Verla Groundwood and Board Mill
Verla Groundwood And Board Mill
Cultural Finland Europe And North America Municipalities Of Jaala And Valkeala, Region Of Kymenlaakso, Province Of Southern Finland

The Verla groundwood and board mill and its associated habitation are an outstanding and remarkably well-preserved example of the small-scale rural industrial settlement associated with pulp, paper and board production that flourished in northern Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries, of which only a handful survive

The 'Industrial Revolution' that reached the Kymi river valley in the first half of the 1870s is one of the most dramatic phenomena in the economic history of Finland. Over a very short time dozens of steam sawmills, groundwood mills and board mills were established, in many cases by foreign businessmen, especially from Norway and Germany. This process was encouraged by the favourable attitude of its Russian rulers towards the trading activities of the Grand Duchy created in 1809. The Kymi valley benefited in particular from the construction of timber-floating facilities and the introduction of cooperative floating, enabling logs from the virgin forests of central Finland to be brought to the processing facilities. At the same time a new social class of factory- and mill-workers emerged.

The first mill on the western bank of the Verlankoski Rapids was founded in 1872, but it encountered financial problems and closed down after a fire in 1876. A new, larger groundwood mill with adjoining board mills was built in 1882 by two master papermakers. A businessman of German descent from Viipuri, Friedrich Wilhelm Dippell, eventually became the major shareholder in the company. The new mill was again built entirely in wood, but set apart from the other buildings to minimize fire risk. The main section of the present owner's residence was completed in 1885, and the hostel for the workers in the following year (although most of the workers lived in cottages on either side of the rapids). When the board-drying section was destroyed by fire in 1892 it was replaced by an impressive ornamental building in red brick on four floors, designed by Carl Eduard Dippell, brother of the owner, who was also responsible for all the other main buildings that survive at Verla.

Although the Verla buildings are in the neo-Gothic style, which was already somewhat outmoded at the time of their construction, they were technically advanced for their time. For example, reinforced concrete floors, using the Hennebique technique only three years after it was patented, were installed in the groundwood mills.

The industrial installations, by contrast, were traditional and only slightly modified and updated between 1882 and 1920. Transport of finished products (principally to Russia, and later to Western Europe and the United States) was always an obstacle to. At first the groundwood had to be transported to a distant railway station by boat down a route with many rapids or in winter over the frozen river. When the railway was completed in 1889 the distance was reduced to 7 km, but transport by horse-drawn cart over poor roads remained a major problem. When Wilhelm Dippell died in 1906, Verla became a limited company, which was purchased by a small wood-processing company on the same waterway, which was in its turn bought two years later by the present-day Kymmene Corporation. Output gradually diminished in subsequent decades until it was closed down on 18 July 1964, when the last of the old workers retired. The Kymmene Corporation decided to preserve the entire Complex intact as an industrial heritage museum, just as it had been when the last worker left.

The prehistoric rock painting sited above the rapids on the Valkeala side depicts eight elks, three human figures and a geometric motif. They are considered to be some 6,000 years old, from the earliest period of Finnish rock art, the work of the Arctic Hunting Culture.