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Kaukolanharju lookout tower

Municipality of Tammela

In 1924, the Finnish Tourist Association urged Finns to build observation towers in scenic areas. The influential people in Southwest Häme started to do everything. The opening of Tammela's Kaukolanharju lookout tower was celebrated in July 1926. In the festive speeches, it was hoped that the lookout tower would develop our sense of beauty as well as refine our inner man, and teach us to respect God, love our neighbors and our home region, and the whole country. The landscape from the observation tower inspired at least the artist Albert Edefelt, who painted one of the most famous Finnish landscape paintings ?Kaukolanharju at sunset?.

Municipality of Tammela

The Pearl of Southwest Häme

Finland's characteristic lake and forest landscapes have been admired throughout the millennia. Natural vantage points have been provided by ridges, hazards and rocks that have been climbed to admire the views. The oldest Finnish observation towers were built in the 19th century, but as tourism and leisure time grew, observation towers were erected to admire the landscape, especially in the early 20th century. 

In 1924, the Finnish Tourist Association urged cultural clubs to build lookout towers in scenic areas. The purpose of the lookout tower was to give people the opportunity to see the landscape from high up, as wide as possible and unobstructed. In young Finland, beautiful and rugged landscapes were thought to evoke lofty feelings, love of home and patriotism. On the other hand, visitors were also shown the beauty of the home region from the observation towers. 

Tourists have been admiring the scenery of Kaukolanharju since the 19th century at the latest, when especially the gentlemen of the neighboring Saare Manor brought their guests to the ridge. The inhabitants of Kaukola village have also passed through the ridge to the church village. An observation tower had been proposed for the site long before, but the actual construction began in 1926, when the Lounais-Hämeen Kotiseutu- ja Museoyhdistys, founded a few years earlier, took up the task, especially the association's secretary and local influencer Esko Aaltonen.

Talks, evenings and raffles were organized in the community to finance the lookout tower. The drawings of the tower were drawn up by master builder A. Nummi, who together with farmer Onni Jaakkola also oversaw the progress of the work. The association leased the land surrounding the tower from Victor Eugen de la Chapelle, the owner of the adjacent Saare manor. In the 1930s, the adjacent Saari People's Park area was also rented from the manor. 

Construction of the tower began in May 1926. A total of eight floors and a viewing platform were completed in the wooden tower. You could finally admire the landscape from a height of 21 meters, when it was decided to add a few meters to the original plan during the construction phase to improve the view. The first floor of the tower housed the kitchen, the janitor's closet and the hallway. A coffee room was found on the second floor and coffee tables were also placed on the balcony. An outbuilding and a liiter were built near the lookout tower.

The lookout tower immediately attracted interest, and already during the construction phase, there were a lot of curious visitors at the construction site. There were enough visitors even after completion, and over 6,000 paying customers visited the tower during the following year.

Opening atmosphere

The Kaukolanharju observation tower was inaugurated on July 4, 1926, while the tower was still somewhat unfinished. On the holiday, the tower was open from ten in the morning to ten in the evening. The opening celebration included celebratory speeches, songs, and poetry recitations. You could even get there by steamboat. 

Antto Laiho, chairman of the Kotiseutu and museum association, gave the welcome speech. In his speech, Laiho described the wooden observation tower as low and unsustainable, but reminded the listeners that it had also required considerable efforts and collective strength. 

However, the goals set in the speech for the lookout tower were not modest: the lookout tower was thought to develop the senses of beauty as well as refine our inner man. At the same time, Laiho hoped that the lookout tower would teach to respect God, to love one's neighbor and one's home region and the whole country.

Later stages of the lookout tower

During the Winter War, the tower was used for air surveillance, but after the war it returned to tourist use. Over the years, the tower has been renovated several times, and for example in 1953 the viewing balcony was renewed and a memorial stone to Albert Edelfelt was erected next to the observation tower.

In 1973, the observation tower had to be completely closed due to poor condition, and demolition was also proposed, before the municipality of Tammela took over the observation tower and carried out thorough repairs. Over the decades, the wooden board cladding was also damaged, and the observation tower was tinned in 1992, respecting the original appearance. Kaukolanharju observation tower is the oldest wooden observation tower still in use in Finland.

Over the decades, the observation tower has become a familiar place for many locals, first visited as a child on a class trip or with parents, and later wanted to return again and again.

Saare waltz was originally made for the opening of Soili Mahlasen's Saare lumo art exhibition in Tammela in 2009. Composition, lyrics, arrangement, vocals, harmony and video editing: Sanna Mansikkaniemi. Paintings on video: Soili Mahlanen.

Cover photo: Kanerva, T. Kaukolanharju lookout tower in Saari National Park. Museum Agency.

Photos: Forssa museum

Read more: Kaukolanharju in art

The landscapes of Kaukolanharju have inspired both local and visiting artists. The landscape has been immortalized by, for example, Magnus von Wright, Robert Wilhelm Ekman and, most famously, Albert Edelfelt.


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