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Historical Villa in Sannanranta

From Sunti to the sea – harbours and villa culture

There have been ports and harbours along the coast around Kokkola for centuries. Due to land uplift, some ports have been relocated several times. The original harbour was by Sunti near the church hill. At the time of Kokkola’s founding, land had already risen so much that it was decided to relocate the harbour close to the Market Square. The harbour is still at Sunti but closer to the sea. As land continued to rise, port operations were relocated to Halkokari in the 1730s. Later, another relocation took place, this time to Yksipihlaja, which had been used as a winter harbour since the 1700s. Despite land uplift, the bay of Vanhansatamanlahti can still be used by boats, as the old boat routes are maintained by dredging.

Summer houses and villas have been built on the shores alongside ports and harbours. Villa culture came to Kokkola in the 1860s. Wealthy bourgeoisie started building summer houses for their families as fresh air getaways closer to nature. There are several old villa sites in Kokkola National Urban Park. They illustrate increasing wealth in the town and provide concrete examples of the impact of land uplift on people’s lives. Many villas that were built right by the sea are now far away from the shore.

  • Kokkola cannot be mentioned without bringing up Sunti. The name comes from the Swedish word sund, which means strait or channel. Sunti, colloquially pronounced Suntti, is the remnant of a sea bay. The channel cuts through the centre of Kokkola and serves as an important green route, recreational site and link between the centre and the sea. Sunti is the thread that runs through and brings together the star attractions of Kokkola National Urban Park.

    The impact of land uplift

    In the 1600s, today’s Market Square still had a harbour that was reached through Sunti. In the Sunti’s heyday, a 240-metre-long wooden bridge crossed the strait at Pitkänsillankatu, the street whose name translates to “long bridge street”. There were goods warehouses on both sides of the bridge, and there was also a customs building on the north side of the bridge.

    Over the years, the land has risen and the seashore has withdrawn further away from the city centre. The bay gradually became the narrow channel that Sunti is today. The first dredging was carried out in the 1730s using a crane. The market square quay could still be reached by boat in the 1970s. The water level of Sunti has continued to drop, which also reduces the rate of flow. People have had to gradually adapt to the effects of land uplift.

    Suntinsuu boathouses

    The Sunti boathouses continued the tradition of the old seaside storehouses, but they had to be built closer to the sea due to land uplift. Boat traffic had always been lively in the seaside city of Kokkola, but the rise of the villa culture may have increased the need for boat storage spaces even further.

    The current boathouses were mainly built between 1883 and 1950. Some are even older, based on their shapes and construction methods and materials. Today, there are a total of 97 boathouses on both sides of Sunti.

    Kuvassa Suntinsuun punaisia venevajoja

  • The villas of Sannanranta represent rich cultural heritage in Kokkola National Urban Park. The first villas were built on this site on the edge of town in the mid-1800s. At that time, Sannanranta was a mainly open, sandy and unforested seashore. The first summer house on the site was built by councillor Otto Nyström in 1865, and it had three rooms. A number of wealthy merchants and officials followed with their own projects, and by the 1870s the area was almost fully built.

    In later years, plots were leased out on the western side of the local road, after which the number of villas rose to around 50. There are currently about 60 villas in the area. The largest ones are close to the shore, and a string of smaller villas is located on the forest side. The largest villas have two floors and are decorated with impressive cuttings and mouldings. Many villas were built in stages, and verandas were important features. Some of the smaller villas are relatively modest cabins. There are also various outbuildings. Servants’ cabins and outbuildings were located closer to the road.

    As a result of the post-glacial rebound, the villas previously located near the coastline at the far end of the Vanhansatamanlahti bay are now further away from the shoreline. The old winter harbour of Kokkola used to be at Sannanranta, and one of the villas is a former port customs office.

    The villas of Sannanranta form a nationally significant built cultural environment.

    Kuvassa Sannanarannan huvila talvella

  • In the 1860s, the northern part of Sannanranta was a shallow island called Elba. Elba had a salt warehouse, whose walls glistened with salt in humid weather. Later the building was demolished, and the logs were reused to build a school in Vitsari. Elba was a popular summer destination in the 1860s, and people began building summer villas there.

    Ilmakuva Elban villasta ja saunarakennuksesta

    Villa Elba was originally a farmhouse, which was bought in the 1890s by city treasurer Torsten Wilhelm Sevón, who relocated it to Elba as a summer house. Miss Gunvor Björklund bought the house in 1928. She went on to marry Dr. Ragnar F. Neunstedt, who completed the house to its current form in the 1930s. In 1956, the villa was sold to the City of Kokkola. Villa Elba was used by the city’s school services, and it served as a summer retreat for children for many years. In 1991, the place was acquired by the youth services, and Villa Elba became an international youth centre. The building was expanded in 1996 to serve as a conference centre. The accommodations are a mixture of new and renovated old buildings. Elba is also used as a base by Kokkolan Purjehtijat sailing club.

    Bird tower and nature

    The area’s prime natural attraction is its diverse bird species, which can be spotted from the bird tower next to Villa Elba. The tower is single-level and has a ramp suitable for people with reduced mobility. It offers great views over Kaustarinlahti bay and out to sea. The area is characterised by shallow water areas, sludge shores, vast coastal meadows, reed beds and lush deciduous forests. It is a popular resting spot for migrating birds, especially waterfowl and waders.

    Visitors can rent mountain bikes, fatbikes and SUP boards in summer, and kicksleds, snowshoes and cross-country skis in winter. Overnight stays in a tentsile are available at Villa Elba.

  • Mustakari is a small island off Halkokari in the eastern part of Vanhansatamanlahti bay. The island is approximately 100 metres from the mainland and is served by a bridge. In the 1700s and 1800s, Mustakari had a repair dock for sailing ships. Ships were tilted against the steep rock face to enable their bottoms to be tarred and repaired. The tar-blackened rocks gave Mustakari its name, which means “black rock”. Back then, it was only a small rocky islet far from the shore. At the beginning of the 19th century, there were warehouses for storing tar and other materials. The only remaining sign of them is a small area of hardened tar in the middle of the island. Today, Mustakari is home to Finland’s fourth oldest sailing club, Gamlakarleby Segelförening (GSF). The pavilion is owned by the sailing club, and it is used as a summer restaurant.