UPM made the decision to restore the old main building of the Verla groundwood and board mill in September, but the restoration project was announced only in November, when the building permit was secured.
The owner’s residence will open to visitors at the latest in the beginning of the 2026 summer season. The main floor will house a restaurant and tourist services such as a ticket office, information desk and souvenir shop.
"The building is an important part of the World Heritage Site, and in the future visitors will have a natural reason to enter and explore the building," says Ville, who has worked in Verla for more than 20 years.
Crown of Verla
The owner’s residence will be restored, preserving the history and heritage values of the building. At the same time, the building service technology will be renewed to ensure fire safety and accessibility.
"In the demolition phase, we first have to open up the intermediate floor structures and renovate them. Some of the floors will have to be removed while we replace the insulation and repair the rot damage. The next step will be to reinforce the building's intermediate floor structures with beams. It will be a long time before we get to the interior."
The original drawings of the building, completed in 1885, have not survived, but sketches from the building's designer Eduard Dippell have been found in parts of the building. The earliest drawings date from 1939.
"There have been two renovation projects here in the past. In 1939, central heating was installed but the other changes were quite subtle. In the next renovation at the end of 1960s and early 1970s, more was lost, when some tiled stoves, log walls and ceiling paintings were demolished."
However, to the delight of Ville Majuri and the restoration experts, one tiled stove was spared and several layers of wallpaper were discovered. Detailed studies of the building have provided a comprehensive picture of the colour scheme and decoration of the building at different times.
Worth waiting for
The restoration work now underway will restore the owner’s residence to its late 19th century decorative Neo-Renaissance style. The period allows for some leeway in interior design choices, for example in the choice of colours. The exterior of the building was repainted in turn-of-the-century style in 2012–2013.
The Verla mill museum will be open throughout the renovation. Although we won't be able to peek inside the building next summer, it's still something good to look forward to.
"Verla's attractiveness as a place to visit will increase when the building, which has been closed since 2007, is finally opened to the public. There will be more new things to see in the area, and we also expect the new services to increase the number of visitors to the World Heritage Site from the current level of around 35,000-40,000," Ville Majuri notes.
Promising visitor surveys
A visitor survey of Finland's seven World Heritage sites is carried out every five years. The latest results from 2023 show that visitors are generally very satisfied with their visit. The cleanliness of the site, the museum itself and the guiding services got the best score. The main obstacle to a visit was the limited range of services.
Verla's World Heritage status has a fairly high or very high impact on visitors' choice of destination. The visitor surveys have also provided the opportunity to ask specific questions about Verla. In 2018, 54% of visitors knew that UPM owned Verla, whereas now 76% of visitors knew that fact.
Waiting for the right time
Until 2007, the owner’s residence was the main building and canteen of the Kymi mill’s holiday village. The building, originally designed as the home of Gottlieb Kreidl, the manager of the mill, was closed when it was no longer safe to use.
Before the building could even be considered for restoration, there were more urgent restoration projects in Verla. For example, fire protection systems were installed in the main buildings and a wall into the incoming water canal was built to protect mill museum from leaks and flooding. In winter 2018, heating was restored to Verla mill buildings.
"It has not been possible to do the renovation projects at the same time, and the mill owner’s residence has been waiting for its turn. The restaurant services, which are important for tourists, have had quite small spaces here, and now with this renovation we can solve the problem."
The restoration costs are mainly covered by UPM, and the 100-year Foundation of Kymi Corporation has supported the project with EUR 550,000.