The home of the legendary Olympic champion runner Paavo Nurmi is preserved and maintained by the Sports Museum Foundation of Finland. The apartment is located in Turku at the address Jarrumiehenkatu 4 as 17. It is open for public on Paavo Nurmis’ birthdays, 13 June, and at other times by prior agreement with the local sports club Turun Urheiluliitto (Tel. +358 2 274 5005).
Paavo Nurmi’s father Johan Nurmi bought the small apartment of 40 square metres, containing one room and a kitchen, in 1903. It is located at the end of a one-storey building, which is one of three similar houses around a large yard, a typical arrangement for working-class housing at the time. A skilful carpenter, Johan Nurmi made all the furniture for the apartment himself.
Johan Nurmi died in 1910, leaving his wife Matilda to take care of five children. Paavo (born 1897) was the eldest at 12, Siiri was ten (born 1898), Saara seven (1902), Martti four (1905) and Lahja one (1908). The youngest child Lahja died one year later.
The family struggled to make ends meet, as most of the debt taken for purchase of the apartment was still unpaid when the father died. The mother worked as a cleaner and occasionally as a bricklayer’s helper on building sites. Paavo, who was a talented student, had to leave school to help her provide for the family. His first job was as an errand boy at a bakery.
Eventually Matilda Nurmi had to rent out the kitchen of the little apartment to another worker family. For four years the whole Nurmi family of five had to live in a single room, sleeping in one wooden sofa and cot beds and preparing their food in the tiled oven.
The Nurmi family could reclaim sole occupancy of the apartment only after Paavo returned as gold medallist from the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp. Paavo’s new wealth provided the apartment with electric light, running water and modern factory-made furniture. He also brought a sewing machine and a gramophone he had won as prizes. Matilda Nurmi could stop going to work and focus on caring for the household.
In the early 1920’s Paavo Nurmi studied at an industrial school in Helsinki and visited the Jarrumiehenkatu apartment on weekends. He returned home in the spring 1924 to prepare in familiar surroundings for the Olympic Games in Paris.
Paavo Nurmi moved finally out from Jarrumiehenkatu when he got married in 1932. After his divorce he lived in different addresses in Turku until his move to Helsinki in 1935.
Matilda Nurmi lived at Jarrumiehenkatu until her death in 1936. The unmarried siblings Siiri and Martti as well as Saara, who was widowed in 1946, lived in the old apartment until 1960.
In the early 1960’s the apartment was sold and subsequently deteriorated. At the approach of Paavo Nurmi’s Centenary celebrations in 1997 the city of Turku renovated the apartment. It was opened for public on 10 June 1997, when it housed a small-scale exhibition on Paavo Nurmi by the Turku Provincial Museum.
The Sports Museum Foundation of Finland took the apartment on lease from the city of Turku on 1 January 2000 and redecorated it in the style of the 1920’s. The furniture, utensils and wallpaper are similar to those the Nurmi family would have used. Some of the objects are originals, such as bed linen with Siiri and Saara Nurmi’s monograms, plates on the kitchen table and the prize gramophone won by Paavo Nurmi.