Located next to Santa’s main post office and Santa’s Salmon Place, Roosevelt Lodge is the oldest building in Santa’s workshop village. This log cabin was built on the Rovaniemi Arctic Circle in 1950 in honor of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt’s visit. In June 1950, Mrs. Roosevelt, an activist known for her humanism, decided to visit Rovaniemi to learn about the post-war reconstruction work. He also expressed to the Finnish hosts his desire to cross the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi.
Information about Mrs. Roosevelt’s wish to visit the Arctic Circle arrived at local Lapland hosts just two weeks before the scheduled time. When the Governor of Lapland, Uuno Hannula, who was coordinating the visit at the end of Rovaniemi, heard about it, he found himself in a challenging situation: at that time, it was decided in one inch to build a hut on the Arctic Circle for Mrs. Roosevelt’s reception ceremony.
Governor Hannula was assisted in the coordination task by the Mayor of Rovaniemi, Lauri Kaijalainen, who found a suitable plot of land along Highway 4 for the construction of the hut. The plot was donated by Eemeli Karinen. The land in question was in fact just over a hundred meters south of the Arctic Circle, since the exact place where the surveyors had marked the geographical location of the Arctic Circle was unbuildable oma
The hut to the Arctic Circle had to be set up in less than two weeks, and no time was wasted. Rovaniemi-based architect Ferdinand Salokangas designed the building the night after the meeting with Hotel Pohjanhovi. After this, the technical side of the baton was received by Jarl Sundquist’s experienced construction team, which began preparing the hut directly from the logs raised from the Ounasjoki river. According to the instructions, they were needed in such numbers that “the cabin can accommodate a rather large crowd of buses at a time”.
When the round logs lifted from the river were workable, the carpenters, led by master builder Yrjö Kamunen, had exactly a week to build the hut. Workers persecuted by the weepings worked hard at the hut, making a long day in two shifts. The last days of the construction phase of the work were twisted on the site 24 hours a day, taking advantage of the polar night. Almost miraculously, the skilled workers got the hut up in a week, so that the doors of the building were fitted in place when the plane was already landing at the nearby Rovaniemi airport.
On Sunday, June 11, 1950, the hut was ready to receive its esteemed guest. In the early summer on a sunny holiday, the people of Rovaniemi received Mrs. Roosevelt’s choir of Lapland’s song weavers, creating an atmosphere for a historic day. The smiling Mrs. Roosevelt was also honored to send Rovaniemi the first Arctic Circle postcard in history, which she is said to have addressed to her friend Harry S. Truman, who was then President of the United States.
In addition to bringing hope for a better tomorrow to the people of Lapland living in post-war scarcity, Mrs. Roosevelt’s visit was also of paramount importance for local tourism. Now the first destination had been created in the Rovaniemi Arctic Circle, which made more and more guests stop for a rest break and souvenir shopping. The visit also gave rise to the tradition of sending home or friends postcards with a special Arctic stamp.
The lodge, which was held open in the early months during the summer months, collected thousands of names each year in its guestbook. In addition to ordinary tourists, numerous other dignitaries, such as US President Lyndon B. Johnson, Soviet Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev, Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito, Swedish Crown Prince Carl Gustav, and the Crown Prince Carl Gustav, Shaahi Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, President of Senegal Léopold Sédar Senghor and Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir.
Today, the Roosevelt hut in Santa’s workshop village symbolizes not only American-Finnish cooperation, but also that when different nations support each other in exceptional situations, beautiful and unique things can arise, such as Santa’s workshop village, which brings millions of tourists and media followers around the world every year.
Black and white photo in 1950, taken by Aimo Tuomi
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