The Grand Hotel is based on a colorful story that is three years longer than the history of independent Finland. Hotel is built in three steps. Probably in 1914 the oldest part of the hotel was completed, which was originally a red-brick barracks building for Russian soldiers with stables and other outbuildings. The barracks building was built when Russia wanted to strengthen its military power also on its western border on the eve of the First World War (1914-1918).

The barracks were completed just before the beginning of the First World War 1914.

The time of construction was a very interesting time, as Tornio became an international city during the First World War. A huge number of refugees moved around the Tornio city from 1914, as Finland, along with Russia, was declared at war at the end of July. Following the declaration of a war, German and AustriaHungarian citizens of Russia's enemy countries were given three days to leave the country. After the end of shipping in the Baltic Sea, the only route to the west was passed through Tornio, so Germans living in Russia, for example, and some of communist leaders headed to the border town, Tornio.

During the first two weeks of the war, as many as 30,000 refugees passed through Tornio, and in 1915 alone Karunki village of Tornio, about 120,000 people crossed the border. Later, Tornio played an important role when some of the refugees returned to Russia. The most famous of them in 1917 was Lenin, who traveled from Switzerland via Tornio to St. Petersburg to make a revolution

After the battle of the Tornio the Russian soldiers was placed on the Russian military barracks which was in the center of Tornio.
Lenin's train trip 1917. Goodbye Finns.

In World War I, losses and injuries were enormous on both sides. In total, more than 75,000 soldiers from Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany or Turkey passed through Tornio, who, due to their severe injuries, were extra burdens for prison camps on all sides. Tornio-Haparanda was chosen as a place for prisoners to exchange because Sweden was a neutral country. The initiative was taken by the Red Cross.

Tornio was in important role also in Jaeger movement since the year 1915 Finnish men went to the military training to Germany. Jaeger's formed the Finnish Civil War white army. Some of them were in a meditative role in World War II.

From a barracks to a school building

Finland became independent on December 6, 1917, when there were a considerable number of Russian soldiers in Tornio. On February 6, 1918, Finns fought and win at the railway station against the Russians The barrack was initially turned into a prison for Russian soldiers, after which the building was taken over by the Tornio civil guard for a couple of years. At this point, in addition to the red-brick main building, the barracks complex included five wooden buildings, one was the Orthodox Church.

Barracks school building after renovating 1922-27.

In 1921-1922, the barracks was renovated into a school building, where the secondary school began operations in the autumn semester of 1922. The secondary school was renamed the Tornio high School in 1927, and the school building was renovated and expanded in 1928-1929 and 1934-1935. In the later large extension, a three-story extension was built.

At the time of the birth of the hotel complex, during the First World War, the events in Tornio received widespread publicity, and foreign journalists visited the border. The next time Tornio was of international interest was the beginning of October 1944, when Finland changed half of its German brothers

The mystery of SS men's weapons

In October 1944, there were two German military hospitals in Tornio. The Finns did not manage to take over the SS men's military hospital, but the building of the high school remained besieged. The Germans held their sides by firing sets with machine guns on next streets.

As the siege continued, the willingness of the Germans to fight in the Alliance began to break, and on the morning of October 3, Schwartz told Larjo at the negotiation that they were ready to surrender. That same evening at 7.30 pm, 31 surrendered prisoners stood on Välikatu.

The machine guns of the Germans in the high school were never found. The caretaker thought they had been dropped into a large opening in the ventilation equipment on the top floor. This riddle has not yet been solved to this day.

Tornio high school's construction site of the annex building in the winter of 1957.

After World War II, the building returned to the use of the high school. In 1954, the design of a new extension was started again, which was completed in 1958. The extension was designed by Kemi city architect Onni J. Ermala. At that time, the buildings and courtyard basically reached the framework for which the Grand Hotel is known in our time.

The building was used by schools until 2015, and the students of the high school society include the knights of the Mannerheim Cross Alpo Marttinen and Tauno Viiri, commersial adviser Veli Aine and Matti Pörhö and journalist Kari Lumikero. The building remained in the more recent history of Finland in autumn 2015 as an center for asylum seekers.

Teksti: Mika Kulju

Mika Kulju, Tornion maihinnousu 1944 – Lapin sodan avainoperaatio (Ajatus Kirjat 2009)
Ilkka Teerijoki, Tornion historia 2 (Jyväskylä 2007)
Teija Ylimartimo, Tornion yhteislyseo – Kasarmi- ja koulurakennuksen rakennushistoriaselvitys (Tornio 2018)