In the 1870s, Helsinki had begun to grow in earnest as a capital city.
On his visit to Helsinki in 1856, Emperor Alexander II presented a programme for economic progress that emphasized the importance of linking inland locations to ports via canals and railroads. Work on a rail connection from Helsinki to Hämeenlinna was duly begun, and was completed in 1862. The railyard and station buried beneath them the northern part of Kluuvi Bay, and filling-in of the bay went as far in the direction of Töölö Bay as was necessary for the laying of the tracks.
A rail connection to St. Petersburg was completed in 1870; that, and a good harbour, and Helsinki’s status as a centre of consumption were the key ingredients of Helsinki’s industrial diversification. The second half of the 1870s marked a turning point in the city’s development: it was now on the path to becoming a large and important city. Gone were the days of being a humdrum, male-dominated garrison town with a smattering of artisans, traders, and government offices. It began to develop quickly into an industrial town with a strong female presence, a town that drew people from the countryside in their droves.
Helsinki has always had working-class districts south of Pitkäsilta also, in Punavuori, Ullanlinna, and Kamppi. These districts were older than those working-class suburbs that had developed in the industrial areas north of Pitkäsilta.
Machine-drive industry began to flourish in the mid-eighteenth century due to the steam engine. In the last quarter of the century the most important industrial sectors were the metal industry, especially workshops and dockyards, foodstuffs and meat production, porcelain and ceramics, and graphic design.
All in all, Helsinki’s trade and industrial sectors had entered a new phase in their development. The artisans’ town had metamorphosed into the country’s leading industrial centre. And as the capital city of the Grand Duchy, Helsinki was also a political and cultural nexus.
Dynamic growth led to the formerly wood-built town being swept out of the path of modern stone apartment buildings. Helsinki grew vertically also, as stone buildings in the neo-Renaissance syle began to populate the city centre. New national institutes were also introduced to the constitutional Grand Duchy: the House of Nobility (1862); the Bank of Finland (1890); the House of the Estates (1891); the National Theatre (1902); and the National Museum (1910).