A view of Luostarinmäki, Turku, on 19 August 1912. Photo: Hj. Renvall, Turku City Museum's photographic collections.
Edge of town
Luostarinmäki is the only continuous district of wooden houses that escaped the Great Fire of 1827 and has survived into our time. The houses, still standing in their original building sites, are more than 200 years old. Luostarinmäki used to be on the edge of town, where land was cheaper and more affordable to the craftsmen of lesser means who oftentimes moved here from the countryside. Many still upkept rural forms of life, resembling subsistence economy.
After the fire a new town plan for Turku was drawn up highlighting fire safety, and the closely built wooden houses in Luostarinmäki were ordered to be pulled down. As a result, the district subsequently started to become rundown, and many of the homeowners moved away. The city of Turku eventually acquired the houses.
The houses and courtyards in Luostarinmäki illuminate a way of life in the 18th and 19th centuries. The very first inhabitants built small dwellings which were later extended and thus came to form a closed courtyard.
The courtyard was entered through a gate with a sign above it indicating the address of the house. Not all streets had names or the houses addresses before the fire of 1827. The only information as to which address you were in, was the name of the quarter and the number of the plot.
The kitchen-cum-living room was the heart of the home. It was where the family slept, ate and did crafts when they couldn’t work outside. Meals were prepared on an open fireplace, and rye bread was baked once or twice a year in the baking oven. The houses had small granaries and sheds for cows, goats and sheep.
As time went by the houses got new owners who repaired and rebuilt them. People wanted to keep up with the latest styles of the time, and so they planked their houses, enlarged their windows as well as painted and wallpapered their rooms. When the Luostarinmäki district was turned into museum grounds, the houses were restored to the style of the early 19th century.