Uranienborg for sale
Uranienborg in Svartskog is often regarded as the perfect home for Roald Amundsen. Here he could go for walks in the woods, be by the sea, be close to his family, and live a sheltered private life, and at the same be only a short distance from the capital. But even though he greatly appreciated life at Svartskog, he was also eager on several occasions to sell the properties there.
As early as 1913, just five years after he had moved in, Amundsen discussed with his brother Leon the possibilities of selling the properties Uranienborg and Rødsten (the neighbouring house where Leon lived with his family). A sale could provide funds for future expeditions, but on this occasion there were none. Roald was on a lecture tour, and therefore dependent on Leon for taking care of any sale and moving home whilst also managing the winding up of things up after the Fram expedition.
Within a few years a new attempt was made to sell, when Uranienborg was advertised for sale in spring 1916 with full contents and orchard for 70,000 kroner. The advertisement appeared in several newspapers over a period of two months, but was withdrawn with no sale.
Amundsen did, however, move out of Uranienborg that autumn. His reason, he said, was that the planning of the upcoming North Pole expedition and the construction of the Maud were difficult as long as he was out at Svartskog.
He moved into an apartment in Thomas Heftyesgate 60 in Kristiania (Oslo) and spent a lot of money on furnishing it, buying new curtains, furniture and kitchen utensils. So he no longer lived at Uranienborg, but still owned the house, when he left on the Maud expedition in 1918. When he returned with the girls Nita and Camilla in 1922, however, they all moved in to Uranienborg.
Nevertheless, in the summer of 1923, Norwegian newspapers announced that Uranienborg had been sold to Consul Niels Gudde with contents for 60,000 kroner. The lawyer who had arranged the sale was the consul’s brother, Trygve Gudde, and behind the scenes was their sister, Kristine Elisabeth Bennett. Kristine, or Kiss as she was called, was involved in a love affair with Roald Amundsen at the time.
In several letters, Amundsen claimed that he had actually transferred both Uranienborg and Rødsten to Kiss as early as 1918. But it was not until 1923 that there was a formal change of ownership. Her brother Niels Gudde was used to keep Kiss’s name from the public, but in practice nothing changed, and neither Kiss nor anyone else in the Gudde family ever claimed the property. This created problems when Amundsen approached bankruptcy later in 1923. In a letter to Tryggve Gudde, he wrote in December: “I am selling both properties & all the contents, but keeping the small service house, which under the circumstances is suitable for me”.
Who actually owned what also became the core of the dispute leading to the rift with his brother Leon Amundsen, when bankruptcy became inevitable the following year. In May 1924, while Roald was in Copenhagen, he wrote again to Trygve Gudde: “I have sold both Uranienborg & Rødsten to my brother Leon”. Not many months later, Herman Gade received a letter from Roald Amundsen inviting him to buy the property for a good price, something Leon should then have put a stop to.
The confusion over ownership and financial affairs seems to have been as great then as it is today, and opinions vary regarding Amundsen’s motives, based on different interpretations of the available source material. Perhaps future research will provide better insight into Amundsen’s financial situation and property dispositions around this time.
What we do know, is that Roald Amundsen became formally bankrupt in September 1924, and Uranienborg and the properties at Svartskog became part of the bankruptcy estate. In 1926, they were sold from Amundsen’s bankruptcy estate to Herman Gade and Peter “Don Pedro” Christophersen, who went on to give Roald Amundsen the right of use.
When Amundsen disappeared in 1928, it was thus Gade and Christophersen who were the formal owners of the properties. In 1933, Uranienborg was donated to the State, while Rødsten was taken over by Gustav Amundsen and his family.
In 1934, Uranienborg opened as a museum and a formal opening by King Haakon VII took place on June 20, 1935.