History of Hotel Seurahuone
At the end of the 1820s, Helsinki sorely needed distinguished, stylish premises for festivities. The Town Hall had become far too small and was unable to meet the demand. A meeting held in the Helsinki Magistrate’s Office on 29 November 1827 drew attention to the town’s lack of a decent hotel and restaurant operator. This led to the decision to establish the Hotel Seurahuone, and on 29 January 1828 a Board of Directors was appointed for the new joint-stock company. The grand opening of the new hotel, designed by architect Carl Ludvig Engel, took place on 8 December 1833.
Since its founding in 1833, the Hotel Seurahuone in Helsinki has been one of Finland’s most renowned venues for dining, accommodation and receptions. Just about everything important, fun, new or memorable that occurred in Finland during this period took place in the Seurahuone. The University of Helsinki’s bicentennial festivities in July 1840 were celebrated for five days. Finland’s first opera performances (1852), popular music concerts (1882), variety acts (1892) and cinema shows (1896) were all held at the Seurahuone.
A fervent search for a new site to replace the outmoded hotel took place in 1911-1912. Help came from Uno Kurtén, director of the insurance company Kaleva and a friend of Wilhelm Noschis, who had become hotel director in 1902. Space for the new Hotel Seurahuone was reserved in the Kaleva Palace to be constructed at the corner of Kaivokatu and Heikinkatu streets. The Seurahuone became a focal point for events also in the new building designed by Armas Lindgren. In services and modern conveniences, the new Hotel Seurahuone opened in 1914 was the sensation of its day; each room featured, among others, a phone, hot water and central heating.
During the First World War the hotel became a hiding place for emigrants and political refugees. The First World War, the Finnish Civil War and Prohibition were almost simultaneous and placed great demands on the restaurateur. One of Wilhelm Noschis’s actions was to transfer the Seurahuone shares to his wife, Anna Noschis. This meant that the Seurahuone came under Swedish ownership, which made it easier to operate the hotel and eased the lives of refugees from Russia. Towards the end of the Prohibition period the law lost its credibility, and in the late 1920s virtually all alcoholic beverages were available at the Seurahuone. During the Second World War, many important decisions were made at the Seurahuone. The staff provided customer service with dedication, and the reputation of the Seurahuone’s kitchen spread. The country’s political leaders, corporate-world decision-makers and the leading performing artists as well as foreign guest stars all became familiar visitors.
In the early 1970s the rent for the Seurahuone, located at Helsinki’s best commercial site, was raised and plans were made to replace it with a supermarket. Anna Noschis, then over 80 years old, was forced to give up the hotel after 70 years of family ownership. The threat to the Seurahuone fell through and the insurance company Kaleva leased the hotel to the Vuoristo company. In 1973 the hotel was transferred to Elanto and in 1996, when Elanto and Restel Oy launched cooperation, the hotel came under Restel Oy’s management. In 2004 operation of the hotel was transferred completely to Restel Oy and, following sweeping renovations carried out in early 2006, the hotel was reopened, restored to its historic glory, on 18 April 2006.
Today the Hotel Seurahuone Helsinki is a high-quality, stylish hotel for business and leisure travellers, located in the very centre of Helsinki. With a history spanning more than 180 years, the Seurahuone has one of Finland’s richest traditions, and is luxurious even by international standards. Warm in ambience, the Hotel Seurahuone Helsinki combines the refined air and style of the past with high-level modern service. The atmosphere of quality extends from the elegant rooms to the hotel restaurant, bar and banquet floor.