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Alku and Alku Toinen Finnish Co-ops

About this listing

The first non-profit housing cooperatives in the U.S., organized by the Finnish Home Building Association

Place Details

Borough : Brooklyn
Neighborhood : Sunset Park
Residential, Historic Site & Museum

Place Matters Profile

Sixteen Finnish families founded the Finnish Home Building Association in 1916, and their first cooperative apartment building, Alku (Finnish for "beginning"), was the first such building in the United States. A few years later, Alku Toinen (Alku II) was completed. A decade later, Brooklyn's "Finntown" was home to 25 other housing cooperatives, complemented by a cooperative shopping complex including a restaurant, meat market, bakery, and grocery, but almost none of the apartments in these simple looking brick buildings are occupied by Finns today.

Alku I received its building permit on May 16, 1916, and became the first non-profit housing cooperative in the United States. The concept was so new to America that these early co-ops had to be classified by the state not as housing, but under the Department of Agriculture, which regulated cooperative farms.

Non-profit “limited equity” co-op buildings are owned collectively by their residents, known as co-operators. Selling...

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Interview with Anita Ford.

Ekman, Katri, Corrine Olli, and John B. Olli. "A History of Finnish American Organizations in Greater New York, 1891-1976. New York: Greater New York Finnish Bicentennial Planning Committee, 1976.

Interview with Greta Tolamaa.

Hannula, Reino Nikolai. "An Album of Finnish Halls." San Luis Obispo, Calif.: Finn Heritage, 1991.

Interview with Ilma Ackren.

On The Web

Municipal Art Society "The Alku Toinen Nonprofit Housing Cooperative, A Place that Matters"
Forgotten NY "Where the Bad Boys Are: Sunset Park, Part 1"


Victoria Hofmo

Built in 1916 by the Finnish Home Building Association, Alku (Finnish for beginning) I & II were the first non-profit housing cooperatives in the country. At that time Brooklyn's "Finntown" (in Sunset Park) was home to 10,000 Finnish Americans.

John Johnson

Alku and Alku Toinen were the center of Finnish residences in the Sunset Park area. As a child I played stickball on 43rd street. It was always a challenge to try to hit three sewers. The organ grinder with his monkey would play in front of the coop and we would hand pennies to the monkey. Many hours were spent playing and "flipping" basball cards and pitching pennies closest to the wall. Most activity was conducted in Finnish.

One grandmother lived in 826-43rd St. and the other across the street at 823-43rd, so all the relatives were close at hand. It was a wonderful place to grow up.

Finnish life in the 40's and 50's was important to the growth of Brooklyn. Many were tradesmen who worked on building and tunnels. My one grandfather had been a brick mason on the Chrysler Building.

While the population and residents have changed dramatically, the buildings remain the same and in good repair. Most Finns are gone, only a few remain.

(Mar. 2008)

Tommy Tuomi

I lived at 816 43rd Street, Apt no. 1 for my first 19 years...lots of memories. (July 1, 2011)

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