The Luutsaari Fishing Cottage in Kuhmoinen

The fishing cottage located on the Southern tip of the Luutsaari island has served as the base for fishermen on Lake Isojärvi for as long as 180 years. The cottage was built by the eight houses in Kuhmoinen that were parties to the Ryysälä seinehold. Five of the houses, were located in the village of Kuhmoinen whereas three of them were situated by Lake Isojärvi. The roots of the current fishing cottage date back to year 1834. The year has been engraved both into the cottage door and the log above.

It was in October – November, when there was autumn chill in the air, that the houses of the seinehold sent their men to Lake Isojärvi for catching fish for the winter. The fish that they caught by seine net fishing was vendace (Coregonus Albula in Latin) which at that time of the year leave the deep waters of the lake to spawn in the shallow waters. Seining was strenuous and time-consuming and therefore it was performed by a seine gang. The seine was swept even for weeks and the seine men lived at the fishing cottage in the meanwhile. Seining always took place on the same customary places that provided good catch. The catch of vendace was divided even between the seine gang and the fish was gutted and cured in wooden containers. These containers could remain at the cottage for retrieval at a later date when weather conditions allowed sleigh riding.

After fishing, the seine net was spread out in the net shed for drying. Sometimes when the weather was freezing cold it was even taken into the cottage to prevent it from being frozen.

At later times, fishermen using fishing nets have used the cottage as their base. For removing the fish from the nets, the nets were spread out with the help of wooden poles, which were mounted into the receiving holes in the surrounding benches.

When you enter the fishing cottage, you are welcomed by the deep smell of impregnated smoke. It comes from the open hearth fire that is located by the corner of the door. Light shimmers into the cottage from two small, rustic square-pane windows, in earlier times the room was lit by a splinter light only.

The fishermen slept on a wide bed platform that had been built between the fireplace and the opposite wall. Each fisherman had his own place on the bed bunk. The portion of the bed was marked with the identifying symbol of the seinehold house carved into the log on the head end of the bed.

Also the wooden spoons that were stuck to the gaps in the log wall were marked with respective identifying symbols as well as the log chairs, carved from one single block of wood, which still remain from the old furniture. Responsibility for the maintenance of the seine net was divided between the parties so that each party was responsible for their share which was marked by bark floats bearing the respective identifying mark of the house.

The Ryysälä seinehold was fishing for vendace on Lake Isojärvi during the annual spawning period for at least 70 years. Once the activities of the seinehold came to an end, also the use of the fishermen’s cottage ended at the beginning of the 20th Century whereafter it was only in occasional use. The cottage and the seine shed on the shore fell into decay due to neglect. At the end of the 1950’s, the seine shed was relocated to the opposite headland, where it can still be found.

The fishing cottage woke up to a brand new era when Paavo Paloheimo ”discovered” the place. Paloheimo was the son-in-law of Pekka Halonen, the famous Finnish artist, who spent his summers in Kivikoski on Lake Isojärvi. Paloheimo thought that it was important to take care of the building and to restore old traditions, and he indeed managed to get the villagers enthusiastic about the project. The cottage was roofed, windows were fitted with square glass panes, the entrance vestibule got a floor, and the fireplace was rebuilt. Celebrations were also arranged for the 100th Anniversary of the cottage, and according to oral tradition, there sure was no lack of spirits...

After the enthusiasm of the 1930’s, the cottage received only minor attention. Reconstruction and renovation work was resumed in 1965, again at the initiative of Paloheimo and largely at his expense. Reino Lahtinen, Paloheimo’s trusted carpenter, was in charge of repair work, and the cottage was also furnished. In February 1968, an old boat house with a seiner was relocated to Pirttiniemi. Also two storehouses were acquired, one to serve as a toilet and the other as a shelter for firewood.

There were lots of ideas and overwhelming enthusiasm. The Supporters Association of the Luutsaari Fishing Cottage was founded in March 1969. The charter was signed by eight active advocates. A seal that was designed for the fishing cottage was engraved into the bedrock, and Paloheimo also wanted to have a ‘seita’ stone constructed on the cliffs by the shore to guarantee good catch of fish. Both the seal and the seita can still be seen.

The cottage was reroofed in 1970, and a vane indicating the year of construction was placed on the roof. In 2005, it was time again to renovate the wooden shingle roof, and the boathouse was roofed the next year.

The lot of the fishing cottage has always been owned by the State, and today it is part of Isojärvi National Park. The Supporters Association is responsible for the use of the cottage and its immediate surroundings. The Association works in close cooperation with Metsähallitus. The National Board of Antiquities and the Museum of Central Finland have provided expert assistance.

The Supporters Association has become an active, living extension of the Ryysälä seinehold – even seining has been revived.

In 2007, the Association was awarded an honorable mention by the Central Finland Regional Environment Centre for its commendable work for the cultural environment. In 2009, the Association received a certificate of honour granted by Hämeen Heimoliitto for its contribution to the preservation of cultural heritage and cultural landscape.

The process of making a short survey into the history of the fishing cottage was started in 2006. It was published in autumn 2009 to honor and celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Luutsaari Fishing Cottage and the 40th Anniversary of the Supporters Association.

Photos: Risto Ojala, Ahti Rytkönen, Veli Santomaa, Kirsti Salminen.

Translation to English Virpi Hartikka, 2010