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Restoring the past and working for the future: TyloHelo helps renovate nation’s oldest Sauna

Savu Sauna


The oldest sauna in North America, residing in the Finnish Historical Park in Cokato, MN recently went through a major renovation, thanks to financial support from Cokato-based TyloHelo Inc., formerly Saunatec, Inc. Built in 1868 by Isak Barba and the early Finnish settlers of this area of Minnesota, the savu sauna was heated in the oldest tradition of saunas: one corner had a large mound of rocks, within which was an opening for a chimney-less fire.  Because of this heating method with no chimney to exhaust the smoke, the sauna was called a savu sauna meaning "smoke sauna”.  When the room was heated to the desired sauna temprature, the fire was extinguished and vents were opened to allow the smoke to escape and to create a welcoming environment in which the settlers bathed.


10 years after the sauna was built, changes in the township, including construction of a road adjacent to the sauna, required the sauna to be relocated to a more private location so the bathers could enjoy the sauna in privacy.  The sauna stayed at that location until 1976 when the savu sauna was donated to the Cokato Finnish-American Historical Society and was moved to Temperance Corner in Memorial Park.  As it was in it’s previous location, the sauna was not set on a proper foundation, causing the bottom logs to rot and deteriorate.   


With an interest in preserving the history of sauna and its importance in the community in which TyloHelo has grown to be the leader in the North American sauna industry, TyloHelo donated money for a proper restoration, which included hiring concrete foundation experts and log building restorers.  Since the sauna had been constructed of white oak logs, it was important for authenticity to find logs of the approximate age and milling to replace the rotted logs.  Some logs were rescued from an old grain mill, while other logs needed to be replaced with newly milled logs.  Harvey Barberg, president of the Cokato Finnish-American Historical Society and descendant of Isak Barba, stated "It was invaluable for us to have the assistance of (TyloHelo) in this project which helped us to ensure authenticity.”  To assist in drawing public donations for the project, TyloHelo also donated an electric sauna heater to be auctioned to the public, with the funds benefitting the restoration.


To TyloHelo, the restoration was more than public service.  Keith Raisanen, President of TyloHelo Inc., said, "The Savu Sauna reminds us of the rich history and cultural significance of saunas.  To the Finnish settlers, the sauna was a place to commune.  Today, many people still enjoy the social aspects, as well as health benefits, of sauna.”


To learn more about the savu sauna or the rich Finnish-American history in the Cokato area, visit the  at  Cokato Finnish-American Historical Society.


TyloHelo Inc. (formerly Saunatec, Inc.) is a global leader in saunas and steam rooms marketed under multiple national  brands, including Finnleo.  TyloHelo is committed to community involvement through active participation as a company and through encouraging employee volunteerism.  To learn more about TyloHelo, visit www.tylohelo.com or www.finnleo.com