How many towns have a place called Finn Hollow? Fairport Harbor does; here is its story.
In 1887, a group of 50 Finnish immigrants in Fairport, led by Charles Hilston, began work on the construction of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Docks. These dock workers got an offer from the company to build their homes on company land. Ten houses were built, all on posts, with six rooms and no basements. This area became known as Finn Hollow. When the docks were completed the men stayed and worked at unloading iron ore from the ships.
The land the homes occupied remained in possession of the dock company; and as the company needed more land, the houses were relocated. They were hoisted up on wheels and pulled by horses to the new locations. All but one. One family had defied the company and put a basement under their house. Today, that house is still in the same place where it was originally built.
At the September 14, 2015, meeting of the Finnish Heritage Museum, a short performance told the history of Finn Hollow. Narrator Suzanne Jokela (above) introduced some of the characters from Finn Hollow. And they were characters!
Alex Sironen, played by Hal Pelto (right), remembers shoveling ore by hand into a big wooden bucket, down in the ship’s hold. He and the other dock hands worked 15 hour days, six days a week, unloading the ore from the freighters one shovelful at a time. The pay was $1.50 a day. When the dock workers banded together to try to get shorter hours – only 10 hours a day, and more pay - $2.00 an hour, the governor sent in the militia.
There was no work on the frozen snow-covered docks in the winter so the men worked in the woods in nearby Auburn. A lumberjack, played by Chip Knox (below, left) told of earning $1.50 a day, cutting down the big trees.
At this time, there was even a shipwrecked sailor living on the beach in Fairport. Played by museum member Larry LaBounty (below, right), he told us of his life living in his shack at the end of Vine Street with his 20 bulldogs. No one messed with him! He peddled water to the village for $.25 a barrel, and even sold the sand used to make the foundations of the Finn Hollow homes as they were moved to their new locations.
FHM member Anne Kalliomaa Pohto (below, right), as Maria Valli Sironen, told about the life of a Finnish housewife and mother. She was definitely busy from morning to night. She had to cook all meals, get water from the outside faucet in Finn Hollow, bring in the milk and ice that were delivered to the home each day, make sure the children got the right groceries from the store, keep the floors swept clean, light the kerosene lamps every evening, weave clothes and rag rugs on her loom, wash the clothes using a washboard, then hang them to dry outside on the clothes line, and supervise the children in their school work and chores.
In 2007, through the efforts of Laura Malkamaki, proprietor of Finnish Treasures, the Finlandia Foundation made it possible to preserve the history and homes of Finn Hollow. Plaques were placed on each existing original Finn Hollow house, no matter where they had been moved. A sign was also placed in the 300 block of High Street, identifying the original location of Finn Hollow. Then Mayor Frank Sarosy dedicated the plaques and sign, and designated May 15th as Finn Hollow Day.
At the end of this superb program, Milli Honkala Laituri and Barbara Ollila provided refreshments. Lasse Hiltunen then called the business meeting of the Finnish Heritage Museum to order.
©story by Sharon Ojanpa Mackey, © pictures by Lasse Hiltunen 2015