Kristiansand is situated in Southern Norway. Just like other cities along the coast, it has it's share of old preserved wooden houses. «Posebyen» is the name of the oldest part of town and the only part left after the big city fire in 1892. These wooden houses are also the largest collection in Northern Europe.
Every day when I go to work I walk through Posebyen. (except at the moment because of home office). But the past couple of weeks I have been to town a couple of times simply to enjoy the special streets with blooming cherry trees. I find Posebyen with its old white-painted houses to be the most charming part of our city and popular among tourists coming to town. A lovely place to just stroll around and take the time to look at all the detailes.
Kristiansand was founded by King Christian IV of Denmark – Norway in 1641. ( At that time Norway was under Danish rule). The direct cause of the city's foundation was probably the need for a city with a harbor because of trade. At that time large quantities of lumber were exported from the surrounding area. Because of that the harbor has been important for the development ot the city and in the early 1800s it was home port to one of the world's largest fleets.
The town plan was made over a strict route pattern and it's Norway's only consistently built Renaissance town. All the streets were equally wide and together they formed a quadrature of approx. 1 km. x 1 km. This city pattern has been practically unchanged until today. The city centre is still called Kvadraturen – (meaning quadrature).
With a few exceptions, all the houses were built of wood and most of them have either one or two floors. When I stopped at one of the houses, the lady who lived in the house came home. We got talking. She said that the house (which dates from 1734) was built with only one floor. Second floor was built on later. That might be the case of most houses.
Most people who lived here were ordinary workers, but with a clear social structure: Down by the river, carpenters lived in almost every house. Craftsmen and skippers lived in the middle part of Kvadraturen, while workers, servants, day laborers, sailors and most of the poor lived in Posebyen. The shipowners and large trading families lived in near the harbour.
Inside the quarters of Posebyen, there were many open rooms and back yards, but you could also find stables, hen houses and barns here. People in town kept livestock! It must have been very lively in the back yards. According to Census of 1900 – 400 pigs and 178 cows were registrert here, in addition to horses and chickens!
It is not entirely clear why the area is called "Posebyen", but one explanation is that it might be derived from the French word "repos" which means «rest». The inhabitants were required to house soldiers from the fortress who needed a place to rest.
Bentsens Hus (the house of Bentsen) was built in 1855. At the most 40 people lived in the house, including 15 soldiers in the attic. Inside the yard there were horse stables, a henhouse and tool sheds. Bentsen who owned the house donated it to Kristiansand municipality, which today rents it out to for events as weddings or whatever. The kitchen is modern and fully equipped.
Kristiansand has had four major town fires. The last was in 1882 when 1/3 of all the houses burnt. Since then all the buildings in the town centre have to be constructed in concrete or bricks. The street with the colorful houses are situated in Posebyen in the street along the river where the carpenters used to live. Only, the wooden houses have been replaced houses in concrete.
The city square with the old fire station has a tower. Someone had to stay in the tower at all times. That was the way a fire was discovered. Today the building is housing the municipalities and tourist the information here. My office is just in front of the square making me feel close to the old part of time.
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