The history of the Svenska Klubben building
Restaurant Svenska Klubben’s festive halls, cabinets and club floor (3rd floor) are situated in a building, that engineer and businessman Ossian Donner built as his home for himself, his wife and their two children in 1901. Donner’s wife Violet Marion McHutchen was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland and thus scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer was selected as the designer for the house. His work resulted in a castle-like building. In Helsinki, construction work was supervised by architect Waldemar Aspelin. Before construction began, a smaller wooden house was demolished, that originally was owned by the famous Armfelt family. Maurinkatu (or Mauritzgatan in Swedish), on which the building stands, has also been named after Gustav Mauritz Armfelt. The street on the northern side of the building – Liisankatu (or Elisabetsgatan in Swedish) – is named after Russian Czaress (aka. Empress) Elisabet.
When the Donner family still lived in the house, the lower floor comprised the family’s dining room (Lilla Matsalen – or the small dining room), Ossian Donner’s study and the family’s library. The second floor included the family’s private areas and main hall and the third floor was reserved for the family’s staff. The staircase to the third floor didn’t exist – the staff used a separate staircase outside of the house, thus not walking through the family’s quarters on their way to and from their duties.
Engineer Donner purchased several pieces of art and architectural design objects from Scotland. These were shipped to Helsinki by ferries as the family were in the building process of their new home. Some of the most notable elements are the beautiful hearths of the first floor, the beautiful wooden panels and the very exclusive led glass windows with their Shakespearean motives, that can best be observed when ascending to the second floor.
The Donner family didn’t however live in the house for more than 17 years. It is commonly told, that Violet Marion Donner (née McHutchen) was forced to witness the execution of Russian officers right in front of their house by the military casern building. At that time the idea of moving back the British Isles arose. They finally moved to London in 1919, where Ossian Donner was to become the first ambassador for the new independent country of Finland. His son Patrik Donner later became a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons and was knighted in 1953.
As the family settled in England for good, they sold the building to the Swedish Club of Helsinki in 1932, that had been looking for a homestead for their activity for several years. Still today, the society Svenska Klubben ”Swedish Club” actively meets every Wednesday for a club evening with dinner and interesting programs. During the reign of Svenska Klubben, the house has been completed with several valuable art pieces, now visible to all the restaurants guests. Especially valuable and rare are for instance the clock at second floor outside Spegelsalen (or Mirror Hall), that was originally a present from Swedish queen Eleonora to her maid, baroness Emerentia von Dübin. Another valuable and still very useful artefact is the antique Steinway grand piano that is as old as the house itself. Besides these, the walls portray a wide selection of beautiful paintings and other art objects.
Today Svenska Klubben is well known not only for its different spaces but also as a festive venue for all kinds of celebrations and events. With our decades of service in the hospitality field, we guarantee a high standard of service and excellent flavours in a beautiful environment.
We want to wish everyone welcome to enjoy delicious food and a very unique atmosphere!
Restaurang Svenska Klubben
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