Living conditions in the workers’ district Kallio were quite austere in the early 20th century. Families lived in crowded one-room flats and often had lodgers as well. Often, both parents were at work, and the children stayed home alone during the day.

The need for daycare became obvious at an early stage. Daycare for children was pioneered in Helsinki by Hanna Rothman, who trained as kindergarten teacher in Berlin in the early 1880s following the Pestalozzi method. She founded the first free kindergarten in the Nordic countries for working-class children in Helsinki in 1888. The kindergarten got a house of it’s own 20 years later.

The Ebeneser building borrows its name from the Bible. Although large, it has a pavilion-like feel. The main façade is framed by raised corners with a gently bending eaves line. On the top floor, under the eaves, are ornamental areas made with embedded stones that depict children at play – a fitting emblem for the kindergarten whose educational ideals placed a high value on play. The upper floors of the building house teaching facilities where kindergarten teachers were trained.

Today, the Ebeneser building is once again in its original use as a daycare centre, and it also hosts the Kindergarten Museum.

Source: Art Nouveau in Helsinki – Architectural guide (Helsinki City Museum)

Location

Harjukatu 1, Helsinki
60.1876914, 24.9580851

Images

The building photographed from Harjukatu, Ebeneser Kindergarten
The building photographed from Harjukatu, Ebeneser Kindergarten (© Matti Similä / HKM)
A detail of the façade, Ebeneser Kindergarten
A detail of the façade, Ebeneser Kindergarten (© Matti Similä / HKM)
A detail of the façade, Ebeneser Kindergarten
A detail of the façade, Ebeneser Kindergarten (© Matti Similä / HKM)
Ebeneser Kindergarten in 1908, Ebeneser Kindergarten
Ebeneser Kindergarten in 1908, Ebeneser Kindergarten (© Ebeneser Foundation)
The children and kindergarten teachers of Ebeneser photographed in 1925, Ebeneser Kindergarten
The children and kindergarten teachers of Ebeneser photographed in 1925, Ebeneser Kindergarten (© HKM)