- Since the 17th century, there used to be a popular tavern in the location
- The modern-day residence was built in the 1870s
- Villa Lusthusporten received its current appearance after it was purchased by Hjalmar Wicander
Right across the road from the Nordic Museum (Nordiska Museet) in the beautiful green milieu of the Royal Djurgården (Kungliga Djurgården), there is an extraordinary historical residence waiting to be admired. It is known under many different names, but its style and character are both unique.
We pick up the story of Villa Lusthusporten, or Wicander Villa (Wicanderska villan), long before Djurgården became the wonderful place we know today. Well, you might argue that it used to be a wonderful place back then, too, just in a slightly different way.
In the 17th century, the island used to be enclosed by a number of adorned gates such as the Blue Gate (Blå Porten) you can see just east of the Djurgårdsbron Bridge today. Everyone who wanted to pass through the gate was required to pay a fee to the present guard.
Soon, the blue gate was accompanied by a tavern which was quickly gaining popularity. We can not be sure when it first opened exactly, but we do know that the eldest preserved document that mentions it dates from the early 1690s. At the time, it was known as ‘Lusthusporten’ which roughly translates to ‘The Gate Gazebo.’
Around a hundred years later, the venue changed its name to Blå Porten (‘The Blue Gate’). The name was not the only thing that changed, though. Over the centuries, many different families and individuals owned the property, and we come back to some of the most interesting ones later in the post.
The tavern was prospering, and early in the 19th century, it was expanded and renovated. At that time, it consisted of a pair of two-floor buildings, both of which were about 30 metres long. A modern ‘schweizeri’ was added to the complex before a catastrophe struck a few decades after the renovation.
On a windy day in 1869, the entire building complex burned to ashes in a matter of hours. Shortly afterwards, the rights to running the establishment at Blå Porten were acquired by the renowned restaurateur Wilhelm Davidson. Davidson founded Hasselbacken Restaurant near Skansen (‘The Open-Air Museum’) in 1853 after he moved his business to Djurgården from Drottninggatan.
However, he never planned to run a restaurant in the location and so, the place stood empty for a few years. Only later, Davidson agreed to sell the property to a wholesaler named Brink under the condition that he would not open a restaurant there. He simply did not like competition that much.
Brink came up with a different plan instead. He commissioned the architect duo of Axel and Hjalmar Kumlien to design and build an Italian-style villa in the location. This residence forms the base of the modern-day house that still stands on Djurgården today.
Edward Liljewalch, a member of the well-known Swedish dynasty, purchased the house in the early 1880s. The building played its part even in the 1897 Stockholm Exhibition (Stockholmsutställningen) when it accommodated both local and international press, as well as the police.
After the Exhibition, the property switched owner once again. This time, it was Hjalmar Wicander – son to a successful owner of a corporation dominating the international cork industry – who acquired the residence.
Clearly, the design created by Kumlien brothers did not match Wicander’s vision, and he commissioned architect Carl Möller, the author of several monumental churches in Stockholm, to adjust the house to his taste. Through a fundamental reconstruction, Villa Lusthusporten was rebuilt to match the style of the Nordic Museum building more closely.
Hopefully, few would dare to argue that the house’s design is not original or impressive.
Apart from being an ingenious businessman, Hjalmar Wicander was known as a generous philanthropist. He supported educational institutions such as The Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Konstakademien), funded the creation of the sculpture of Saint George and the Dragon (Sankt Göran och Draken) standing at Köpmantorget.
Moreover, he donated his collection of porcelain and coats of arms to the House of Nobility, his collection of miniature portraits – which belonged to the largest in the world – to the National Museum (Nationalmuseum), and later, even the residence itself to the Nordic Museum.
Thanks to that last donation, the Ethnology Institute could educate thousands of researchers in the inspiring historical premises. Even today, the villa belongs to the Nordic Museum, though now it houses administration offices instead of an educational institution.
Next time when you visit the beautiful Lusthusportens Park, do not forget to stop by Villa Lusthusporten to appreciate its beautiful shapes. Now that you know its whole story, it should be easier than ever.
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Mårtenson, Jan, 2007. Kungliga Djurgården.
Rehnberg, Mats, 1976. Blå Porten – Ett namnkunnigt värdshus på Djurgården.
2017. Unik visning av Villa Lusthusporten, Wicanderska villan. [vardagsnjutning.blogspot.se].