The site at Cygnaksenkatu 2 is the sole remaining example of an artisan’s home and courtyard, from a time when the buildings of downtown Jyväskylä were predominantly made of wood. Artisanship has been an integral part of the rich history of the site.
Founded in 1837, the town plan of Jyväskylä was plotted out on a grid, according to the fashion of the day. There were 143 lots marked out. In 1838, among the first of the lots to be sold, was lot number 111, which is the lot where Toivola Old Courtyard located.
Originally from Heinola, dyer Anders Nygrèn bought the lot at auction for 50 rubles in 1838, and erected a two room building to house an artisan and family. The dyer moved away from Jyväskylä upon completion of the building in 1840.
As the result of a change of ownership, the lot received somewhat more permanent residents in 1844 when carpenter Anders Gustaf Sparvin, his wife Maria, and their three children moved into the house.
Eventually ownership of the lot transferred to their son, Johan Sparvin. As his family grew, new construction was begun. At first, a three-room log building was put up on the lower edge of the property. A few years later in 1863, a small log structure was built in the center of the lot.
A major change in the layout of the lot occurred in 1881, when a lumber shop, complete with sales room, warehouse, and stable was built along Läntinen poikkikatu (nowadays Cygnaeuksenkatu). It was built as an extension of the small residential dwelling that was already there. This expansion helped strengthen Johan Sparvin’s position as a merchant.
In addition to his construction projects, merchant-skipper Johan Sparvin also provided housing for his relatives, as well as for tenants. One of them was Herman Toivola, the foreman of the Seminary, who moved to the property in 1880. In 1885 he married Maria, the daughter of Johan Sparvin. Within a year she had died, three days after giving birth to a son.
Herman Toivola and his son Muisto remained under the same roof as his in-laws. He left his job at the Seminary and in 1890, built a new residential dwelling as well as a blacksmith’s forge. Three years later, blacksmith Herman Toivola married Matilda Eskolinen.
Herman Toivola’s blacksmith business did well. Toivola’s workshop produced machinery, machine parts, pumps, and fire extinguishers. The workshop employed journeymen, coppersmiths, and lathe operators. Many of them lived on the property and brought new blood to the young municipality of Jyväskylä. After acquiring the property for him, the town’s residents began to refer to Toivola as “the manufacturer”.
In 1897 the Sparvin lumber shop was replaced by a larger building which had two residential apartments upstairs. An apartment, two kitchens, a laundry room, and a storefront were located at street level. In addition to the construction, shrubs and trees were planted in the yard. The property was now a typical urban artisans’ residence, which included both the home and the workplace. The development on the property provided some relief to the growing housing shortage in the city and also provided the owner with extra income.
In 1899 a private maternity hospital was established on the property. The previous maternity hospital, which was located at Kauppakatu 31, was destroyed by fire the same year. Herman Toivola, both a dedicated volunteer firefighter and advocate for the residents of Jyväskylä provided space for the maternity hospital in his recently completed building. The staff of the hospital was also provided with on-site housing. The day to day workings of both the hospital and the workshop were made easier when electricity was installed in 1903. The property was connected to the city water supply in 1910. The maternity hospital was in active use until 1919.
The coppersmith’s house and the cabinetmaker’s house, which were relocated from the Museum of Central Finland, are the oldest remaining wooden residences in Jyväskylä. They have had museum status since the mid 1950s. They are rare examples of wooden construction from the Jyväskylä of the 1800s.
After numerous changes of ownership, the lot on the corner of Cygnaeuksenkatu and Hannikaisenkatu has been fortunately preserved as a whole. The stories, traditions, and activities of Toivola Old Courtyard come together, bringing the past to life in the modern world.