By Levi Clancy for לוי on
Yrjo Alfred "George" Paloheimo was born in 1906 in Helsinki, Finland to industrialist Karl Alfred Paloheimo.His father was originally Swedish with the last name Brander but the family took Paloheimo upon migrating to Finland. (Hence, George's name sometimes written George Brander Paloheimo). Nationalism in the early 20th century prompted the Paloheimos to collect Finnish folk art as a display of their allegiance since they were not ethnically Finnish.
Yrjo graduated in 1926 from Helsinki University with a Master of Arts in Agriculture.
Yrjo eventually came to the United States to study farm machinery and methods, then returned to Finland to improve his home country's farming system. In 1939 through 1941, Yrjo was Commissioner General in charge of the Finnish Pavilion at the New York Wolrd's Fair. He took the exhibit to the International Exposition in Cleveland, Ohio in 1941.
Yrjo met Leonora Curtin at a dinner party in New York City, then married after courting for several years. They settled in the Fenyes Mansion.
In 1946, shortly after arriving in Pasadena, Mr. Paloheimo became the first Finnish Consular Officer in Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico and the Fenyes Mansion was consulate for 17 years.
The Fenyes Mansion remained a Consulate until 1960. Yrjo founded the Finnish Folk Art Museum on the property. Paloheimo founded the Finlandia Foundation and was its President for nine years. Also, Yrjo established Jarvanpaa as Pasadena's so-called sister city in Finland. Consul Paloheimo was awarded the Order of the Finnish Lion, his country's highest honor.
Yrjo died in 1986.
The Paloheimo family's estate in Finland was just across from composer Jean Sibelius' estate, and Yrjo and Sibelius were lifelong friends. The Paloheimo estate in Finland is now part of the Sibelius Foundation and is open to the public. One building renovated for concerts was named Leonora Hall.