Museums in Ostrobothnia

KWH Corporation Museum and Keppo Mansion

Did you know...
Wiik & Höglund was the first company in Finland to manufacture styrofoam in the 1960s

KWH was one of the first companies to bring plastic to Finland in the 1950s. Their product development history is displayed in the museum and at the same time a survival story of a sort. The intriguing photographs and various products and objects illuminate, how a firm has to adjust in line with the zeitgeist and develop in order to keep up to date.

KWH originated in 1929, when Emil Höglund and Edvin Wiik started a lumberyard together. They traded in round lumber: props and paper wood. The corporation expanded, and in 1939 Wiik & Höglund was Finland’s largest export company in lumber. The most important and decisive investment for the future was made in 1951 when the company devolved into the plastics industry. The corporation continued to develop larger and larger plastic pipes thus gaining international reputation as an expert on large pipes. In addition to plastic pipes the company produced floor tiles, styrofoam (styrox) and folio films.

Emil Höglund was also interested in fur farming and founded a small mink farm in the 1930s. In the stewardship of Keppo Ab the farm company developed into the largest mink and fox farm in the world. The activity was complemented with fodder sales to fur farms in the 1980s, and furs were produced until 1992. The company also expanded to other branches, e.g. the baize factory of Oravais (Oravaisten Verkatehdas Oy) and the grinder supply factory Mirka. In 1984 Keppo bought all of Wiik & Höglund’s shares, and the KWH corporation was born.

The museum offers an overview of the corporate life and how KWH has abandoned unprofitable branches and experimented with new ones. Nowadays the corporation consists of KWH Pipe producing pipelines, KWH Mirka producing grinder supplies, KWH Logistic focusing on stevedoring and storing, and KWH Invest producing plastic packaging material and water-sealed joints.
In the museum have been collected stories and products from these diverse lines of business. Among the pearls of the museum can be mentioned a black-and-white spotted fur coat made of so called jaguar mink. The fashion house Christian Dior caused a sensation by manufacturing a piece of fur clothing from such type of mink for Sophia Loren. In the exhibition space can be seen everything from rain clothes and office supplies to furniture and large plastic pipes. In the extensive photograph exhibition are photographs depicting timber rafting, fur farming, a trade fair displaying the largest plastic pipes in the world and dockers working in the harbour.

The museum building was initially constructed in the 1920s as the apartments of the Keppo estate labourers. The Keppo estate was one of the few mansions in Ostrobothnia. During the years 1930-1942 the apartments were used as the student dormitory of the Christian folk high school. The Christian folk high school owned the Keppo estate at that time. In the 1950s the estate was purchased by Emil Höglund and Karl-Johan Tidström, and the workers of the new mink farm deployed the apartments.

The Keppo Mansion

The Keppo Mansion is one of the few mansions in Ostrobothnia. It has for centuries been characterized by minor-scale industrial activities.The base of the activities has been access to hydropower from the Keppo rapids in the Nykarleby river. The availability of hydropower and the proximity of a timber forest combined with the relatively close shipping port in Nykarleby resulted in the first fine blade water sawmill at the Ostrobothnia rapids around 1739. The builder was alderman Samuel Lithovius from Nykarleby.

The sawmill was developed during the time of the owner Johan Bladh the younger (1762-1783). At this time a tobacco plantation, a spinning mill, pitchworks and a linen/cotton/textile mill were set up. The year 1786 was a turning point for the family, as merchant Bengt Magnus Björkman from Stockholm bought the Keppo sawmill. His son Lars Magnus Björkman owned Keppo until 1829, when the sawmill was sold to Gustaf Adolf Lindqvist, a merchant and shipowner from Nykarleby.

Lindqvist sold the mansion and industrial establishment to Carl Otto von Essen, a bookkeeper at the Kimo mill. None of the above-mentioned owners had lived at the farm. Otto von Essen, however, broke this tradition and moved to the residental building, which was in disrepair. The building was situated on a hill, close to the industrial buildings, about 200 meters north of the present mansion.
In 1869 the old Keppo Mansion, the saw and other buildings were burnt down to the ground. The saw was immediately rebuilt. The main building was not rebuilt at site. Instead, another smaller building, which was situated where the Keppo Mansion now lies, was enlarged in length and width. The frame of today’s Keppo Mansion originates from the end of the 1860s.

During the time of Otto von Essen the sawmill experienced its boom. Peter Malm Junior from Jakobstad, a well-known shipowner and industrialist, became a corporate member at the sawmill in 1840. Mr Malm financed the sawmill and sold the finished products. Von Essen was a saw inspector and bought timber. His brother-in-law, Johan Vilhelm Snellman, lived at the Keppo Mansion in 1839 and even worked as a temporary saw inspector when Otto von Essen was unwell. In 1876 the entire sawmill was taken over by the company Peter Malm Jr. A fire in 1893 confirmed the destiny of the sawmill. Since the fire there has been no working sawmill at the Keppo rapids.

A windmill was constructed opposite the sawmill in 1831. In 1851 an oil pressing plant was set up for the manufacture of linseed and hemp oil. This mill was destroyed by a fire in 1880 and was not rebuilt.

The family von Essen owned the Keppo Mansion until 1899, when factory owner Hugo Grönlund was recorded as the new owner. In the autumn of 1900 “Hugo Grönlund’s Wool Spinning Mill“ started its operation in a newly-built two-storey factory building on the site of the old sawmill. In April 1909 a fire broke out again and the factory burned down. The operation was transferred to Seinäjoki.
Before the fire the agricultural land and forest were sold to the company Wilhelm Schauman Ab in Jakobstad in 1906. After Viktor Schauman had purchased the Keppo Mansion in 1918, the renovation of the farm, the house and the outbuildings began. Viktor and Ragni Schauman resided at the mansion until 1930, when they were obliged to sell Keppo.

The main building now became a school building for The Evangelical High School, which was owned by the guarantee association during the years 1930-1942. After a period as army accommodation during the war the house, which was in disrepair, was taken into use by the former owners. The Viktor Schauman family lived at the mansion until 1954, when Emil Höglund and Karl-Johan Tidström bought the mansion with its property on behalf of the newly established company Keppo Ltd.

A mink farm was set up. In 1962 the farm was the biggest in the world. A maximum of 130 000 skins were produced in the 1970s. The year 1992 ended the farming of Keppo (KWH Group Ltd since 1985). The mink farm, which stands close to the mansion, is now let and the operation continues on a smaller scale.

The Keppo Mansion is presently used for the KWH Group’s representative purposes only.