjapaino Oy, Vantaa 1998.
Aleksis Kivi, Finland’s natioanl writer, Professor Hannes Sihvo, http://www.aleksiskivi-kansalliskirjailija.fi/fi/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=39
(on the plans for Katajanokka before the decision)
|Posted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:42 am Post subject: The most luxurious hotels in Helsinki
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