The Quiet School by the Market Square Part I

After returning home I did some more research on the school I had spotted on my adventures. It was designed in the 1930’s by the same architect who had drawn the houses in Lättälä, Väinö Vähäkallio, and expanded in the 1950’s. It had once been the main school of the town, but was closed down six years earlier because of indoor air problems. It had been empty since then.

The town was wondering what to do with the building. It was designed by a famous architect and a landmark with a rich history in the small town. Yet its expansion had caused it to lose lose some of its architectural value, it was in a bad shape and the town really had no use for it.

I didn’t know how the town officials would react to urban explorers, but the only way to get inside the school was to contact them. I called the official responsible for the town’s buildings expecting a strict ban on entering. To my surprise he said yes, agreed to drop the keys to the front desk of the town hall and said I could have them for as long as I liked, as they didn’t need them anymore.

I called the friend who had been with me in the planing mill the previous spring and she gladly accepted my invitation to join me. And off to Hamina we went again.

The keys were at the town hall front desk. I didn’t only get a single key, I got all the keys to this building. As far as I know, there weren’t any break ins or vandalism and the school was never accessible for random people. That’s why I believe we are one of the very few urban explorers, who had the chance to document this building since its abandonment.

This school pretty much began, where the old village abattoir ended. We started from the ground floor, where the old classrooms were filled with all kinds of miscellaneous stuff like a huge scale.

Unlike in the old abattoir, most of the stuff in this school could actually be explained. It is not very uncommon for people travelling to sports tournaments or other events where a large number of kids is present, to sleep in school classes. I believe the mattresses were here because of that.

A part of the stuff was apparently destined to get a new life elsewhere. The shelves are badged to a nursing home for old people, the strange white machine has another school’s name on it. The strange thing is, this school was also closed down in 2005, the same year as the school we are in now, and so the stuff apparently was never transferred.

Apparently all the coffee machines of the school have gathered here to speculate on their future.

What was really spectacular about this school was, that a lot of the classrooms, halls and stairways had pupil made art on the walls.

The unknown artists of the happy jumping dolphin have signed their work. Who they were and what became of them – no idea.

Around half of the room was inaccessible because of chairs and tables. Is the whole school just gonna be a massive storage facility, we asked ourselves.

This had probably been the school canteen. The doorway was also decorated by the pupils. The doorway was also probably added to the school later on, as its shape and size were totally different from what we found elsewhere.

Another classroom used as storage space. All the furniture is a funny mix of different eras and styles.

The ground floor corridor was very dark and also full of stuff. The doors upstairs lead to one of three gymnasiums.

Some of the ground floor classrooms were a lot emptier than the first ones we encountered.

They had removed the blackboards from most of the classrooms.

I just love these 80’s style curtains.

Here we have the school canteen. The people who had decided what to toss and what to keep were really inconsistent. Some of the kitchen appliances have been removed, some have just been left in their place. And this was the case with almost everything in this school. You could find very random stuff in very random places.

The kitchen backroom. Here they had gone so far that they had removed the cupboard doors, which sit neatly in one corner.

Most of the small stuff had been cleaned away on the first floor. The cleaners had missed this list, though. It’s about how national holidays affected working hours in 2005.

Another classroom filled with randomness from different eras.

This probably was an important part of the handwork lessons when the school was built. Does somebody still know how to use a spinning wheel these days?

This end of the school was built in the 50’s expansion. They demolished the old staircase, extended the corridor and built two classrooms more to each floor. They also added one floor on the gym wing so the school now had three (!) gymnasiums.

Some classrooms featured small backrooms. The window is straight to the marketplace, so the location of the school was really, really central.

I once again take my chance to wonder the logic of the people, who cleaned up this place. Why are these chairs left here and not with all the other chairs in one of the classrooms? And why has everything else been taken down from the notice board apart from that one sheet of paper?

Another almost empty classroom. The canister on the window board has contained soap.

And in this little backroom we have a futuristic rug, a throne looking chair and an old typewriter.

I wonder if a little bit of cleaning and a new tape would have restored his working order.

Some more art by the pupils. I wonder if nature has been a theme or if they have chosen their subjects themselves.

Another item left behind: instructions on Finnish grammar.

It was pretty evident from everything that renovations had been neglected for a long time.

The Prelude to a Discovery

Welcome to Southeastern Finland and Lake Saimaa. I spent a lot of time here during one especially dry and hot summer. As my blog is about photos and stories from abandoned places as well as my story of discovering those abandoned places, I decided to take this opportunity to promote this part of Finland a bit.

Southeastern Finland is perhaps after Helsinki the most interesting part of the country when it comes to architecture. This building here is the Lauritsala Church. It divides opinions, but I (fink u freeky and) I like you a lot.

The area also has huge amounts of functionalistic architecture from the 30’s and 40’s. Personally I find this my favourite architectural style.

This here is the Valtionhotelli (State Hotel) in Imatra. It is perhaps the most beautiful hotel in the country and has served as a hotel for more than 100 years.

The Valtionhotelli is located next to Imatrankoski (Imatra Rapids), which would be even more spectacular if the dam was open. They actually open it regularly and arrange shows where music is played and the water flows.

Here’s the end of the rapids. It all looks like being straight out of a fairytale.

Here’s the rapids from another direction. The hotel can be seen hiding in the forest on the right side of the picture.

This photo is from Lättälä, one of my favourite places in the world. It’s a small residential area designed by Väinö Vähäkallio in the 30’s for the workers at the adjacent pulp mill.

Lättälä is the last residential area still owned by the forest industry and it features around 20 small residential buildings from the prewar era. Almost everything has been preserved as it was for almost 90 years ago.

And this monstrous building has to go down as one of my all-time favorites. It’s was a former sanatorium turned into an asylum center, and it really is so huge, it doesn’t fit in one picture.

My journey took me via Ylämaa, Miehikkälä and Virojoki to Hamina, a very old city on the southern coast pretty close to the Russian border.

Hamina has a fairly nice amount of old wooden buildings.

It is famous for its circular town plan, which, as far as I know, is unique in Finland.

And despite the flowers being the main thing in this picture, it’s worth noting, that Hamina also has a rich history as a military town.

While I was practicing my photography skills, I ran into something interesting…

…this. It looked like a school, and it looked to be in a very bad shape.

A walk around the building proved me right. It definitely was a school and it most definitely was abandoned.

A closer look revealed, that all the windows and doors were intact.

There was absolutely no way inside this building. But I knew in my heart that I had to get to explore it somehow.

A Grand Piece of Sawdusty History Part IV

Here’s another shot of the alleyway between the planing mill on the left and the power plant on the right. As you can see, the day was beautiful for photography. Almost too beautiful, as the sun was constantly in the way.

This close up of the planing mill shows the fire damage pretty clearly. The second floor has burned and the roof collapsed.

The damage stretches from one end of the building about halfway. I still can’t help wondering the strange doors, which really don’t seem to bee original.

Behind the planing mill was the sawmill company’s gardener’s cottage. It, too, was abandoned.

The roof didn’t look too safe, so we had to be content with photographing the place through the windows.

A walk around and a peek through windows showed, that there really wasn’t much to see inside anyway.

This place had been cute and still probably could be. The water in the middle of the picture shows that the roof is leaking.

This detail was to be my final shot of the planing mill. About four months later it was demolished along with the gardener’s cottage and several other buildings in the sawmill area.

The power station and the pipe were left standing for then.

All the photos from this location can be viewed in the gallery.

A Grand Piece of Sawdusty History Part III

I believe the bridge was used as support for cabling between the planing mill and the power station. This is just a guess, but it was so weak, I couldn’t think of any other use for it.

Like the planing mill, the power station was pretty much smashed.

The planing mill could be seen through the windows.

The inside is dominated with several huge barrel shaped objects. I guess they are boilers, but once again it’s just a guess.

The power plant was controlled from here. According to my sources the controls were modernized in the 1970’s, when the adjacent building was converted into a planing mill.

Also this building featured dangerous looking holes in the floors. Here, there were many more, which led directly to a water filled basement.

This is once again a guess. But I believe that casing houses the power station’s turbine.

Behind the turbine was another instrument panel. And rows of turqouise cupboards, which had housed electrical equipment, but were now empty.

The floor of the building was original. And beautiful.

A Grand Piece of Sawdusty History Part II

Upstairs we go then. As you can see, it was a very bright spring day outside.

There wasn’t much graffiti downstairs, but upstairs was a different story. I especially like the mad spongebob breaking through the wall. I also wonder, why they had a railway track upstairs and why a wall was built right across it.

While the downstairs was an all open space, the upstairs was much more of a maze.

Here’s the friendly looking gap from my last post pictured from above. The drop actually looks much higher this way.

There has been something big in the corner. What, history isn’t here to tell us that anymore.

The engineer who loved yellow walls had worked upstairs too.

Despite the sunshine outside, there were scary, dark corridors inside. Is it just me, or is the closest pillar completely out of line?

The power station can bee seen through the windows. The two buildings were really close to each other.

For one reason or another this one reminds me of a school toilet. Whatever it was, it’s not in a very good shape right now.

In the middle of the building it was really just empty rooms.

Or not completely empty. This one contained lots of receipt looking paper slips.

About half of the building’s upstairs was completely destroyed by fire. We didn’t want to go any further, as we deemed it unsafe.

Here are some exterior shots of the planing mill.

And here’s anohter. The strange modern doors do make it a bit uglier, but the place used to be a beautiful example of 1920’s industrial architecture.

The planing mill can be seen on the left, the power station is to the right. And that’s where we’ll head next.

A Grand Piece of Sawdusty History Part I

In the early 20th century a local railway station manager founded a sawmill in an island in front of a village called Martinniemi some 30 kilometers from the city of Oulu. After years of financial problems, a bancrupcy and several ownership changes, the sawmill got new owners, a fresh start and an expansion. In the early 1920’s a groundwood mill and a power plant with a towering 72 meter chimney were built on another adjacent island a bit away. The huge chimney became the symbol of the village, which quickly grew and developed. A people’s house, stores and blocks of flats were built, Martinniemi thrived.

Several ownership changes took place again. The groundwood mill was closed down in the 60’s. It was converted to a planing mill and the power plant was modernized in the 70’s. In the late 80’s after yet another ownership change, everything was closed down. The village became a quiet suburb with high unemployment, cheap apartments and social problems. The sawmill and most of the buildings in the area got a new lease of life with small entrepreneurs, the power plant and the planing mill were left on their own. Years of court battles between protectionists and the huge forest giant owning the property followed.

Early in 2011 the planing mill caught fire. And a few months later, when I asked my friends, if there was anything to photograph nearby, they took me there.

This was the mess that greeted us, when entering the building, which had stood vacant for almost 25 years. The machinery has been removed, and all that is left are wood splinters.

There were no intact windows, which really didn’t even surprise us. What did surprise us was, what a plastic garden chair was doing in a place like this and why it had decided to hang itself on a pipe.

The roof had really nice and safe looking hatches upstairs. Despite the softish wood splinters on the floor, I really wouldn’t like to fall through that one.

The sign tells to watch out for moving machinery…

…but I really doubt they would pose any danger to me even if they still moved.

Once again we really didn’t have difficulties entering the building as it was all open doors.

Some of the doors were surprisingly modern, though.

This, I take, is the main production space. There’s water on the floor, but the grey, slushy thing between it and the yellow wall is plain ice.

There was a path higher up like the floor was lava. For some reason they wanted their office blocks (or whatever they were) canary yellow.

A view outside through one of the garage doors. Someone had lost their sofa, which had clearly suffered a bad burn out.

There was also some broken machinery outside the planing mill.

Another look inside. There was surprisingly little graffiti around despite the years of neglect.

This one was the only large piece downstairs. But perhaps if we went up, we found some more.

Nightmares Revisited Part VII

So the time has come for the last post from the abandoned abattoir. At least for now. And it’s time to explore the garage and power station building.

Most of the doors were locked and tightly sealed, so there was no access. Luckily not all of them. Even though the sign tells you to shut the door in two different languages.

Behind the door was a vintage Toyota Corolla. And a real man cave.

So this is where the local boys have spent their weekend fixing their Toyota, reading car magazines. And eating pickled cucumber, as there were cans of it here, too. The dust, however, reveals, that nobody’s been here for ages.

The yard was also littered with all kinds of stuff. The shelter is full of recyled and pressed paper.

There were even two buses parked on the yard completely outgrown by trees. The other one had been partially rebuilt to a transport, the other was a former supermarket on wheels. It was clear, that neither one of them would ever move again.

A view through the bus shows a football field just behind the property. What a nice place to play matches.

Smashed bricks have fallen inside the power station. Whether they have crumbled there on their own or are the result of the partial demolition of the chimney, is unclear to me.

The tower pictured in the setting sun. I really like the architecture of this building, and it’s quite sad to see it in such a horrible state. Almost the whole facade of the building can bee seen here.

So what is this place, and what’s happened with it? After an extensive research, spending 30 euros on ordering official documents and 60 euros on a three month subrscription of the local newspaper, this is, what I have found out:

The bulding was originally built as an abattoir in the late 1940’s. It was the pride and the largest employer of the village in its prime employing more than a hundred people.

In the late 1970’s the company owning it started centering its activities to a nearby town, and in the mid 80’s all production here ended. For some reason or another the logos of the company are still on the facade, and there’s a lot of stuff belonging to it in the attic.

A local food wholesale company bought the premises after this, but it is a bit unclear, when. Some sources say, it was in 1985, but the wholesale company was founded before the late 70’s as its papers from 1975 were in the house. The company register says, this company went bankrupt in 1991. In addition to the abattoir memorabilia, a lot of the wholesale company’s documents can still be found scattered around the building.

What happened after this is a bit unclear. According to the official documents the current owner bought the place in 1993, and the place has stood abandoned around ever since. In my memories it has always been deserted, yet there are letters, newspapers and documents dating back to the late 90’s and early 2000’s in the apartments. Who has brought them here, if not the inhabitants, is unclear to me.

By the time of our visit the owner started having problems with the authorities. The building authorities wanted him to demolish a part of the crumbling chimney they deemed dangerous, which he did. The fire department wanted to conduct a search in the buildings to see, if there was still ammonia in the cooling machines used by the bankrupt food wholesale company, as they suspected. The owner refused to let them in. The neighbours had started complaining. They were concerned about the collapsing chimney and the increasing vandalism on the property.

It was clear, the sun had started to set on this beautiful building. I’m not quite done with its story yet, but now we’ll move on to other places.

All the photos from this location can be viewed in the gallery.

Nightmares Revisited Part VI

Out we are again. The stairs and the platform next to the low wing part were all covered in glass.

Down in the basement we go. This part of it had natural light coming in, and contained sinks and showers. This is apparently, where the butchers had washed themselves after a long day of hard work.

After that they went to the locker room to change. These lockers seem very different than those stored in the wing of the building. I believe these to be original ones and the others to have been brought here later by someone.

There were even name tags left on some of the lockers. I hope this person lived a good life since the abattoir closed.

The basement continued far below the building, but it was quite a maze and it was pitch dark. Somehow the corridor led to the mouldy room described in the first post, I think. We didn’t follow it furter, and went back up instead.

Behind the open door in the middle of the picture was a large storage room filled with bags of pig fodder and empty boxes with shrimp. There was also a small office space containing the railway map of Finland and again numerous folders of the bankrupt food wholesale company. It turned out the company had shipped huge amounts of shirmp to one of the largest hotels in the area by train. But that was years ago. There was another door to the left.

And behind it was yet another stunning view of approximatly anything you can think of. Boxes, furniture, clothes, bikes… Once again we were pretty amazed.

A view of the same room taken from the other direction. Things have just been brought here. I had to google Distrimex out of curiosity. It’s a major supplier of fresh food and vegetables. You can also see containers of some less fresh vegetables next to the pillar.

This room was in the front of the building right next to the facade. There was another small office space, more furniture, boxes and several fridges. They looked like they were from a supermarket, but this place surely hadn’t been a supermarket.

There weer several big cold rooms. In here there was yet another bike, loads of boxes and pig fodder. Apparently the cold room was full of pig fodder, too.

The sun was going down very beautifully, as we exited the main building.

Here’s one more look up the tower in the evening sun. During daytime the building actually looks quite beautiful.

Time to see, what the power station and garage had to offer. But that’s for the next and last post from this place for now to find out.

Nightmares Revisited Part V

Back down we go then. As the third floor had been all about apartments, I expected to find them on the second floor, too. This, however, proved not to be the case.

What we found instead was an office space full of documents belonging to a company which had operated in the building after the abattoir had closed down. There were dozens of shelves apparently containing lots of sales and financial information just left there for anyone to browse through.

In addition to the files there was art. Several paintings. Either they had been somewhere in the building or brought in later by the mysterious collector, who had filled the place with all kinds of stuff.

There was a large glass wall separating the offices from the corridor. Behind you can see yet another shelf with archive files and a toilet. There was also a bathroom with a tub and…

… a vault. Judging by the location of other walls, there is a full room behind that door. What’s in it, a gold treasure or just some rotten archives, we will never know.

But the next room houses yet again a major surprise. The whole floor was covered in bags of clothes, which had been ripped open. The sea of old fabric was knee high. These had definitely been brought here by someone.

Behind the office was access to the attic above the low wing of the building. The photos I took there failed pretty miserably, but there was a collection of stuff from the time the abattoir operated in the building – commercials, recipe leaflets and even large, heavy blocks with the abattoir’s logo on them.

Seeing this makes me try to recall, when was the last time I drank bulk beer from a bottle. They sell it all in cans now.

On the second floor was another balcony. This time they hadn’t smashed the door, only the glass.

There was also an apartment on the second floor. I still don’t know, what’s on the walls. If you once again take a look at the picture taken on my first visit more than a year earlier, almost everything is as it was. The only thing that has been moved is the red canister, which has mysteriously travelled 15 centimetres to the left. This could go well down as a pair of spot five differences pictures.

There was a beautiful and pretty original looking fireplace in the living room.

There was also quite a mess. The third floor had all in all escaped devastation much better than the second floor. Maybe the vandals were lazy.

I particularly like this picture because of how the light comes in. I didn’t touch the boxes, they were like that from the beginning.

Such fine curtains. You could well imagine a princess bed beneath them rather than the dirty mattress.

This post ends with a close up of the stove in the second floor apartment. In the next post we’ll take a look at the basement (yikes)

Nightmares Revisited Part IV

The first thing I found on the third floor was this kitchen, which was designed with incredibly bad taste. The red and green really don’t go well together, and to make matters worse someone had decided, that attaching lace to the kitchen counter was a good idea. Ugh.

Behind the kitchen was a small room, where it looked like someone had started renovations. Probably it had more to do with someone initiating destruction.

This room, like all the others, was littered with all kinds of random stuff. Someone had forgotten their jacket.

The following room was almost intact. It looked as if the inhabitants had just left. The rug on the wall was pretty spectacular, although I wouldn’t hang anything like that on my own walls.

A view from the other side of the same room. As you can see, the nearest neighbours are not that far away. The hole looking thing next to the radiator really is a hole someone has carved there.

Although the place clearly has been abandoned for years, there were surprisingly little graffiti and other tags on the walls. This one says “hey man, this is my home”.

Someone had been pretty desperate in getting to the balcony and smashed everything in the process.

The inner balcony door was still intact, although badly worn. Apparently all the doors and window frames had originally been red, but the balcony doors had been painted white at some stage.

There were two doors from the hallway on the third floor. One led to the apartment, which we just visited, the other one led deeper into the building. It was almost impossible to walk through it, as there were boxes of old newspapers and commercials blocking it. The pile of paper was waist high, but we managed to get through. In the other end we found two more apartments.

Again the last inhabitants had left their stuff behind. I’m not really sure the huge white containers were theirs, unless they were really big fans of mead. Or kilju.

I said earlier, that I really didn’t want to run into living creatures while visiting abandoned houses. I certainly didn’t expect to meet this chap. I’m not a biologist, but I think that’s a small tortoiseshell over there.

The kitchen of the second apartment on the third floor. The same mess was evident here, like in all the other places.

The living room of the third floor apartment. This area of the building had survived all vandalism, perhaps because it was so difficult to get through the mess in the corridor. The strange thing about this place was, that there was a kitchen, chairs, sofa and even a table, but no bed.

A look towards the entrance of the apartment. The door at the back leads to the butterfly’s home.

We crawled back through the cramped corridor and back to the main stairway. Here’s another look at the tower and its leaky roof before we started our journey down the stairs.