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History of the Finnish people in South Florida

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Finns traveled twice to Finland in 1962-1964 as a group. Picture: Lake Worth Beach Historical Museum

A brief overview of Finns in South Florida

On February 24th Finlandia House’s president Sirpa Aho gave an interesting presentation about the history of the Finnish people in Florida. Below is a summary of the very diverse developments in favour of Finnish clubs in South Florida.

Finns came to South Florida in 1935, and Finland House was known then as the Finnish Club. However, the Finnish tourist club’s birthday is marked as 1/22/1944. They changed the name at the same time.

The Finland tourist club bought a lot from Mr and Mrs Heinonen in Lantana and “Haali” was built in three weeks and opened in February 17th 1948. Shortly thereafter the Finnish tourist club changed its name to the American-Finnish tourist club. In 1955, the American Finnish Tourist club expanded the building and the big hall was built.

The same year 1944 the Finnish Workers Educational Club was founded (which later changed into the current Clubhouse).

Finnish Workers Educational Club bought a lot from Mr and Mrs Lehto west of Lake Worth on October 12th 1945 and started building the kitchen shed and outer building. They opened the building on April 7th 1946 and named it as Kenttähaali.

Three years later they decided to build a proper hall between the kitchen and the outer building. Opening ceremonies were held on March 12th 1949. In 1955 they also extended the small hall to a large hall.

Gymnastics Köntys in Club House. The group was founded in 1950. The group were exercising during the 1950’s until 1970 when the gymnasts felt that they are too old to do gymnastics and ended their activities. Photo: Lake Worth Historical Museum

Kenttähaali 1955 Picture: Lake Worth Historical Museum

In 1950, the Finnish honorary consulate was founded in Lantana. In 1953 St Andrews Lutheran Church was founded and in 1954 Finlandia Foundation Florida Chapter opened (FFFC).

In 1950 the first choir was established in FWE Club and it ended in 1971 when the choir leader quit. On the best years there were 56 singers.

FWE Club Choir in 1950’s. Picture: Lake Worth Beach Historical Museum
FWE Club Choir in 1970. Picture: Lake Worth Beach Historical Museum

In the 1960’s life became more intense and new communities and associations were established in the South Florida area:

In 1966 the Group Karelian in Florida was founded, In 1967 The Finnish War veterans of Florida was established, In 1969 the Pentacostal Church (Kotikirkko)was founded, In 1969 Florida Male Singers, and in 1974 the Finnish Rest Home. In 1975 the Florida Nordic Club and in same, year Rest Homes friends group was established. In 1979 the Sports Club North Star where gymnastics and various sports, including table tennis, were practiced, was founded.

The 1980 English lessons were taught at both Clubhouses.  Language school INC was established in 2000. Around the 1980’s they established a dance group the Katrilles, (1991 the dance Group Katrilles INC.)

Both clubs get together in Bryant Park yearly for celebrations. This started in 1983 and a lot of Finnish business owners and other groups enjoyed them. It was stopped later but started again in 2017.

1992 The Tourist Club’s old Haali was demolished and a new two-story building came to the site, which was renamed SUOMI TALO-FINLAND HOUSE.

Finland House today 2019

On Finland’s Independence Day December 6th 2001 W Central Blvd.’s name was changed to Finlandia Blvd in Lantana.

In 1996 KenttäHaali changed it’s name to the CLUBHOUSE and the Finnish Educational Club was changed to the  American Finnish Club.

Kerhotalo today with Folkdance group Kattrilies

In 2009, the Chamber of Commerce was founded FACC.

Since 2017, the three-day Midnight Sun Festival is held in Bryant Park, Lake Worth Beach, where people come from Finland, Canada and around the US to celebrate Finnish culture, food, activities etc. Many Finnish companies and organizations are represented.

Wife currying content in Bryan Park 2019

More Finnish history is available at the Finland House Library and archive, the Clubhouse and the Historic Museum of Lake Worth Beach, where you will also find a lot of history about how the Finns settled in the Palm Beach County area, and there is also a private room that displays Finnish history in the region. The historical images in this article are from the Historical Museum. Thanks to Historian Helen Vogt Greene from Lake Worth Historical Museum for your presentation, material and historical pictures of Finns.