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01.08.2020

The Presidential Palace, Helsinki

The Presidential Palace is the representative residence of the President of the Republic of Finland in Kruununhaka, Helsinki, on the edge of Market Square. The house mainly represents the Empire style in St. Petersburg colors. Every year on December 6 the Presidential Palace celebrates Independence Day, which is the biggest event in the castle every year.

Architect Pehr Granstedt originally designed the house in 1814 as a trading house and apartment for the wealthy Heidenstrauch family. The ground floor of the three-storey building was reserved for commercial use, the second floor for the Heidenstrauch's own apartment and the third floor was divided into small rental apartments. The sales consultant JH Heidenstrauch was the wealthiest resident of Helsinki in the early 19th century.

Heidenstrauchs managed to live in their commercial mansion for only 17 years, until in 1837 the Finnish Senate purchased the house as the Palace of Finnish Emperors in Finland.  The deal was preceded by a design phase that lasted for years, when it was planned to locate the palace somewhere in Helsinki, including Mount Tahtitorni and Mount Katajanokka. Carl Ludwig Engel, architect of the Helsinki Reconstruction Committee, who was brought to Finland from Berlin, wanted to build a new palace for the Emperor, either at the end of Esplanadi Park on the western side of Market Square or at Katajanokka. However, the emperor did not warm Engel's mind, but ordered to buy the merchant mansion of the Heidenrauh for the state.

The building was significantly modified and extended according to Engel's plans in 1843. The building was now officially called the "Imperial Palace in Helsinki". The palace's kitchens and official living quarters were located on the ground floor of the palace. The Empress' reception rooms and some of the Emperor's bedrooms, as well as the large and small dining room and ballroom stretching to the third floor, were located on the first floor. The bedrooms and offices on the third floor of the palace were reserved for the Emperor and his entourage, as well as access to the small observation tower and the secret spiral staircase to the Empress' bedroom.

The expansion of the castle was planned several times at the end of the 19th century, but it was not until 1907 that a large state hall with waiting rooms was built according to the plan of architect Johan Jacob Ahrenberg.

During the First World War the palace served as a military hospital, which could accommodate 200 wounded soldiers at the front. During the Russian Revolution, it served as the headquarters of the Russian Military Workers' Council. During the Civil War of 1918, the house housed German and then Finnish headquarters. After the Civil War the building was planned as a castle of the King of Finland, when the building was called "castle". It even had time to decorate part of the task, but once the shape of the state was established, the furniture already ordered or purchased was to be sold to Stockmann. During the Estonian War of Independence in 1918-1919, the General Commission for Assistance to Estonia operated in the courtyard.

In 1919-1921, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland was located on the third floor of the building. As a presidential castle, the building was renovated in 1921. At that time, for example, the Orthodox Church hall on the second floor of the castle was destroyed and a library was built on its territory. Church objects were included in the collections of the National Museum.

The official residence of the President was originally located in the Presidential Palace. In 1940, Tamminiemi donated to the official presidential residence; Riti and K.G. Mannerheim lived there while Paasikivi spent his entire presidency at the castle. At the beginning of his presidency in 1956, Urho Kekkonen moved to Tamminiemi, where he lived until his death in 1986 and later became a museum. Mauno Koivisto lived in the Presidential Palace until the new official residence in Mäntiniemi was built in 1993. Since 1993, all the presidents of the Republic have lived in Miantyniemi.

The Presidential Palace was also home to some members of the staff of the Imperial Residence, and later the Office of the President of the Republic. Today all living quarters of the Castle have been turned into workplaces, where most of the employees of the Office of the President of the Republic work. The Office of the President of the Republic is staffed by the Chief of Staff, close advisers and assistants to the President. In addition, the Castle employs aides, who are responsible for the practical preparation and implementation of the program by the President and his wife. The Castle also has jobs for administrative staff and a kitchen.

UP