The Uusi Seurahuone building has a colorful history

Rebuilt after a fire in 1884, Uusi Seurahuone is also known as the “Steel building”. Originally built as the private home of sea captain Johan Petrell, its purpose and owners have changed many times over the years.

The name Seurahuone (society house) often refers to a hotel or restaurant. It is derived from the Swedish word “societetshuset”, which in turn comes from “societetet” (the word for society).

Fire has had a major impact on the history of Oulu’s society houses. Sea captain and trader Petter Petrell was one of the first owners of the building located at the corner of Rantakatu and Pakkahuoneen katu streets, which was originally built as a private the 1820s. Ownership of the building passed to Petter’s son Johan, who lost it to a huge fire in November 1892. The same fire destroyed the Westerlundin salonki building on the north side of the city hall block, which had hosted many celebrations.

The following year, Oulun Seurahuone Oy decided to build an even grander society house and purchased all of the property in the block. The result was a neo-Renaissance hotel and administration building that now houses Oulu City Hall.

Around the same time, Johan Petrell began to plan a building to replace the one on Rantakatu street that had been destroyed in the fire. The stone residence was designed by Oulu-born architect Hugo Neuman, who studied in Switzerland. Completed in 1884, the baroque-style building was about 40 meters long and wide and became quite an attraction in Oulu at the time.

Oulu spent decades without its Seurahuone

A few decades later – in 1942 to be exact – the society hall located a few blocks away closed its doors and became Oulu City Hall. That marked the start of a 50-year period during which Oulu had no Seurahuone building.

During that time, Karl Pentzin and Torsten Lundberg purchased the building on Rantakatu known as “Petrell Palace”. They lived on the upper floor of the building and ran a hardware store on the lower floor. In the late 1930s, the business was sold to a company called Teräs Oy, which expanded its operations in the building. The hardware store operated there until the 1980s and as a result people began to call it the “Steel building”, a direct translation of the company’s name (teräs).

Uusi Seurahuone was born at the turn of the millenium

The story of Uusi Seurahuone began when Head Invest Ltd purchased the Petrell Palace on Rantakatu in early 2000. Head Invest implemented major renovation and restoration work that transformed the building into a high-quality restaurant with conference and banquet facilities.

The renovations nearly doubled the floor area of the former Petrell Palace to approximately 2,750 m2. The extensive makeover remained loyal to the building’s history and was completed quite quickly. The restored Uusi Seurahuone building opened to the public in November 2001. In addition to the architectural solutions, the renovations also honored the facility’s history as Oulu’s “living room”. The fine dining restaurant Hugo is now located right beside it.

The purpose of Uusi Seurahuone changed again in 2019, when Head Invest decided to lease about 1,000 m2 of the building to Danske Bank.

The capacity of Restaurant Hugo nearly doubled at the same time, and the range of conference and banquet services also changed. Since late 2010, Uusi Seurahuone has been managed by Tommi Tuhkanen. The restaurant serves northern and Scandinavian dishes that are made by hand from high-quality ingredients.