The oldest known human settlement in Finland is located at Renkomäki in Lahti. The first people began settling in Finland about 9000 years ago. The oldest known settlement is located in Lahti, at Ristola in Renkomäki. Hearths and quartz and flint tools have been found in the area.
In excavations during the summer of 1998, a flint knife about 7½ cm long was uncovered. Findings more than 6,000 years old have also been made, as well as from the Iron Age dating from the 7th century.
Salpausselkä Ridge, running across the whole of southern Finland, divides Lahti into two. In the South are the low-lying, clay-based field and forest areas, and, to the North of the ridge, the varied nature of the Lakeside Finland begins. Along Vesijärvi Lake and through the Vääksy Canal, you can go as far as Jyväskylä. The Kalkkinen Canal will take you to Heinola.
Salpausselkä Ridge was formed 11,000 years ago of soil carried by glacial meltwaters, when the melting of the continental glacier ceased for about 250 years. The highest point of the ridge, at Tiirismaa near Lahti, is 223 m above sea level and 142 m above the level of Vesijärvi Lake.
The Salpausselkä Skiing Championships have been held there ever since 1923. These championships are still a great public festival in Lahti. The World Skiing Championships were held in Lahti in 1926, 1938, 1958, 1978, 1989 and 2001.
Salpausselkä Ridge and its surrounding areas provide an excellent supply of groundwater. Part of the reason why the natural surroundings of Lahti are so exceptionally lush in places is that the groundwater is rising to the surface.
Lahti village develops into a town
Lahti was first mentioned in documents in 1445. In those days, Lahti village was part of the parish of Hollola. The reason why Lahti grew into a large village as early as the Middle Ages was partly its excellent location at the junction of waterways and roads. In 1870, Lahti was a typical village of the Häme region lying along the highway between Hämeenlinna and Viipuri (now Vyborg in Russia).
When the railway between Riihimäki and St.Petersburg was opened in 1870, and the Vääksy Canal a year later, the village became more lively. For a long time, the railway station at Vesijärvi Harbour was the second busiest station in Finland.
Lahti was burned down almost completely in 1877, but only one year later, the village was granted market town rights. These rights were only granted to the very centre of Lahti’s populated area, which in those days was inhabited by about 200 people.
In 1878, an empire-style, grid town plan was approved, which included a large market square and wide boulevards. This grid plan still forms the basis of the city centre. Most of the buildings were low wooden houses bordering the streets.
Lahti has been the provincial capital of Päijät-Häme since the 1980’s. Once amongst the largest in Finland, the Lahti market was introduced early in 1875. In 1905, Lahti was granted its town charter. At that time, the urban area housed about 2,800 inhabitants, and more than 8,000 lived in the populated area, which had grown up outside the town. Because of Lahti’s location at the centre of traffic connections, such industries as metal, glass, carpentry and textiles began springing up in the town. In the 1930’s, the food industry also started to develop strongly.
Through the addition of new areas in 1924, 1933 and 1956, Lahti grew, both in terms of population and surface area. Especially strong was the growth after the wars, when Lahti accepted about 10,000 immigrants from Carelia, after the region was surrendered to the Soviet Union, and then later in the 1960 and 70's, when, as a result of mass movement, people moved there from elsewhere in eastern Finland. Complete new districts of the town sprang up.
The construction process of Lahti can be divided into quite clear sections. The uniform wood building of the market town phase was followed at the beg
inning of the 20th century by Jugend/Art Nouveau architecture, and, at the beginning of 1930’s, a period of very active construction began, during which buildings were erected, which dominated the townscape and were architecturally significant. This intense period of construction that culminated at the beginning of 1970’s, moved the residential areas further away from the centre and into the new suburbs. At the same time, it further compressed the central area, as business life developed.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, culture and education in Lahti were developed with the construction of a theatre, a library and an adult educational centre. At the same time, several universities from other towns set up departments in Lahti.
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