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Illustrasjon av Trehusrekka Illustrasjon av Trehusrekka

If these walls could talk

The row of low wooden buildings tucked inside Trondheim Torg hides amazing stories about everything from cowpats and shooting galleries to the city’s own shoemaker street. This history has fascinated proud Trondheimer and centre manager Jomar Asbøll for many years. He has now had these stories written down – stories these buildings tell so softly that you have to get right up close to hear them. 

 

 

Photo of centre manager Jomar Asbøll

 

The plaques have been made by ARC Arkitekter.

 

The stories of Trehusrekka:

 

Prinsens Gate 21

Built in 1792. This is one of Trondheim’s oldest buildings. Its first owner was an immensely powerful count. Since then, the estate has housed a variety of people and all manner of businesses – among them an establishment known as Skytesalon (“gunners lounge”).

HISTORY OF THE BUILDING

According to the fire insurance records at the time, the building comprised three floors. Both the number of floors and the decision to build a masonry structure were unusual in Trondheim at the time. The mandatory use of masonry was first introduced in 1845, after two fires destroyed more than half the city. From early on, the farm comprised three buildings: The main section with housing facing Prinsens Gate, a side building with stalls to the south, and a building with stables and a woodshed at the back. The north side of the courtyard came later, when significant extensions were also added to the rear building. In 1867, the Building Commission received a report about unregistered building work:

“Almost the entire length of wall on the third floor of the estate facing the street has been removed and a glass wall inserted in its place. The roof of the same section of the house facing the street has been removed to within a couple of cubits of the ridge and replaced with a glass roof.”

Behind these audacious activities was the photographer Miron B. Omenta, who lived and worked here in the 1860s and 70s. The changes were nonetheless eventually approved, albeit with conditions and a fine. Later, around 1895, both the glass wall and the ceiling were covered up again.

LIFE ON THE ESTATE

In addition to being used as housing, the estate has served various commercial purposes. For several years around 1890 there was a carpenter’s workshop in the rear building. I. M. Eide managed a “colonial and food store” in the main building (1888). Tobacco trading constituted the primary business on the estate for 39 years from 1891. Among other things, it is said to have housed a “Fruit and Cigar Shop” – a combination you rarely see today. You would not find a “gunners lounge” back then either, but such an establishment actually appeared in 1930 and stayed until the mid-50s.

In the Nidaros newspaper dated 17 May 1933, we find the article “In and around Prinsens Gate in the old days” – in which Sigurd Udbye shares memories of his upbringing on Prinsens Gate 22. About his neighbour in No. 21, photographer Miron Biron Omenta, he writes: “In his private life, the Polish photographer was absolutely far from exemplary. Neither did he care what people in town thought about him, and not infrequently would orgies occur at his place in the evenings, that could be heard far out into the street... Omenta must have been a desperate and brutal individual. Once, he was only just prevented from throwing one of his fellow revellers out of the second-floor window. And as part of the nudity culture that was reportedly cultivated in his studio, he often left pictures out on display for the customers’ entertainment. The word “Bohemian” had not yet entered our vernacular, and still it would have been wholly fitting for Miron Biron Omenta.”

THE COUNT’S PROPERTY

The estate was built for the then landowner, Carl Jacob Waldemar von Schmettow, a major general and a count. He was nevertheless already well-stocked with grand accommodation both in and around the city, which means that this modest estate was probably intended for rent. Von Schmettow was one of Norway’s most powerful men. In 1814, he was asked by King Christian Frederik to lead a ministry responsible for foreign policy. The count politely declined, however, on account of his advanced years. Nevertheless, he was the Foreign Minister in all but name. Von Schmettow served as a government minister on several occasions, including at the opening and closing of the Constitutional Assembly in Eidsvoll in 1814.

 

Prinsens Gate 19

Believed to be built in 1690–1691. The second floor houses the city’s oldest known timber frame – once a setting for “Maiden” From’s hotel for honourable guests. The diversity and population density of the estate no doubt increased in later years.

HISTORY OF THE BUILDING

On the second floor of the estate, we find timber that was felled as early as the winter of 1659–60. This is the oldest timber we know of in a standing structure in Trondheim. But there was probably no house on this very spot this early on, bearing in mind that Prinsens Gate was built after the 1681 Trondheim fire. The 1690 tax records initially describe the property as undeveloped, and then as built in 1691. The timber room must therefore have been moved to this location. A fine example of recycling anno 1691! The fire insurance records of 1766 describe the estate as follows:

“Wood turner Ole Olsen Wold’s house, living room with cast ironclad stove and chamber with iron wind stove, kitchen with brick wall, in the attic a chamber with iron wind stove, single-height leaded window with 8 panes, roof with tiles, workshop with loft in the courtyard, cow shed with a cockloft and woodshed, peat roof, small window with 4 panes...”

The building was altered several times over the years. The extension resulting in today’s width, which is roughly double its original size, was carried out in 1848. Since the mandatory use of masonry came into effect in 1845, the extension facing the backyard was built using bricks and mortar. The height was also raised, probably in several stages.

LIFE ON THE ESTATE

Among the early owners of the estate, we find instrumentist Gerhard Carl Prøsch, who owned the property from 1721 to sometime between 1736 and 1740. As a fifteen-year-old, Prøsch deputised for the city’s state musician, Augustus Warman. In 1737, he applied for the post himself, but the position went to Johan Daniel Berlin, and Prøsch became his assistant.

A later proprietor was “Maiden” Ulricha Eleonora From, who also owned Nos. 15–17 for a number of years. She seems to have run some sort of hotel here, although she was quite particular about who she let stay. Indeed, the hostess describes her guests as “honourable lodgers”. In the Norwegian regional daily newspaper “Adresseavisen” dated 23 October 1783, she expresses concern for their safety in light of the following episode: “An evil man has found pleasure in, from the street, throwing a pointed-edged stone of roughly the size of a fist through one of the attic windows.” A “kind gentleman” was promised to help clear up the matter. Whether it was resolved is unknown. It seems that the main building was only used for housing until 1914. The first floor was then fitted with a storefront, and the ground floor was used for business purposes – and still is to this day. The second floor remained residential until 1990.

CRAMPED QUARTERS

At the time of the 1900 census, a total of 23 people lived on the estate. The second floor of the main building was used as a guest house. In the south side of the building lived a cobbler with his wife and two children. Among the residents we also find a brewery worker, his wife and their five children aged between 6 and 21. These seven individuals shared one room and a kitchen with a total floor area of ​​approximately 23 m2, of which the living room amounted to 15 m2. This corresponds to about 3 m2 per person! In comparison, the average living space for a Norwegian in 2018 was 69 m2 per person.

 

Prinsens Gate 15 & 17

No. 15 built around 1725 and No. 17 built in 1843–1844. Most of the Kalvskinnet neighbourhood was still rural well into the 19th century. Free-roaming animals left their tracks in the street, and cow dung appeared among the particles cleaned up indoors.

HISTORY OF THE BUILDING

Until sometime before 1720, this was one property. In 1810, it was subdivided into two properties – Nos. 15 and 17 – with the boundary established along the south side of the shared vestibule, which corresponds to today’s entrance. The two houses are quite different in age: No. 15 was built around 1725 and No. 17 around 1843, in other words just over 30 years after the subdivision. By the time the larger property was subdivided, the street front had been fully developed as residential properties. The part of the estate that became No. 15 still stands today, while the section that became No. 17 was demolished after about 30 years to make room for today’s building.

No. 15: Until the beginning of the 1840s, the estate was about half as wide as it is now, and each floor was just over 20 m2. In 1842, the insurance tax on the building was increased from 180 to 480 thaler coins – on account of having been “improved with extensions, panelling and painting, new windows.” As part of this process, the width of the house increased from 8 to 14 cubits, which corresponds to the current width of 8.8 m. It remained a purely wooden construction – with the brick rear facade only being added in 1880.

No. 17: Tree-ring dating of the timber used reveals that the wood was felled in the winter of 1841–42. The building contract was signed and construction commenced the following year. The fire insurance records from 1844 indicate the size corresponding to that time.

LIFE ON THE ESTATE

From the 1730s, the building initially belonged to vendor (shopkeeper) Peder Hemmingsen. After his passing in 1748, his widow, Ingeborg Bentsdatter, took over the reins until the 1770s. She appears to have continued the business after his demise until 1760. Between 1759 and 1777, two and a half acres of land belonged to this property. The fields faced Prinsens Gate, in the district north of today’s Prinsen movie theatre. An announcement from police chief Henrik Lysholm in 1830 refers to animals running loose in the street:

“The number of pigs, just like the goats and sheep, that have recently been found loose on the streets, will hereby lead to the further emphasis on the many police posters that have come before, according to which anyone who fails to heed this warning, or whose pigs or goats are seized by the nightman, will not avoid a fine.”

There is a long period when little activity, other than housing, is linked to the estate. From 1916 to 1919, there was a wicker workshop in the basement. Later, during two separate periods until 1972, the premises housed a shoemaker’s workshop.

EARTHEN COATED WALLS

“…Rooms with earthen coated and wallpapered walls; ... all with earthen coated ceilings and cast-iron stoves; kitchen with chimney, which has earthen coated walls and a beamed ceiling; ... which contains 2 rooms with earthen coated and wallpapered walls...”

The fire insurance records of 1847 describe the home’s contents, number of rooms, stairs, windows, stoves, etc. The extract above depicts materiality – whether walls were panelled, wallpapered, or, as described in the fire services tariffs, “earthen coated”. This wall treatment was a type of plaster – although its name sounds more delicate than the recipe. The ingredients allegedly consisted of clay, chopped straw, ox hair and cow’s milk.

 

Prinsens Gate 13 

Believed to be built in the early 1720s. No. 13 and No. 11 were originally one property. Heinrich Kühnemans had his workshop here before the subdivision. You can still find evidence of the Master Carpenter’s presence on the wood walls on the second floor.

HISTORY OF THE BUILDING

Tree-ring dating indicates that the wood used to build the wall up to the top four layers was felled in the winter of 1721–22, and the rest in the winter of 1748–49. The house was probably built and then raised not long after these respective winters. The northernmost part of the property was acquired from No. 15 in 1805, so that the estate could have its own gate. Until 1758, the somewhat narrower version of No. 13 was combined with No. 11 into one property. In the fire insurance records of 1766, the estate was described as follows:

“Sophia Williamsdatter: dec: city broker and undertaker Jens Lind’s widow’s house, living room with ironclad stove, chamber with iron wind stove and drum, kitchen with brick wall, in the attic a chamber with drum, roof with tiles, a little food stall in the courtyard, and a woodshed with ceiling, roof with tiles, window frame with 6 ½ panes, single storey privately listed for: 80 riksdaler.”

Later fire insurance records indicate that the section above the gate was added around 1837–1847. The facade was redesigned on several separate occasions, including in 1810 and 1865.

LIFE ON THE ESTATE

At the time of the 1801 census, the estate was inhabited by the owner, tailor Henrik Lycke, and his wife Birgit Kristine. The estate was blessed with twice the joy when the couple welcomed “real twin children.” The long list of noble godparents testifies to a grand baptism later that year:

“Wife of Diocesan Prefect Angell, Colonel Bang, Mrs Grib, Madame Meincke, Madame Busk, State Councillor Knudtzon, Captain Vejbye, Mr Vensel, Mr Christian Lysholm, Mr Hagen, Mr Jochum Angell.”

In 1865, Karen Korsvig owned the estate. Ten years earlier, her husband, Shipmaster Lars Dahl Korsvig, died dramatically in a shipwreck “on an unfortunate return journey from Copenhagen to his home on the brig Ørnen (“the Eagle”).” So Karen lived here with three daughters and a son aged between 15 and 24, as well as a maid. Later, in 1910, two households resided on the estate. Owner Mathilde Haugan lived on the ground floor. She was a shop assistant at the “County Jail Sale” and provided for her mother and sister who also lodged here. On the second floor lived an unmarried 57-year-old trader and his maid of a similar age. Between 1922 and 1926, the basements of Nos. 13 and 11 each housed a shoemaker’s workshop.

THE WALL WITH CONICAL DRILLED HOLES

When the construction of a shopping centre began in 1992, evidence of life on the estate before the subdivision in 1758 was discovered. When the timber on the second floor was dismantled, numerous conical holes appeared in the northern wall. The holes had obviously been made with drill bits, in varying depths and widths. They probably date back to before the estate was subdivided. According to the tax records, a new workshop was built on the estate after the subdivision. During this period, the owner was none other than the Master Carpenter Heinrich Kühneman, who was responsible for the altarpiece in Our Lady Church, among other pieces. It seems very likely that No. 13 housed Mr Kühneman’s old workshop prior to the subdivision, and that the holes were made in connection with his joinery work.

Perhaps the master tested his drill bits here? If so, the holes are a charming and everyday reminder of this accomplished artisan’s work

(see Prinsens Gate 11 for more about Kühneman).

 

Prinsens Gate 11 

Built in or before 1736. Nos. 11 and 13 were originally one property. At the time of the subdivision in 1758, the estate belonged to a very gifted carpenter. Later, the basement seems to have been popular with the shoe trade.

HISTORY OF THE BUILDING

The position of Prinsens Gate tells us that the estate must have been built after the street was constructed in 1681. A deed from 1708 also indicates that the property was built at that time.  Nos. 11 and 13 originally constituted one property, until they were subdivided in 1758. In the first fire insurance records in 1766, the estate was described as:

“Master Carpenter Henrich Kyhneman’s house, living room and chamber with ironclad stove, kitchen with chimney and brick wall, small loft, single-height window with 8 panes, roof with tiles, a new workshop with ironclad stove in the courtyard, and a workshop in the attic with iron wind stove, and a servants’ chamber, roof with tiles, single-height window with 6 panes and 2nd dormer window on the roof, another woodshed with cockloft and tiled roof, and a smaller one with cockloft and a stone roof, 2nd dormer window on the first shed, privately listed for: 200 riksdaler.”

The main building was later extended and raised on several separate occasions. 

LIFE ON THE ESTATE

Address books provide an extensive source of historical information about the hustle and bustle of private and public life at the time. Residents and businesses are systematically registered by their address in these books. With respect to No. 11, they reveal that a Master Glassmaker ran his business here. This is also confirmed in the fire insurance records from 1890, which reference a glassmaker’s workshop. During a later period, the address books give the impression of Prinsens Gate as exclusively “a shoemaker’s street.” From 1914 to 1928, we find that the basement of this estate housed no less than nine different shoe-related businesses:

· Olsen & Strøm Shoemaker’s Business (1914)

· Nordkap Cobbler Factory (1916)

· Olsen Magnus Shoemaker’s Workshop (1917)

· Johnsen’s Shoemaker’s Workshop (1918)

· Nilsen N. Shoemaker’s Workshop (1919)

· Ørnen Shoe Factory (1920–1921)

· Johnsen P. A. Cobbler’s Workshop (1922)

· Eriksen Aksel Cobbler’s Workshop (1926)

· Johnsen P. A. Cobbler’s Workshop (1927)

 The first floor of the main house was mostly used as a dwelling. At various times, some sections of the street also housed shops, including a fruit and tobacco shop in the 1920s. 

Following a fire in 1928, and subsequent extensive repairs and alterations, the entire first floor was used as a grocery store.

KÜHNEMAN’S ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNS

When the property was subdivided into Nos. 11 and 13, the owner at the time was Master Carpenter Heinrich Kühneman. He was of Russian descent and obtained a certificate of naturalisation as a carpenter in Trondheim in 1738. He also designed Thomas Angell’s living rooms in Kongens Gate and was both architect and construction manager for Waisenhuset children’s home in Kongsgårdsgata. The Bishop’s residence, known as Bispegårdshuset, at Sverresborg Museum is the last remnant of a larger building that Kühneman worked on at the time. The altarpiece in Bakke Church is also his work; but he is best known for his carpentry work on the former altarpiece of Nidaros Cathedral, which now stands in the Church of Our Lady.

 

Prinsens Gate 9 

Registered in 1817 as newly built. No. 9 was originally part of a much larger property. Councilman Franz Hammer is one of the early owners listed. The city councillor also had a country house at the top of Steinberget, which he rather pretentiously named Hammersborg (the Norwegian word “borg” usually refers to a castle).

HISTORY OF THE BUILDING

From 1736 or somewhat earlier, until 1814, Prinsens Gate 9, Erling Skakkes Gate 22 and what were previously Erling Skakkes Gate 20 and Danielsveita 2 all made up one property. At that time the estate consisted of a house facing Prinsens Gate, a side building/outbuilding to the north, as well as another outbuilding towards Danielsveita, all on two floors. The property also included a storehouse and fencing. In 1814, the estate was subdivided into four properties. No. 9 was sold to chairmaker H. Hennum and included most of both the dwelling and the side building. The 1817 tax records state that the owner “has built new houses,” which could mean that it had either been extensively renovated or newly built. What is not in dispute, however, is that there was something there, and you can still see the original cladding that originated from the side building before the four-part subdivision in 1814. In 1827, the estate consisted of a dwelling, a side building and a cross section. The first two were made of timber and stone cladding, while the cross section was a timber frame construction. The street facade was given its present features following major renovations to the lower level to create shops in the 1920s.

LIFE ON THE ESTATE

Shops were nonetheless already operating before the facade was upgraded. The fire insurance records from 1867 mention “2 shop counters and 2 shelves” in the main building, and two packing sheds in the side building. Coincidentally, the then owner was referred to as a “small retailer.” At the time of the 1865 census, a total of nine people from three households lived on the estate. The owner and her two daughters, both in their 40s, and a maid comprised one household. An old lady from Copenhagen lodged in the second home. The third consisted of a telegraph operator and his wife, a 70-year-old lodger and his 27-year-old maid. It must have been significantly more crowded in 1900, when 21 residents resided in four households. During this time, a “sewing and ironing shop” also occupied the estate. Two women among the residents worked there, one as the proprietor and the other as an “assisting party.”

THE HAMMER MAIDENS

Prior to the four-part subdivision, the entire property belonged to mayor Franz Hammer. He had lived here since the 1730s. When Mr and Mrs Hammer passed away, their daughters, Judith and Elisabeth, were left on their own on the large estate. Both being single, the sisters were referred to as the “the Hammer maidens.” They probably felt the burden of holding onto such a vast estate. In connection with the collection of a building tax, we find a somewhat grim remark:

Of all these buildings, only one living room of 10 cubits in length and 6 cubits in width and a kitchen of 5 cubits in length and 5 cubits in width are used by the present owners. The rest is unfurnished and uninhabited. The owners benefit from a monthly allowance from Thomas Angell’s grants, and can thus be regarded as alms recipients.”

The sisters in other words lived on charity, and the sale of the property was inevitable. Elisabeth died in the middle of the sale at the age of 75. Perhaps the stress took its toll? Two years later, the surviving Judith was admitted to Thomas Angell’s House, a home for distinguished individuals who had fallen into poverty through no fault of their own.

 

Erling Skakkes Gate 22 

Registered in 1815 as newly built. In the early 1900s, people could buy most things on this corner. The retail store known as Fallans Magasin sold all manner of items. Later, the estate’s numerous clothing stores dressed the city’s fashionable gentry.

HISTORY OF THE BUILDING

In the 1730s, Prinsens Gate 9, Erling Skakkes Gate 20 and 22 and Danielsveita 2 were all part of one estate with land. In 1814, the estate was subdivided into four properties.

Up until then, it had consisted for many years of a house facing Prinsens Gate, a house to the north, one facing Danielsveita, and a storehouse – all on two floors. When Master Painter J. Berg bought the subdivided corner property the following year, it included a new two-story building facing the intersection and approximately five metres of the old dwelling that extended onto the plot. Two years later, a side building was erected to the east, which was later replaced with a larger timber-frame construction to the north. With the addition of this building, the estate took on the shape it would retain until 1912, when the corner house was then both elevated and enlarged, as well as “completely rearranged with regard to the interior.” The outhouse was demolished. To the west, two shop premises were established, and the facades were given their present look.

LIFE ON THE ESTATE

In the Norwegian regional daily newspaper “Adresseavisen” dated 22 October 1897, you could read about the dressmaking shop called “Stockholmer Syetablissement”. Contrary to the name, the business resided in Erling Skakkes Gate 22. An advertisement for the establishment attempts to entice potential customers and apprentices with French women’s magazines:

At Stockholmer Syetablissement distinguished ladies are offered the best. French magazines. Apprentices wanted.

Laura Rye.

Seamstress Rye was in other words seeking apprentices, and perhaps this led to the hiring of Miss Anna Brun? She lived here in the early 1900s and is listed as a “seamstress assistant.” From the 1930s onwards, several fashion-related businesses shared this address. A/S Ideal corsets, Nervik & Nystad fashion shop, Nystad dress shop and Nervik ladieswear. Who knows, this may even have been the city’s first fashion house? Either way, before fashion arrived at No. 22, it was haberdashery that filled the shelves. If different items featured on the shopping list, this was where you went – to Fallans Magasin on the corner!

ARTIST AND TRADESMAN

Martin Fallan worked as a portrait painter in the United States for ten years until 1899, when he relocated his business back to Trondheim and Erling Skakkes Gate 22. He painted here too, although his occupation changed quite significantly within just a few years. The artist expanded his line of work and became a tradesman. As a natural progression, Fallan initially sold art-related goods. But the product range soon exploded. On 19 December 1915, Fallan advertised his extensive range of commodities in Adresseavisen. The list below is an excerpt. 

A further 140 subcategories were also included! But the advertisement started with a courteous request:

“to be cut out and annotated for your convenience”

Leather goods

Stationery

Nickel, brass and copper products

Toiletries

Glassware

Wood products

Photography supplies

Pictures

Christmas cards

Board games

Steel products

Writing materials

Drawing materials

Jewellery

Flashlights

Knick-knacks

Christmas tree decorations