25 April, 2024

From newspapers to books: Hotel St. George is full of stories

Before becoming a hotel, the building of Hotel St. George was home to the Helsinki Finnish Club, a society to to promote Finnish national spirit and culture, and the Finnish Literature Society, which ran the printing press for the first ever Finnish-language newspaper. It’s only natural, then, that the hotel’s Reading Room echoes with the rustle of newspapers and each room is home to a bespoke collection of Finnish literature.

Enjoy a book, coffee and the smell of fresh bread at St. George bakery

The end of the 19th century was a period of fervent national awakening, and Lot 3 Block 62 of the Kamppi urbanization – better known today as Hotel St. George – was closely linked to the future of Finland. It was here that nationalist intellectuals known as fennomaniacs gathered to discuss and debate Finland’s language and literature, and how it tied into the future of the country.

Printing house turned Reading Room

The Finnish Literature Society, founded in 1831, acquired the printing press at the current address of Hotel St. George in the 1870s. In 1887, printing commenced for Uusi Suometar (“New Finnish Maiden”), the first Finnish-language newspaper ever to go to print six times per week.

The newspaper, which had a passionate Finnish political and cultural agenda, continued publication until the Finnish Civil War in 1918. The following year, the printing press switched to Uusi Suomi, the newspaper of the newly-established conservative party kokoomus.  

Newspapers still have a strong presence at Hotel St. George, but these days they exist to inform and entertain guests and city residents alike. St. George Bakery’s Reading Room is dedicated to lovers of quality journalism. Here, newspaper buffs can browse the latest editions of New York Times and Financial Times while enjoying a freshly brewed coffee and a warm pulla. The use of electronic devices is discouraged in this traditional space, so that guests can enjoy the timeless rustling of pages rather than modern beeping.

Some old newspaper printing plates found in the building are now on Restaurant Andrea's wall

Monocle Shop is a treat for book aficionados

In spring 1876, the Finnish Senate gave Helsinki intellectuals the permission to establish a club, which would bounce ideas about culture and politics and visualise the future of Finland. The result was the Finnish Reading and Conversing Club, the predecessor of the Helsinki Finnish Club. Comprising professors, lawyers, young university graduates and Helsinki fennomaniacs, the club operated at the premises of the current Hotel St. George for 30 years.

The culture and literature background of Hotel St. George is reflected in the unique book selection of each room, curated in co-operation with Nide, a local independent bookshop. The Wintergarden in the hotel’s courtyard hosts a bookshelf for guests and residents to browse, as well as lifestyle magazines like SuitcaseKinfolk and V&A Magazine. Salon Edith, named after the Finnish poet Edith Södergran, is fully dedicated to poetry.

What’s more, quality reading is available from the first Monocle Shop of the Nordic countries, located by St. George Bakery. As well as the popular series of Monocle travel books, the shop sells lifestyle titles on interior design, drinking and dining, and business. A range of stylish stationery and notebooks will tempt those willing to make their own contribution to world literature. In fact, we’re hoping to see many novels started in the inspiring surroundings of Hotel St. George’s Wintergarden.

Photos: Tuomas Lindgren, Robbie Lawrence for Design Hotels

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