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Kesäranta (in Swedish Villa Bjälbo) is the official residence of the Prime Minister of Finland. It is located in the Meilahti area of Helsinki, overlooking a bay on the north-west side of the city. The Finnish name Kesäranta means "summer shore". The residence is owned by the Finnish state through Senate Properties.
Designed and built in 1873 as the summer villa of architect Frans Ludvig Calonius, the building was originally named Villa Bjälbo. At the time of its construction, Meilahti lay outside the boundaries of Helsinki. Initially, Kesäranta was a two-storey wooden villa, but in 1887, after it was acquired by Carl Robert Igantius, a cashier at the Bank of Finland, the building was altered to the designs of Elia Heikel, who added a 20-metre tower and a bayside veranda to the building.
In 1904, the villa was purchased by the State to serve as the summer residence of the Governor-General of Finland. Architect Johan Jakob (Jac) Ahrenberg was commissioned to make the necessary changes to the building and its furnishings. A new kitchen wing was attached to the main building and a glazed veranda was built on to the side of the building facing the sea. The villa served as the summer residence of Governor Generals Obolenski, Gerhard, Boeckmann, and Franz Albert Seyn.
After Finland gained its independence in 1917, and the Finnish Civil War in 1918, the German general Rüdiger von der Goltz lived there briefly. Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim also used Kesäranta as an occasional residence during his term as Regent, or Protector of State, from 1918 to 1919. Since then, Kesäranta has served as the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.
In the summertime, the Council of State holds its informal evening sessions at Kesäranta. These take place on Wednesday evenings and date back to the 1930s, when Prime Minister Aimo Cajander adopted the practice of inviting ministers to Kesäranta to discuss and prepare matters to be handled in the Government plenary session on Thursday.
A thorough renovation of the main building took place in the 1950s and again in the 1980s. The main building was restored to look as it did at the beginning of the century, including rebuilding the tower and veranda, which had been pulled down in the 1950s. The courtyard of Kesäranta includes a seaside sauna, maintenance building, guard's house, pavilion, jetty and tennis court.
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