Isopuisto Park

History

After the second naval battle of Ruotsinsalmi in 1790, Catherine II, Empress of Russia, ordered that the present area of Kotkansaari be fortified. Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich conducted an inspection at the Ruotsinsalmi construction site in 1795. The cornerstone of the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas was laid during his visit. He also commissioned the planting of common silver fir trees in the vicinity of the church and cemetery. The park formed around the church, which was completed in 1801, was first referred to as Konstantininpuisto Park.

During the Crimean War (1854–1856), the British troops destroyed almost all buildings in the Ruotsinsalmi fortress town. The only buildings that survived were the church of St Nicholas, a couple of gunpowder rooms and a few wooden buildings.

From the 1860s onwards, industrial facilities took over one area after another. The area of the present Isopuisto Park was harnessed for the needs of the sawmill industry. Almost all the vegetation was felled, and the area was levelled to serve as a lumber yard and residential area. In the late 19th century, there were as many as 19 sawmills in the area of the estuary of the Kymijoki river.

The systematic renovation of the park commenced in 1888 under the Gardener A.F. Rydberg. No actual plan was drawn up, but the work was carried out on the basis of the existing pathways in the area. The English-style landscape park was completed two years later at a cost of 11,000 markkas, with the present value being approx. 45,000 euros.

A volunteer fire brigade house was built at the Ruotsinsalmenkatu side of the park in 1889. The building also once served as the first theatre house in Kotka.

A kiosk was erected in the park in the summer of 1892, and a couple of years later a bandstand for performances by the local brass band. The first electric lights were installed in the park in 1897.

In the early 20th century, the park served as a sort of social divide. The bourgeoisie living in the centre of the town came to the park for refreshment and public appearance, whilst workers living close by came to escape their confined housing conditions. Licensed restaurants were only intended for gentlefolk, and drinking in public places was banned. However, the coexistence did not go entirely without problems. A park guard was hired for the park, and he had the right to give orders to people and to report them to the authorities.

Since 1914 the park has been referred to as Isopuisto according to archived documents.

War times were bleak for parks, too. Air raids and the hard cold winters left their impressions on the park. All possible areas suitable for cultivation were made available to the townspeople so that they could grow useful plants. The last potato crop was harvested from the Isopuisto Park in 1949.

The growth in population after the war resulted in a great shortage of housing in Kotka. The first apartment building had been built in the south-eastern part of the Isopuisto Park in 1938. Immediately after the war, four other blocks of flats were built beside Gutzeitintie, Merikatu and Ruotsinsalmenkatu.

In the 1960s, substantial repairs, by the standards of that time, were carried out in the park. According to the plan of the Garden Architect Onni Savonlahti, a mountain stream, playground, ball field, miniature golf course and paddling pool were built within the park. The lighting was renewed and the pathways were restored.

The park was renovated again in the 1980s, starting with the thorough improvement of the paths. Some of the trees were replaced in the 1990s. The entire lighting of the park was modernised at the turn of the millennium. A large flowerbed was placed between the church and the volunteer fire brigade house in 2003.

Statues and memorials in the park

A statue of the physicist A.S. Popov (1859-1905) is located at the corner of Papinkatu and Itäkatu. A radio transmitter devised by Popov was used for the first radio communications in Finland, between the islands of Kuutsalo and Suursaari in 1900. The statue was designed by D.B. Rjabitsthev in 1970.

The foreground of the Orthodox church houses the statue of Maria Purpur. Story has it that this very aged colonel’s widow was stubborn enough to save the church from destruction during the Crimean War in 1855. The statue was designed by the Estonian artist Juta Eskelin in 1999.

A memorial to the local regiment JR 45 in the Continuation War is located at the corner of Ruotsinsalmenkatu and Papinkatu. The memorial was designed by the Town Architect Lauri Heinänen in 1971.