As word of the Keweenaw’s copper riches reached the old world, European emigrants began a mass exodus to the area. A large proportion of those people looking for a better life were Finnish – escaping from widespread famine and oppressive Russian rule in their homeland. The Finns brought their rich heritage and culture with them, creating their own piece of Finland here along the shores of Lake Superior.
Part of that rich heritage included the Finnish Lutheran Church, that in 1896, established a seminary in Hancock dedicated to meeting the spiritual and educational needs of the Finnish people. Over the years Suomi Academy (Finnish for Finland) expanded its educational offerings and established a 2-year college in 1924, now known as Finlandia University. Still standing on the campus today is the college’s first home – Old Main.
Built in 1900 this 3-story sandstone structure housed Suomi Academy for 31 years until the schools second building – Nikander Hall – was finally completed in 1931. The building’s first floor housed classrooms, a faculty lounge, president’s office, and the chapel while the upper floors were reserved for a student dormitory. Occupying the large stone tower set along the building’s front façade was the private residence of the college’s president.
Built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, Old Main features an imposing 4-story tower adorned with battlements and thick buttresses. Its main entrance sits underneath an alcove formed by an impressive stone arch. The building is topped by a hipped roof and parapeted dormers. Along its front façade stand lines of windows set apart by large stone buttresses.
NOTES: The building continues to be owned by the college, and currently houses administration offices. The building is open only to students, but can easily be viewed from the road.