The establishment of water-driven sawmills in the 18th century kicked off the development of Finland’s industrial sector. Hydroelectric power was used to rotate both the blades of the saws and the millstones. Mills that used hydroelectric power were a preliminary form of industry in the regions as they already existed in the Middle Ages. Southern Savo had several mills that ground grain into flour. A power plant and a sawmill might be found next to the mills.
The Säimen Mill in Savonranta
has and has had its own log flume that was used to transport logs from the waterways above from Lake Säimenjärvi to Lake Saimaa. The first mill was powered by a waterwheel, which was dismantled in 1920 and replaced by a turbine and an electricity-producing generator.
There was also a smithy near the mill, which was quite helpful in maintaining the mill’s machinery, in forging the agricultural implements required by the surrounding villages and in servicing vehicles. The municipality of Savonranta purchased the mill in 1937, after which it dismantled the old mill building. The following year, Savonranta built the current ruddled mill building out of logs. The municipal mill was in use up until 1960.
The Savonranta Association rented the mill for use as a museum in 1978 and in 1994, opened up the museum; the mill has served in this capacity ever since. At Säimen, visitors can explore the museum collection and the production machinery left over from the mill up close. In addition, there are other buildings in the area that serve as local history museums. The museum’s machinery and buildings were renovated in 2006, at which time a restored milk-collecting platform, etc., were added.
The process for converting hydroelectric power to electricity was discovered at the end of the 19th century. Finland’s first power plants came on-line in the 1880s and this new form of energy afforded industry new types of opportunities. In Savo’s first experiment with electricity in 1881, 3 lamps were lit by the dynamo that Gottfrid Strömberg had built.
Southern Savo’s first power plants ran on steam turbines. Mikkeli got its own power plant in 1900 and Savonlinna in 1908. A small hydroelectric plant was put up next to Savonranta’s Vuokala Mill already in the beginning of the 20th century, which provided enough electricity for the town’s residents up to the 1960s.
The Vuokala Mill and Power Plant in Savonranta
Besides Säimen Mill, Savonranta still has Vuokala Mill, too. Built in 1937, it was renovated in 2001–2003, so visitors can see a somewhat operational mill. Almost all of the machinery on the mill’s four floors is highly visible and visitors can follow the path that grain takes on its journey to becoming flour. Vuokala also has a small power plant that is still running.
Electricity progressively gained a foothold in Southern Savo at the turn of the 20th century. Power plants were built throughout the region. Its largest hydroelectric plant was built in 1932 in conjunction with the Kissakoski Groundwood Mill, which ceased operations in 1939, leaving the power plant, which is still up and running even now.