On a peninsula at the southern end of the Tjeldsundet Strait in the midst of the rich farming community of Sandtorg, lies the old trading post of Sandtorgholmen – only a short sail away to the Lofoten Islands, the Ofotfjord and Narvik, to Bodø in the south, and Harstad and Troms in the north. In the days when all travel was by sea, it was here along the Tjeldsundet Strait that people met to trade and exchange news.
Sandtorgholmen is mentioned in documents for the first time in 1321, and a list of the owners’ names has been preserved from as far back as 1557. So Sandtorgholmen has always been a substantial farming estate. In 1770, however, the owners were granted a licence to sell wine and liquor. Naturally, this proved a huge magnet, and Sandtorgholmen soon became an important centre for the sailing ships trading up and down the coast.
The place to be
From 1800 Sandtorgholmen was a rural postal station, and in 1838 it became a regular port of call for the “Prins Gustav”, the first steamship to traffic between northern and southern Norway. In 1867 telegraph lines reached Sandtorgholmen, and for King Oscar II of Norway-Sweden it was a natural stopover on his famous voyage to Northern Norway in 1873.
A small community
Sandtorgholmen had a general store where the locals could buy essential imported goods such as flour and sugar, as well as liquor and wine. There was an important trading connection with the Pomor merchants from the White Sea coast of Northern Russia. Sandtorgholmen was also a considerable farming estate, numbering 27 buildings by the early 1800s, and with 28 people living there all year round in what was at that time the richest trading post north of Trondheim.
During the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century, when there was great poverty among the common people, Sandtorgholmen remained prosperous. The mistress of the house, Maren Marie Christensen, gave food to the needy. But her husband, Rasmus, forbade her to help a Sami woman, as he feared she would bring evil and bad luck upon them. When Rasmus was away on one of his journeys, Maren nevertheless gave a little food to the poor Sami woman. In gratitude, the woman foretold that Sandtorgholmen would suffer three fires, but that the “stabburet” (storehouse) would survive, as the only building. This prediction proved true, and the storehouse from 1750 was undamaged by three fires on the estate.
Most of the buildings in existence today date from the period after the last fire in 1906. The main building is an elegant, white-painted timber house in Swiss Chalet style. The reception rooms have recently been restored to their original splendour, and the entire project has taken 27 students and two teachers two-and-a-half man-years to complete all the painting. In 1916 the main house was moved 200 metres, while it was still being lived in! Using greased logs, strong ropes, block and tackle and horses, the house was actually pulled down a small slope to what was thought to be a spot where there was less danger of fire.
The buildings at Sandtorgholmen
The wharfside building (“Bryggen”) and quayside also date from the period after 1906, and it was here that the general store stood and where trading was carried on. “Bårdstuen”, which provided the living quarters for Sandtorgholmen’s retired servants and farm workers, dates from 1850, while the old wharfside storehouse serves today as the hotel’s reception.
Rooms and suites
“Bryggen” accommodates guests in 10 three-bed rooms, all comfortably furnished and with modern facilities, but taking their inspiration from Sandtorgholmen’s rich history. With names like “Poståpneriet” (“The Post Station”), “Prins Gustav”, etc., they are naturally decorated and furnished in keeping with the historical theme. The main house in Swiss Chalet style offers elegant accommodation in four suites.
Bridal suite in “Stabburet”
For newlyweds there is the delightful privacy of the bridal suite in “Stabburet”, the timber-built former storehouse dating back to 1750. This has proved to be a good start to marriage for many. So far, the present hosts at Sandtorgholmen have provided hospitality for 80 couples, and to their knowledge all of them are still married!
Guest at Sandtorgholmen
Sandtorgholmen takes pleasure in providing accommodation and excellent dining all summer through. The cuisine is local, based on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The wine cellar dating from 1770 is the oldest in Northern Norway. In autumn, winter and spring the hotel caters mostly for guests attending conferences, as well as weddings, birthdays and other festive occasions, so booking is essential. With a range of activities, such as fishing trips, walking in the forests and mountains, caving, RIB boat tours and killer whale safaris , there is something for everyone at Sandtorgholmen!
More about Harstad
Visit Sandtorgholmen’s own website at www.sandtorgholmen.no for much more information. For all other details of what to see and do in Harstad and the surrounding municipalities, we recommend that you visit Destination Harstad’s excellent website at www.destinationharstad.no