1965 – The last night at Kämp

After several decades the hotel had been through the best and worst times in Finnish history and started aging rapidly. In 1961 Kansallis-Osake-Pankki announced that they would be interested in building a modern office building in Hotel Kämp's place. A people’s movement rose against the demolition of the Hotel and this event became a never before seen national controversy. Notice was served, more than once, on terminating the lease on the existing hotel and restaurant premises, but Kämp remained open for business right through to the early months of 1965. The leasehold agreement was finally wound up in February of that year, and Kämp's last hurrah was celebrated on March 31st, 1965. Even in its death-throes, the luxury hotel maintained its allure. The foyer area had been converted into a restaurant, and the whole place was so jampacked with people that it was standing-room only. There was a constant line snaking out to the street, and young patrons attempted to barge their way into the bar for one final drink. The main stairway was thronged with people going up and down, many members of the staff and downcast regular customers were giving non-stop interviews to the press. The elegant maître d'hôtel Baron Wladimir Mensbier posed for pictures in the company of familiar guests of the restaurant, and sighed that for the first time ever he would be able "to take a good long summer vacation". Many touching memories were written down on that last evening, with a very present sense of parting and loss in the air. 

But there was also hope: talk turned to preparations for the opening of a new, smaller Kämp in a couple of years' time. Some of the furniture and the restaurant tableware had been put into storage, whilst other items were auctioned off on site. The well-known Helsinki cultural personality Aarni Krohn, one of those in the vanguard of the campaign to save Kämp, had this to say about the mood of that last evening:

"Kämp's last waltz was a wistful one. The party had been preceded by an auction in the house, but I had managed to cut in early and had bought the lovely old double escritoire from the anteroom off the lobby; the one that had two places to sit and write, divided by a wooden panel. I have it at home. The occasion was held on the eve of April Fools', and it went on into the early hours of the morning. There was singing; an orchestra played tunes from the turn of the century and [writer and essayist] Matti Kurjensaari was going round marking down impressions in his memory, of the people and the place, and the general mood was one of poignant farewells. Many bought boxes of the familiar blue-labelled Kämp matches as a last souvenir. And in the foyer, a small string orchestra played Musette from Sibelius's incidental music to Adolf Paul's play Kung Kristian II: I'm going off to Kämp again, Kämp again, Kämp again... '* Everyone was quite sure Kämp would open up again.”

Hotel & Restaurant Museum, Helsinki: Collected Recollections, 1981

The new office building was completed in 1969 and the KOP head office was located there until 1997. In 1999 the Hotel, much to the delight of the people of Helsinki, was reinstated and brought back to life.

The stories are compiled from Laura Kolbe's book Kämp – The Hotel and Its City (2015). Get your own copy at the hotel reception.