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Info / History of Nurmes

History of Nurmes

The first permanent inhabitants arrived on the shores of Lake Pielinen at the beginning of the 16th century. Upon the signature of the Peace of Stolbova in 1617, the Nurmes area became part of the Swedish empire.

The Lutheran parish of Pielisjärvi was established in 1639 and its first centre and church was located in Nurmes, in the midst of this large district's Lutheran population. Some ten years later, the main church was transferred to Lieksa. Nurmes separated from Pielisjärvi and became an independent administrative parish and congregation in 1810.

The rural municipality of Nurmes included present-day Nurmes, Rautavaara and Valtimo, as well as parts of Juuka and Kuhmo. Nurmes originally covered an area of more than 4,100 square kilometres but has now shrunk to 60 percent of the original district.

The church village effectively became the centre of Nurmes in the early 19th century. Administrative personnel working for the crown, congregation and parish settled in the church village and main roads were built there: to Lieksa in the year 1800, to Kuopio in the 1820s, to Kajaani in 1831 and to Joensuu via Juuka in 1839. Waterborne traffic also improved considerably in the 1840s, when the clearing of the River Pielisjoki began.

A rural population centre arose around the vicarage and Tuupala; by the 1880s, this community consisted of 38 houses. In July 1891, a fast-spreading fire broke out in the bell tower of the church in Lapinsärkkä and destroyed the densely and chaotically built settlement. Only a few buildings were left intact, with the rest of the village being burnt to ashes. After the fire, the church village was named Porokylä (the ash village) and the village which existed before the fire was named Vanhakylä (the old village).

However, the fire did not deal a mortal blow to the village. Local builders still sufficed to build accommodation for the many people moving into the borough. But they had learned nothing from the fire and building continued in a haphazard manner. As a result, Porokylä redeveloped into a population centre similar to the one before the fire. Many craftsmen still lived in the village and the cooperative dairy and shop were located there. Industry expanded with the founding of tile factories in Pohjoispää and Laamila. The railway spur to Porokylä opened in 1929.

The civil authorities, jail, vicarage, elementary school, dairy and the shops, workshops, warehouses and cemetery of the rural municipality were located in Porokylä, which was built without an orderly plan. This chaotic layout led the provincial government to ban construction there in 1935, with an edict which remained in effect for almost 15 years. A building plan requiring orderly construction was not approved until December 1948. Construction has been more orderly since then.

In the 1850s, a new intermediate form of administration was created between the rural municipality and the town – the borough. According to the original plans of the 1860s, the borough was supposed to be established in the church village, but due to confusion over landownership it was centred in Mikonniemi, a few kilometres from the church village. The Senate approved the incorporation papers in December 1876. The borough was made part of the congregation of Nurmes and was jointly administered alongside the rural municipality until 1901.

The structural backbone of the borough was the town plan completed in 1879. True to the spirit of the time, it was a so-called empire grid based on fire safety and elegance. This was visible in the spacious and orderly manner of building, the broad streets and the planting of leafy trees. The plan was based on a design by Ferdinand Öhman and supervised by Julius Baselier. The first lots were sold in summer 1880, but construction was slow to begin. Building was then expedited by a fire in the church village.

The first houses were built around the market place. Another popular area was the Porokylä side of the borough, where the lots were cheaper. Prior to the First World War, the borough erected public buildings on lots specifically reserved for them in the plan. Thus a church, two schools, a borough hall and prayer house were built. The railroad station area was completed in 1911.

The construction of Kirkkokatu road began in the summer of 1881. Raatihuoneenkatu served as a field for lot owners for its first decade in existence, but was soon opened as an important route to Porokylä. Nurmeksenkatu, which ran lengthwise alongside Lake Nurmesjärvi, was opened in the latter half of the 1890s. The borough market place was a potato field until 1910.

The population structure of the boroughs and towns differed from those of the surrounding countryside, since their population base consisted of wealthy merchants, civil servants and craftsmen. There was little industry in the borough to begin with. For a long time, the liquor distillery and the bobbin factory were the only industrial plants – only with the founding of the sawmill did a significant amount of industry come to the borough. The borough built its own electric plant in 1917.

In the 1930s, the borough began to grow vigorously when the economic boom created favourable conditions for trade and industry. Construction increased dramatically in the late 1940s. More space was acquired by amending the town plan: lots were sub-divided, building efficiency increased and recreation areas were used for construction.

Social development in Finland was rapid after the Second World War. Migration from the countryside to the towns increased radically, while the duties of the state and the municipality multiplied. In small municipalities, the economic and population base was insufficient to carry out these tasks. This was also the case in Nurmes.

Merging the rural municipality of Nurmes with the borough of Nurmes was first discussed in the 1950s, when some citizens of Porokylä suggested adding the village to the borough. This suggestion gained support in the borough, but the rural municipality opposed the idea: in practice, the project would have marked an end to the rural municipality's viability. The project was also rejected by the state administration. In 1952, the areas outside the borough's population centres were annexed to the rural municipality, despite protests made on economic grounds.

In the 1970s, general opinion within the borough also shifted in favour of the merger. A change in the system of government aid and the comprehensive school reform provided the final stimulus for the merger, since it relieved the economic burdens associated with it. The final negotiations were held in autumn 1971.Two parallel municipal organisations were viewed as an obstacle to the development of Nurmes. A petition in favour of the municipal merger was submitted to the Ministry of the Interior in January 1972. The government quickly responded and the rural municipality merged with the borough at the beginning of 1973. The borough became a town on 1 January 1974.