Early history of the plot

The western end of Aleksanterinkatu started to take shape in the 1830s when the land in the Kluuvi district was dried and the city plan created by Ehrenström was extended. Intendant Carl Ludvig Engel created the plans to redesign the layout of the streets and city blocks in 1837–38. Block 96 ended up being rather large compared to the traditional square block structure of the city. This was because the western and eastern Heikinkatu streets that ran diagonally in the street network of downtown Helsinki ran along one side of the block. The tip of the north east corner of the block was also cut off by a small square that surrounded the well in Kluuvi. Aleksanterinkatu had already been the most important trade street in the city for some time. But the plots along the street became even more valuable when Aleksanterinkatu was connected to Helsinki’s western exit road. New plots went on sale immediately, and the first buildings in the area were built at the beginning of the 1840s. Most of the buildings were wooden, which was probably due to the damp history of the area.

Master tinsmith L. F. Graeffe purchased the Aleksanterinkatu 21 plot from the City of Helsinki in 1845, and the drawings for the building on the plot were finalized that same year. Graeffe initially constructed just one building, the smaller of the two residential street-side buildings shown in the drawing. In 1860, the larger residential building and outbuildings had been completed according to the original plan. New street-side notched-log building of pine and spruce contained eight rooms with tiled stoves and French wallpaper, two heated hallways, two kitchens, two storage rooms and two hallways, and two exterior staircases with porches. The roof was naturally made of tin. There was no paneling on the building at this stage.

In 1897, Julius Tallberg purchased the Aleksanterinkatu 21 property from Graeffe’s heirs. After gaining possession of the Aleksanterinkatu 21 plot, he commissioned his partner and friend Elia Heikel to draw up construction plans. Stefan Michailow from Turku created the facade drawings. In Oy Julius Tallberg Ab’s archives there is an old sepia photograph of a building that, on the surface, looks like the business palace on Aleksanterinkatu when it was newly built. But, by taking a closer look, we can see that the photo is not from Finland, and the text on the back says it was taken in Glasgow, Scotland. How Julius Tallberg ended up with this photo remains a mystery.

The facade architecture of the five-story Tallberg business palace, as it was known back then, is based on the large display windows at street level. This creates the impression that the four stories above are floating on the delicate glass panes. This was completely new in Finnish architecture at the turn of the century, and those educated in classical architecture could not understand this kind of thinking that was based on the inner structure of the building. The structure of the three middle floors is dominated by a series of strongly sculptural arcades that are adorned with rich relief decorations. Julius Tallberg evidently ordered sculpture decorations for the building from his friend Robert Stigell. The relief themes on the main facade are repeated. Smithery and Architecture on the left, and Shipping and Agriculture above. In 1888, Stigell had sculpted the Ilmarinen and Väinämöinen figures of the Student House, which were cast in concrete just like the reliefs on the Tallberg building. He used allegorical characters on another commercial building on Aleksanterinkatu, the Lundqvist building at Aleksanterinkatu 13, which was completed in 1901. The statuesque sculptures on this building depict Spinning and Hunting. The muscular Atlas figures on insurance company Kaleva’s building in Erottaja from 1889 are sculpted by Stigell.