Monday, May 9, 2011

A May 15th Celebration in Fairport - Finn Hollow and Tom Kastle

Finn Hollow or "alanko" is an interesting bit of history in Fairport Harbor.  On Sunday, May 15th at 2pm a celebration and concert will be held at the Fairport Harding High auditorium for the village residents and Lake County Community at large.  Sponsored jointly by the Fairport Harbor Historical Society, Finnish Heritage Museum, and Fairport Tourism Council, the ninety minute program will provide a brief overview of the mayoral designated village day (Finn Hollow) as well as a maritime concert by noted storyteller Tom Kastle.

The coming of the Finns to Ohio can be traced with some precision.  The first Finns, mostly from the Vaasa Province of western Finland entered northeast Ohio in 1872. 1868 letters from Aksel Sjoberg of Titusville, Pa. to his friends encouraged them "to try their luck" in the developing railroad and iron ore industries in America.  With the law of primogeniture prevailing in Finland, the voluntary migration began.  The first group of immigrants secured employment and followed the New Central Railroad lines to Chardon, Ohio.  A brief depression in the 1870's slowed NE Ohio immigration.  However, the 1880 development of the iron ore trade and a demand for shovelers at the Lake Erie ports of Ashtabula, Conneaut and Fairport signaled a new wave of Finnish workers.  Voluntary migration from the ice bound ports to Youngstown occurred too.  By 1886 the permanent establishment of the Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Dock facilities in Fairport led to a year-round return of many Finns to the area.  These Finns and those who had arrived to lay track in 1873 in Fairport under project foreman Charles Hilston led to a population numbering 200 plus.

Finn Hollow or "alanko" was the land once owned by the Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Dock Company.  It was the general site of 10 "Finn Hollow homes" built by the Finns.  Alex Sironen, Henry Hirvi, Jacob Rantilla and the other early homeowners built on land loaned on the condition that the P.L.E. Dock company could reclaim the property.  In the 1900's the land was reclaimed and the homes, built for a possible move, were in fact, relocated to Eagle, Fourth, fifth, high and Marine streets in the village.  Mayor Frank Sarosy designated May 15th as Finn Hollow Day and the Finnish Heritage Museum spearheaded a project to have plaques affixed to these historic homes.

As part of the May 15, 2011 celebration of this event, singer, songwriter, tall ship captain, and storyteller Tom Kastle will perform.  Tom combines his original songs and teller of tales abilities to share with his audiences Great Lakes maritime music.  This shanty singer is a licensed US Coast Guard captain who has traveled the U.S., Canada, the Pacific and beyond.  He is a recorded PBS artist and his performance at 2pm on May 15th will highlight another bit of local lore as you travel the roadways of Lake County's past.

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