Restorers raise Fortification Walls to their Original Height
In 1982, Construction Manager Pauli Nupponen began working for the City of Lappeenranta. At the same time, Finland's National Board of Antiquities started the renovation of the Lappeenranta fortification, as an Employment Project.
As the foreman of workers employed under a wage subsidy programme, Pasi Nupponen took the helm of the restoration project, steering it over three decades. When the project was competed in 2010, the walls of the fortification proper, located on a point protruding into Lake Saimaa, had been rebuilt at their original locations. However, work remained unfinished, for example at the Nikolay walls in the vicinity of the Lappeenranta church.
Pauli Nupponen estimates that, in effect, the Lappeenranta fortification was under renovation for more or less twenty years, minus a few months of inactivity. In the beginning, the project’s obligation to employ people had to be observed to the letter, including paving work carried out during snowfalls.
– We had to pitch a tent over the work site and bring in heating equipment. That was the only way to manage it, Nupponen comments with a smile. Luckily, while the project was already drawing to a close, the management realised the importance of easing off, concentrating work in the summer months.
Most of the surviving walls were in poor repair, with some sections reduced to mere fragments of foundations buried under the earth. We rebuilt the fortification structures on the basis of the surviving blocks and the original construction drawings.
Unfortunately, the drawings for some sections were unreliable, as the 18th century planners had planned for more than was ultimately built. More often than not, the restorers found undisturbed ground where, according to the drawings, a sturdy stone construction should have been.
– In total, the stone walls we built were roughly five kilometres long. As for the result, I'd say it's somewhat better than the original. You have to bear in mind that the 18th century builders worked in haste, under the threat of war.
At the time of their Construction, the Shoreside Battery Emplacements inclined towards the Waterfront
Pauli Nupponen says that the Lappeenranta fortification was restored to its late 18th century Russian appearance. Restoration to the Swedish form would have been impracticable, as hardly anything remained of the Swedish-built walls.
At the time the fortification was constructed, the shoreside battery emplacements, now located on dry land, overlooked Lake Saimaa and a lakeside marsh. Nowadays, if you drove round the fort in a car, you'd mainly be driving on reclaimed land.
In addition, the restored version differs from the original because no stockades were rebuilt.
– Considering our team size, restoration of the stockades would have been a huge undertaking, with the beginning already rotting before the end was anywhere in sight. In the 18th century, the work force erecting the stockades must have been quite large, as there were two stockades, one within the other, encircling the walls at two different heights with a total length of at least two or three kilometres, Nupponen comments.
He encourages those interested to visit the Pallonlahti area, where a length of a stockade has been constructed as a sample. Nupponen reminds us that the stocks of the stockade, erected for defensive purposes, have sharp points.
In the 18th century, stones for the walls came from the shores of Lake Saimaa
In the 18th century, the shores of Lake Saimaa were scoured for stones, which were transported to the construction site on barges.
Stones for the restoration project were sought in gravel pits around Lappeenranta.
– Gradually, our stonemasons learned to select suitable stones for the walls' surface layers. Finland's National Board of Antiquities provided us with helpful tips for working methods. We worked the stones into the correct shape using a burning technique. The method for the dying mortar black was our own invention: if any mortar was visible between the stones, we mixed the wet mortar with soil.
When the bottom section of a redoubt known as Faber's redoubt proved to have been constructed from block stone of a dark colour, similar stone was obtained from a discontinued quarry in Raippo.
Like other gravel ridges, the one on which the fortification is located has attracted the attention of operators in the gravel business.
– Around a hundred years ago, when the harbour was being built at its present location, roughly 35,000 cubic meters of gravel were excavated from an area adjoining the fortification, to be dumped in Lake Saimaa. In the process, the last vestiges of the batteries that once commanded the present harbour area were lost, laments Nupponen.
The contours of the eastern side of the fortification were restored by transporting replacement gravel to the site and moving the Satamatie road section to the other side of the tree row.
Pauli Nupponen comments that, while the restoration project was fascinating, it was also a difficult balancing act.
– If you restore something using an excavator, you make fast progress but also run the risk of losing old structures forever. On the other hand, you'd never get the job done by using a spoon instead of an excavator. However, we did carry out archaeological screening at some locations.
The layers of soil revealed the buried historical eras to the restoration team. For example, at a tip of the fortification point facing the Rapasaari island, bags containing skulls and bones were unearthed. It was assumed that the bones and skulls had been removed from a former cemetery, now located under the Vihreä Makasiini building.
Another surprise finding was a stone axe dating back 6,000 years.
– One day, accompanied by the foreman of the wage subsidy programme, we were in the garden of the old governor's house, which had burned down in the 1970s. A peculiar shaped stone, lying under a lilac bush, caught my eye. To me it looked like a stone axe, and I happened to take it to the museum. From there, it was send the the National Board of Antiquities for examination, recalls Nupponen.
(Author: Mervi Palonen)