From Finland to Fort Bragg

The new history mural by Lauren Sinnott illustrates the rich heritage of the many Finnish immigrants to this coastal northern California town.

Located in Fort Bragg’s vibrant downtown, the mural is part of the city’s Alleyway Art Project. It contains portraits of real people, past and present, and images of the functional and often beautiful structures built by the Finnish families to house their activities and make it easy to get work done and have fun.

For example, the Finns built a huge hall (7,500 sq. ft.) in order to put on concerts, throw parties, present lectures and stage plays. Its name was Toveri Tupa, or Comrades’ Hall. But tupa translates as “cottage” so it meant something more like the Comrades’ cozy living room. After all, nobody had an actual living room that could receive several hundred guests.

See more on the halls page.

The Finns were the biggest immigrant group coming to and creating Fort Bragg. There was a large “Finn Town” in the eastern part of the city, as well as settlements on Pudding Creek, Tunnel Hill, and Noyo Hill. Also in Comptche, a bit farther away. These communities built their own halls and schools, often reached by crossing a walking bridge suspended over rivers.

There is a painted inscription running along the base of the mural painted in the manner of Medieval and Northern Early Renaissance art.

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It says:

“Finnish immigrants valued cooperation (footnote 1), social justice, & personal determination (footnote 2). They worked together for the common good & to build a self-sufficient town. Many supported unions and workers’ rights. And they brought the cleansing sauna, which makes bathing a social occasion.”

1. talkoot means work done as a group for the common good. 2. sisu is the very widely understood Finnish trait of calm determination in the face of adversity.

Click on the links below to see who is in the mural, the structures they built together, how writing can illuminate imagery, and the gift of the sauna.