The first building on the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi was erected in 1950 for . The wife of former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt was coming to town. She had been instrumental in creating UNICEF, the first NGO of its kind set up for children. It was a United Nation organization, with the purpose to help children in urgent need of the basic necessities in life. All its means for aid are collected through charity and volunteer effort.
In a short week prior to her visit, floating timber from the Rovaniemi rivers were put together according to architect Mr. Ferdinand Salokangas drawings. All other buildings at the Santa Claus Village have been built after 1950. Mrs. Roosevelt wanted to visit Rovaniemi and the Arctic Circle in order to see, first hand, how the relief from UNICEF had helped the children of Lapland.
The story goes that the carpenters were still working on the cottage when the tall woman landed at the airport. As she entered through the front door of the cottage, the workers in a last gasp, slipped out of the back door.
Ms. Roosevelt was a world recognized social entrepreneur. A frontrunner for humanity both before and after her husband became one of the most important U.S. presidents of all time. It is no surprise that the cottage became an attraction for many kings, queens and presidents after Roosevelt’s visit to Rovaniemi.
The cottage isn’t always open for visitors; however, Ms Marja Jalkanen from the Tourist office of Rovaniemi opened the door for us. Inside is a small exhibition of the events in 1950 and about the local UNICEF connection in Rovaniemi. UNICEF was on the outset founded to function only for a short period of time in the aftermath of WWII.
Sadly, its mission is still needed today.