Close to the westernmost point of the Åland Islands stands one of the area’s most prominent buildings. The Mail and Customs House on Eckerö is a remnant of the Russian Empire and the mail route between Stockholm in Sweden and Turku in Finland. This was the border of Russia at the time and one of many places on the Åland that tells the story of a time when Finland was a part of its much larger eastern neighbor.
Eckerö Mail and Customs House
The Mail and Customs House in Eckerö was built in 1828 and based on a design by the German-born architect Carl Ludvig Engel (1778-1840). Carl Ludvig Engel was during his life also active in Helsinki, Jyväskylä, and Turku. The building was to uphold the Russian custom’s border with Sweden. In fact, the island of Eckerö was the westernmost part of Russia at the time. The building was indeed very large for such a small place. However, it is an impressive sight from the sea. This lasted until Finland’s independence in 1917 and the Mail and Customs House was added to the possessions of the Åland Islands in 1994.
Today the building houses several activities for visitors. These activities include a café that might from time to time serve the famous Åland Pancake. There is also a museum telling the story of the men that upheld the post route and an exhibition hall to showcase pieces of art.
The Mail Route
The mail route between Stockholm and Turku was established already in 1638. The route went on land from Stockholm to Grisslehamn, where locals on both sides of the Sea of Åland were responsible to keep the mail going across the sea. After crossing the 44 kilometers of the sea the mail reached Eckerö on the Åland Islands. From here it was easier to continue the route between the islands of the archipelago to Turku.
Local farmers crossed the Sea of Åland all year around. Many perished. Summer storms or weak winter ice were just a few of the dangers that these rowers could encounter. However, it wasn’t until 1910 that the locals on both sides were freed of this dangerous responsibility and replaced by steamers.
There are more sights in the area connected with the mail route. There is the old mail pier just a bit up the road from the Mail and Customs House. Even closer is the memorial of the men who participated in transporting the mail across the sea.
If the weather is too hot for reading about the history of the islands, then there is also a beach right next door to the Mail and Customs House.
Finding your way to the Mail and Customs House
The Mail and Customs House is almost at the end of road 1 when you drive west from Mariehamn. It is just a few hundred meters from the harbor in Eckerö.
Looking for more sights on the Åland Islands?
Check out our Åland Islands Guide >>