Finlandia's original name was "Suomi College," "Suomi" being the name of the people and their land. It was founded in the late 19th century, when the territory of Finland was still part of the Russian empire, and a very significant part of Finnish national identity was wrapped up with the religion of the people, that of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Today, a considerable portion of the Finnish-American population in the Upper Peninsula is still quite devout. (But not all.)
St. Matthew Chapel is a new addition to the Finlandia campus, having been completed only in the year 2000. It reflects the continuity of the Finnish Lutheran Church and its influence on this region.
Finlandia University is the only institution of higher education in the United States specifically tied to Finnish-American culture and ethnicity. For most of its history, it was primarily a two year Junior College, but in recent years it has begun to grant a number of four-year degrees as well. The small size of the University - only 550 students - might suggest that its finances would be somewhat precarious. But the Finns are famous for their "sisu" - roughly translated as "indomitable perseverence" - and I fully expect Finlandia to be around for some time to come.
From the historical marker out in front: "Suomi College was founded in 1896 by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The cornerstone of Old Main, the first building erected at Suomi College, was laid on May 30, 1898. Jacobsville sandstone, quarried at the Portage Entry of the Keweenaw waterway, was brought here by barge, cut and used to construct Old Main. Dedicated on January 21, 1900, it contained a dormitory, kitchen, laundry, classrooms, offices, library, chapel and lounge. The burgeoning college quickly outgrew this building, and in 1901 a frame structure, housing a gym, meeting hall and music center was erected on an adjacent lot. The frame building was demolished when Nikander Hall, named for Suomi's founder, J.K. Nikander, was constructed in 1939. The hall was designed by the architectural firm of Saarinen and Swanson."
[Yes, that's _the_ famous Saarinen, Eliel (father of Eero), who in the 1930s was living and working at the Cranbrook Academy, outside of Detroit.]
Like many other small towns, Hancock combines "City Hall" and the main fire station in one building. What a good example of Finnish practicality!
The building is justly on the Michigan Register of Historic Places: "The Marquette firm of Charlton, Gilbert and Dewar designed Hancock's Town Hall and Fire Hall. Completed in 1899, the building housed city offices, the fire department, and the marshall's office and jail. Built of Jacobsville sandstone with stepped and curved gables, it exhibits Richardsonian Romanesque, Dutch and Flemish influences." So says the historic placque out front!
You don't see too many reflective glass structures in the U.P., but Hancock has this interesting bank tower that dominates its stretch of Quincy Avenue.
Built in 1972, the building combines a glass tube with a copper cylindrical tower - copper being the resource that sparked the settlement and development of the entire area in the late 19th century.
The old Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church was a proud presence in Hancock for 8 decades, overlooking the community from its hillside location on Reservation Street.
The structure was dedicated in 1889, and housed religious services until 1966 when the congregation was merged with a nearby Swedish ELCA group.
Isn't it interesting that this most Finnish of towns in the Upper Peninsula is also home to its most attractive and interesting synagogue?
Hancock was a flourishing community at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, and as such had a small but significant Jewish population. They built Temple Jacob in 1912, employing the services of architect Henry Ottenheimer to design this interesting and eccentric Georgian-influenced box.
It's located on MI-26, just east of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.
Enjoy the natural beauty. Hike the Maasto Hiito ski trail in the summer and fall; ski it in the winter time. It's truly spectacular. The downhill ski run in Ripley (Mont Ripley) is okay. The view is lovely from the top. Hike the Michigan Technological University cross country ski trail in the summer and fall too, and it's fun to ski it in the winter as well. Do go and visit Maclain State Park on Lake Superior as well.
Fondest memory: What I like most about this place is the peace and quiet, the dense forests that surround it, and, of course, Lake Superior.