In connection with the Constitution’s bicentenary in 2014 the Norwegian Ministry of Culture has tasked Statsbygg (the Norwegian public construction and property management service) with restoring Eidsvoll House (Eidsvollsbygningenn) to how it may have looked in 1814. The main house and the two adjacent pavilions are being restored to give the public an idea of how they appeared in 1814. The project also includes the reconstruction of the Eidsvoll house basement, and an upgrade of the surrounding park. The restoration ahead of 2014 is the largest and most comprehensive ever undertaken at Eidsvoll House, and is provisionally estimated to cost NOK 380 million.
In October 2011 Statsbygg began the work of restoring Eidsvoll House to its former glory under the ownership of Carsten Anker and how it appeared to the men who assembled at this building “of extraordinary size” to draw up Norway’s constitution in the spring of 1814. Recreating Anker’s basement floor is one of the restoration project’s most exciting undertakings.
Before work commenced the buildings and park were comprehensively surveyed. Inside the house colour samples have been taken of the various surfaces in search of paint and other traces dating from 1814. The woodwork and structural elements have also been extensively tested to determine the building’s condition. Statsbygg has engaged the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) to study the colour samples, and Multiconsult AS to assess the building structure. Geir Thomas Risåsen, art historian and curator at Eidsvoll 1814, has been engaged by Statsbygg to trawl the historical record in pursuit of documentation.
Eidsvoll House was first emptied of its contents and then closed to visitors. The extensive construction work means that the public cannot access the house or pavilions, unless by special arrangement with Statsbygg, when it is possible to see how far the work has progressed. However, the Eidsvoll 1814 museum remains open! While restoration is underway the public can still enjoy a wide range of activities and displays. Statsbygg and Eidsvoll 1814 have also set up a dedicated restoration information centre.
So when Eidsvoll House opens its doors in connection with the Constitution’s bicentenary celebrations in 2014, visitors will encounter a new entrance to the north, through which they will enter the basement floor, with its open hearth and servants going about the day’s household chores, and gain an insight into the social differences that existed in Norwegian society at that time. Then they will be able to go where no visitors have gone before – up the old staircase to the beautiful entrance hall. These stairs have not been in use for 150 years.
There they will find room after room looking just as they did when Carsten Anker turned Eidsvoll Manor into a fashionable modern home in 1814, with wallpaper-clad walls bordered in a colour palette far different to that we would feel comfortable with today, and accentuated by textiles of the sort Anker himself would have chosen. The ‘year of miracles’ in Norwegian history will come alive for new generations, and Eidsvoll House will stand ready to continue being the country’s foremost national symbol for another hundred years!