History

HISTORY OF BROFELT HOUSE

In the 1820s, a merchant by the name of Petter Brofelt commissioned the construction of a new stone building on Esplanadi, in a block known as Sarvikuono, the Finnish for rhinoceros. The ground floor housed Brofelt’s shop with private living quarters above it. The following year, a further floor was added to the building to provide living space for the shop’s staff. During this second phase of construction, the doors leading into the shop were embellished with a Doric portico, in keeping with the neo-classical style in fashion at the time.

In 1841, the building was acquired by Aleksej Kudrakoff, formerly a St. Petersburg-based merchant, who had relocated to Helsinki. Kudrakoff’s shop stocked a wide range of luxury goods typical of the era, including fresh fish, cisco eggs and caviar, goose, Dutch herring, citrus fruits, Crimean apples and grapes from Malaga.

Kudrakoff gave up his shop in 1860, selling the business on to another merchant, Wasili Koroleff. Koroleff continued to run a shop on the premises and, like his predecessors, let out the rooms on the top floor. One of his tenants in the 1870s was Zacharias Topelius. Then Rector at the University of Helsinki, he would go on to become an influential proponent of Finnish nationalism, as well as a writer and satirist, who is also known for his exuberant accounts of contemporary life and reminisces of old Helsinki. Brofelt House was renovated in the Renaissance Revival style by the architect Theodor Höjer in 1895.

The building acquired its current appearance in 1912-1914 when the Valter Jung & Emil Fabritius architectural practice was commissioned to create a single-storey bank interior. A further, three-storey wing was added to run along Sofiankatu. The new bank facilities were occupied by Nylands Aktiebank.

The building continued to serve as the base for a financial institution after it was acquired by the City of Helsinki in 1931, with the city treasury remaining there until 2007. The last major renovation works were carried out between 1968 and 1971, designed by renowned Finnish architect Aarno Ruusuvuori. Salutorget has been based at Brofelt House since 2009.

The eye-catching stained glass artwork, titled Rahapuu (Money Tree), found in the banking hall, was first placed there in 1974. Designed by the architect Valter Jung, it was made by the famous S. Wuorio painting company in 1904. Featuring two peacocks and a money tree, it was originally created for the Privatbanken bank, based at the nearby Jugend Hall, until it passed into a private collection in Kirkkonummi. In 1974, the Money Tree was acquired by the City of Helsinki and placed on display in the City Treasury.