View of the exterior of a Finnish sauna. The sign reads: "Savu-Sauna. First in Minnesota-1868." The Savu Sauna was located in Cokato.

“To Finns in America, no matter how poor they were or how humble the building, sauna gave them a stability and link with the past that was almost as necessary as food or shelter. For this reason, they built and lived in their sauna before putting up their homestead cabin.

“The typical immigrant sauna was a small log hut with one door, one window and one airhole. The wood-burning kiuas or stove was made out of fist-sized igneous stones that didn’t crack from the heat. As the stones heated, smoke poured into the sauna and out the airhole. When the heat had risen to a high enough temperature, the fire was allowed to go out and the airhole was plugged with a cloth. The sauna was then ready for bathing….

“Immigrant Finns went to their saunas after the day of exhausting labor, sweated out their weariness along with the grime, and emerged refreshed and relaxed.”

Quote from Eloise Paananen, Finns in North America (Annapolis: Leeward Publications, 1975), 53-54.