Thursday, January 08, 2009

Arendal anno 1528

My home town, Arendal, entered into written history 480 years ago. In 1528 the name Arendal was mentioned for the first time in a document. During five centuries the city grew to become one of the largest shipping centres in Northern Europe in the late 19th century. The transition from sail ships to steam ships led to a large decline during the first decades of the 20th century. Arendal is now a vibrant city with around 40 000 inhabitants and the administrative centre of Aust-Agder county.

August 30th 2008 we enjoyed the last summer weekend on our summer home located 15 miles away from Arendal. We visited the city and we took time for a strole on Tyholmen, the oldest part of the city. Here you find wooden houses that are as old as 350 years. Here are a few of the houses we saw.

The old police station (Anno 1650)

Arendal old Police station is one of the oldest houses in the city going back 360 years. It narrowly escaped the fires of 1798, 1848, 1863 and 1868. Two of its neighbouring houses burnt down in the 70s, but even then it luckily escaped the flames.

During my childhood the house had started to sink, as its foundation rested on large tree poles rather than firm ground. This as the place where it now stands used to be below sea level.

As it was restored, the whole structure was elevated in order to create a more secure base for it to rest on. It is now beautifully brought back to its roots, and now you find restaurants and offices here.

Andresens hus or "Kilden" (Mid 17th century)

Andresens hus (right) and the nearby Løvolds hus (left) caught fire around thirty years ago. The oldest part of Andresens house dates back at least 300 years, the other was much younger. A walkway connected the first floor of both bouses.

Two irreplaceable buildings were lost that night.

After the fire it was decided to rebuild them. Much had changed as only ten years before Arendal city council had debated whether to demolish all the beautiful houses along Pollen, the old harbour, to make room for modern office buildings.

The citizens of Arendal were enraged and mobilized in protest to secure their heritage, and even my mother walked the street in protest that evening. Faced with this popular protest the politicians did the only decent thing, they let the buildings stand. Today they are the pride of the city.

The houses were rebuild and even the walkway once built to connect the houses were reconstructed. The house is now known as Kilden (The Spring or Source), and serves as a cultural centre.

The von Kampen House (Around 1700)

You find this beautiful house at Øvre Tyholmsvei, on the eastern part of Tyholmen. It belonged to the von Kampen family and dates back to the earliest part of the 18th century.

It is constructed as many of the houses of the wealthy families from the same era, and even in the US you find similar houses, with a long roof on the back and a short roof at the back.

Here is a drawing of a typical New England Saltbox house dating back to the 18th century. Our summer home is built in the same style around 1770, even though parts of it may go back to the reign of Elizabeth I or even further into the mist of time.

The von Kampen house house goes back 300 years and it is beautifully restored. The windows on the first floor are baroque, and there are many architectural features showing its age.

The Venetian Villa (Mid 19 century)

When you walk along the rocky eastern part of Tyholmen, you bump into this beautiful house. It more belongs to the area around the Mediterranean than on these northern shores.

The name is my invention, as it reminds me of an Italian/Venetian house.

I read its story once. The exterior is certainly the works of a sailor that wanted to recreate the sentiments of Southern Europe. I do remember that the house within is a much older wooden house.

It is a marvellous place with flowers in abundance. A large holly is growing by the stairs.

Go there and see it, if visiting Arendal.

Do you want to know more about Arendal?

- Lunch with Madam Reiersen (September 10th 2008)
- The streets of my childhood (June 17th 2008)
- A trip to Norway's southern tip (August 7th 2008)
- Arendal - the Venice of the North (October 22nd 2006)

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