The idyll of Kolikkoinmäki rose in the middle of an industrial area
In the 1920s, Iisvesi was a bustling industrial center, where there were more jobs than workers. Logs were floated to Kymi Oy’s sawmill, Peura’s sawmill and Iisveden Metsä Oy’s sawmill along the Pielaveden-Keitele waterway. Iisvesi had log pick-up points at all the central companies in the country. The plug-in railway built on the Savo railway transported finished lumber to the world as well as the products of several factories located in Iisvesi. Water traffic was the busiest of Finland’s inland ports. “Millon vuan kahto, melkeen aena olj’ laeva mänössä,” says a native of Kolikkoinmäki.
Residents close to them called Iisvesi as “America”, where they headed in the hope of a better life. During harvest time, hundreds of seasonal workers wandered there, like migratory birds. In winter, 300-400 risk men were needed to peel the icy props. The sawmills employed women as well, although the pay was almost half as low. “Where the men were, there were people,” recalls one woman.
The housing shortage was of course dire, but the landowners around the sawmills were reluctant to sell their land to the workers. A rocky hillside unfit for cultivation was acquired from the foothills of the sawmill of Iisveden Metsä Oy, founded in 1924, and staked into lots. In 1926-27, there was a constant banging and banging from the construction sites, which is probably where the community got its name Kolikkoinmäki. Along the narrow alleys, up to three or four meters apart, forty small cottages and a few larger ones were built by hand. The area became more compact when everyone who first built on the plot gave half of it to their best colleague. Surface board was received from the sawmill in exchange for a salary. In the early years, there were no road connections to the area, so even the boards were carried to the construction site by hand.
Kolikkoinmäki was located in the middle of a bustling industrial area in the 1920s. The rail to the nearby timber floating place ran right next to it. In winter, wood was piled several meters high and hundreds of meters long on the shores of Jauholahti. In addition to Kolikkoinmäki, called Savon’s Pispala, another residential area for workers rose on the eastern slope of the lake, which received a grand name: Venice.
The cabins were densely populated on two floors. In addition to the host family, up to eight temporary tenants could stay in the 4×4 meter living room with stove. In the relaxd community of Savo people it was fun and there was room to everyone. On working days, people rushed to work while the saw whistle blew, and the free time was spent hanging out by the side of the alley and watching the children play.
The labor movement was active in Iisvesi. Along with politics, culture and sports were practiced. Among others, they spent their childhood in Kolikoinmäki. singer Erkki Junkkarinen and couplet singer Lauri Jauhiainen.
The period of rapid growth did not last long. In the depression of the 30s, many hard-working workers had to go out on the road. When the site plan for Iisvesi was finally completed in 1938, large construction projects were no longer to be expected. In the 1950s, Kymi’s sawmill, which moved to Rauma-Repola, closed, and Peura’s sawmill persisted until 1983. Only the cooperative forest owners’ sawmill, Iisveden Metsä Oy, remained, whose lime still creates a soundscape in Kolikkoinmäki today.
A documentary film about the history of the area was completed in 1977, which can be seen at Yle Areena. At that time, many cottages had already been emptied, and there was great concern about the future of Kolikkoinmäki. Currently, some of the cottages in the area are used as summer apartments, some have regular residents and a few are in dire need of renovation. In 1983, the area was transformed into the Kolikkoinmäki Workers’ Home Museum, where one cabin is open to the public.
Documentary about the history of Kolikkoinmäki: https://areena.yle.fi/1-50116587
Kolikkoinmäki workers’ home museum : https://suonenjoki.fi/vapaa-aika/kulttuuripalvelut/museot/kolikkoinmaen-tyolaiskotimuseo/