In 1558 a merchant from Porvoo, Per Jönsson, received the Tullisaari (Turholm) Estate in what is today the Laajasalo district of Helsinki from King Gustav Vasa as payment. In 1687 the estate became a captain’s official residence. The captain’s quarters that were built in the late 1600s were among the first buildings in Finland to feature glass windows. This building was demolished most probably in the early 20th century.
The main building of Tullisaari Manor was probably built by Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Fredrik Virgin in 1795 and burnt down in the 1950s. In 1838 Commercial Councillor Henrik Borgström acquired the lease to the manor from the Tsar and later purchased it outright. Borgström spent summers with his family at Tullisaari from 1838 onwards.
Commercial Councillor Henrik Borgström (1799-1883) played an important role in business and cultural life in Finland. In 1834 he established a cigarette factory on the corner of Meritullinkatu and Pohjoisranta, where the original buildings can still be admired. Borgström was a patron of the arts and culture, and his homes in town and at Tullisaari became important gathering places for Helsinki’s writers and artists.
Borgström was also a friend and supporter of the great Finnish statesman J. V. Snellman. He was active in the Finska Konstföreningen and served as chairman of the konstnärsgillet. Kaivopuisto Park was created by him in the 1830s. He also turned the Eläintarha municipal gardens into a park, which he donated to the city in 1877. Henrik and Carolina Borgström had 11 children. Borgström built villas at Tullisaari near the main building for three of his children. These were designed by Borgström’s son-in-law Theodor Decker. One of the buildings, Leonard’s villa, was demolished in the 1960s. Adele Decker’s villa is privately owned. The third villa, which was built for Borgström’s daughter Emilie af Lindfors in 1877, became the home of world famous soprano Aino Ackté.
Although Villa Aino Ackté transferred to the City of Helsinki’s ownership in 1929, Aino Ackté continued to live in the house until her death in 1944. Thereafter the villa remained empty. At the end of the 1970s plans were drawn up to situate the Helsinki Summer Theatre at Tullisaari, but this created a lot of opposition among locals in Laajasalo. Historical research carried out as part of the theatre project demonstrated that Villa Aino Ackté should be a protected property due to its unique value. Local residents then proposed that the building be renovated for use as a cultural centre.
The final inspiration came in 1985, when three local residents submitted a proposal on Aino’s nameday to renovate the building for use as a chamber music venue. The city subsequently made the decision to renovate the building in 1986, and work began in December 1987. In early 1988 the building was handed over to the Helsinki City Cultural Office.
Tullisaari is situated along the rocky shores at the northern end of the Laajasalo district. The history of the estate goes back to the 16th century. The main building that was built in the 18th century was destroyed by far in 1958, and of the three villas that were built in the late 19th century, only Villa Aino Ackté and Villa Decker remain.
Tullisaari park stretches along the shores of two headlands. The western headland is forested, while the eastern headland is covered by a large landscaped park that was created in the 19th century. The park features many valuable trees, including fine oaks, thick-barked birches, Finland’s thickest recorded black alder, forest linden and park linden.
A walking path stretches along the shore with vantage points along the way. A large agricultural garden was once located on the eastern headland, and you can still find a pea bush, a lilac bush and berry bushes.
The park covers a total area of 46 hectares, approximately half of which consists of landscaped gardens.
The plan of the park area was confirmed in 1999, and the area has been declared a protected area of high cultural historic, gardening and landscaping value. Part of the park was also declared a recreational area. Tullisaari represents an important Finnish cultural historic environment.
The park was created by Commercial Councillor Henrik Borgström (1799-1883). Deciduous trees and bushes were planted, giving the park its lush appearance. Romantic vantage points were created along twisting paths, but Borgström’s main objective was to highlight the area’s own natural surroundings and environment.
The Helsinki City Public Works Department renovated Tullisaari Park between 2000 and 2004, before which the park had not been extensively maintained for decades. The aim of the restoration work was to highlight the unique characteristics of Tullisaari, in particular the careful placement of four villas within the park. At the same time efforts were made to restore the area’s park-like nature, landscaping and views. The network of paths was uncovered, and the seascape was enhanced by dredging Tullisaari Bay. Curved bridges have been reconstructed over ditches based on photographic records from the early 20th century. Only some of the original flowerbeds have been replanted. Other historical characteristics of the park have also been preserved, such as a chalk quarry dating back to the 1550s that is now filled with water. To enhance the recreational use of the park, a pier for ferries has been built, along with a grilling area, camping area and sports field.
Future projects include restoring the gardens around Leonard Borgström’s villa and possibly reconstructing a lookout tower on the western headland.
Visiting address: Tullisaaren ulkoilupuisto, Laajasalo, 00840 Helsinki