A Brief Introduction to
The Sandefjord Bad
Form Medical Centre to "Cultural Centre"
«Give the Kurbad a future!» and put life into Kurbadet as a cultural centre,
was the cry that went out in 1980 in an attempt to arouse interest for the preservation of
the Kurbad, the only buildings remaining from the old Sandefjord Bad, or Sandefjord Spa.
The Kurbad was the Spa's collection of therapy buildings where the different forms of
treatment were given. The result was the formation on March 19th 1980 of Kurbadets Venner
(the Friends of the Kurbad), consisting of many of Sandefjord's cultural societies.
The previous year the town council had been working on alternatives for
utilization of the buildings and grounds of the old Kurbad sites. Local cultural societies
were in urgent need of premises for workshops, rehearsals, and small-scale productions of
concerts, exhibitions and theatre performances, as well as for informal «get-together»
events. Kurbadets Venner was founded and the long-term development that we can see the
result of today, began.
There were two main goals for the societies and individuals believing in the project. They
are expressed in the first section of the statutes of Kurbadets Venner:
a) To preserve the Kurbad in Sandefjord as a memorial of cultural and
b) To restore the Kurbad for cultural uses, in accordance with guide-lines laid down by
the relevant authorities. (The Central Office of Historic Monuments.)
The action of Kurbadets Venner gradually influenced local opinion to such
an extent that in December 1980 the Sandefjord Town Council made the bold decision to
support the project and finance the restoration of the buildings.
Since then, through years of extensive cooperation between the Town
Council, the Kurbadets Venner, the cultural societies, and a great number of individuals,
the buildings today house an active cultural workshop, run by the users themselves. The
activities of Kurbadets Venner have resulted in what was originally a rather negative
attitude to the buildings on behalf of the local population, being transformed to one of
interest and increasing awareness of their value.
The Spa and the Town
In the 1830's Sandefjord was a small village with about 700 inhabitants. Next to
agriculture, shipping was the main source of income. In 1835 Sandefjord and the
surrounding district registered 64 ships. Traditional exports of timber were small and
shipbuilding did not increase until after 1840. In 1833 two important events occured -
firstly the employment of Heinrich Arnold Thaulow as the first physician in Sandefjord,
and secondly the royal resolution leading to a far better availability of building sites.
Thaulow founded Sandefjord Bad, or Sandefjord Spa, in 1837, with enthusiastic support from
the locals looking forward to new activity. The spa grew rapidly in size and reputation,
serving 500 guests in 1870 and culminating with 1,300 in 1917.
During the second half of the last century the spa was important to
Sandefjord in more ways than one. Prosperity increased, firstly through payments and
purchases by visitors to the spa, and secondly by the creation of employment. This was not
only at the Sandefjord Spa itself, but in restaurants, boarding-houses and so on in
Sandefjord and the surrounding district. Rooms in private houses were rented out to guests
of the spa. The institution was supplied with amongst other things locally grown flowers
and fruit, not to mention birch branches used in the treatment of the patients. The jobs
were all seasonal, from June lst to September 1st, but were highly appreciated,
particularly by the women. Men's work could be combined with, for example, jobs at sea in
The spa made Sandefjord known long before the Gokstad Viking ship finds
and the whaling period. Therefore the number of visitors to the district increased
Two other effects of the spa period are worth mentioning. Firstly the
houses had to be kept in an attractive condition to be accepted as suitable for renting,
and secondly, the cultural impact the numerous cultural events available to the public, as
well as the presence itself of the many foreigners, had on the local population.
From Spa to Cultural Center
Taking the waters for health reasons started in Brighton around the end of the 18th
century as treatment and entertainment for the aristocracy. Sandefjord Spa was a
part of the European tradition arising from this.
The architecture of Kurbadet has changed from the original classic temple facade of 1837
through the Swiss ornamental style from 1876, to the national «dragon style» in 1899.
The well known architect Henrik Nissen was responsible for the last major reconstruction
in 1898-99. Today we find here some of the most representative buildings for Norwegian
architecture at the turn of the century. We are most grateful to those who have saved and
Heinrich Arnold Thaulow 1808-1894
Heinrich Arnold Thaulow was born in Schleswig, Germany, of Norwegian family - a cousin of
the writers Henrik Wergeland and Camilla Collet and the uncle of Frits Thaulow, the
painter. In 1833 he became Sandefjord's first medical physician. In 1837 he founded
Sandefjord Spa - Sandefjord Bad - and in 1857 Modum Bad. He was a pioneer in Norway on
medical baths, their services and their forms of medical treatment, as well as being a
foresighted businessman and physician of high reputation.
Seawater Bathing and the «Strømbad»
Until the beginning of this century, sea-water bathing was main- ly a medical
exercise for the upper classes. Such was also the case in Sandefjord at the «Strømbad»,
a building which in 1857 was constructed to provide treatment to supplement that
being offered by the Sandefjord Spa. In 1899 this building was moved and reconstructed, to
form the present building located at the end of a pier south of what is now the Park
Hotel. Separate pools segregated men and women and offered fresh, clear seawater with a
relatively high salt content. Today, the building from the spa period is run by one of the
local motor-boat clubs, the «Ulabrand», serving as a club-house and pier for their
Memories from the Time of the Spa
Ship broker Jean B. Linaae (1895-1974) wrote in the 1960's a series of articles about his
childhood in Sandefjord. In this particular one we can feel the atmosphere in the hectic
days just before June 1 st - the opening of the spa season. «The buildings of the
Sandefjord Bad as well as the many private houses with rooms to let, were prepared
thoroughly. From Bohuslän in Sweden a number of experienced spa staff came by boat to
work at the spa. At the railway station, the presence of the porter, Mr. Anderson, told
everybody that the season was due. From June 1st, the sound of the «Bademusikk» (the Spa
musicians) playing from the music pavillion added another harmonic aspect to the beautiful
summer of Sandefjord».
The Medical Treatment - in Brief
Because of the remarkably high salt content and the excellent purity of the sea-water
Sandefjord Spa was originally meant to provide a sea-water bath. Soon other forms of
treatment were employed. Sulphur-wells of unsurpassed richness were discovered. Sea mud
was used, either for local application or immersion of the entire body. Electrical baths
and jellyfish were also used. Ailments and diseases successfully treated were gout,
rheumatism, scrofula, diseases of the abdomen, skin and nervous system, obstruction of the
bowels, intestinal afflictions, constitutional syphilis and so on.
A day at the spa normally started at about 6.30 a.m. by drinking 3-4
glasses of sulphur water, followed by a walk before breakfast. Later the patient was
treated with sea-mud, often mixed with sulphur-water or pine needles. 300-500 whips with
fresh birch branches followed by rubbing with a brush was part of this treatment. To
stimulate the skin and the nervous system, jelly-fish were used.
We may find the answer to the very high percentages of recovery being
reported by adding rest, a regular life, healthy food, fresh air and some careful physical
excercise to the treatment, all combined with voluntary excursions and entertainment like
Medical observations from the Sandefjord Spa gave rise to a new
and extensive branch of Norwegian medicine
- The study and treatment of rheumatology diseases.
The restoration of the buildings remaining from the original Sandefjord Spa is of great
value, both with respect to local history and cultural history, considering what
significance the spa had to the town and its inhabitants. However, the Sandefjord Spa was
of particular significance for Norwegian medicine. From the activities of Sandefjord Spa
and the records of diseases treated there, grew a new and most significant branch of
Norwegian medicine - rheumatology. This is due in particular to Dr. Andreas Martinius
Tanberg, who was the spa's senior physician for a period of 27 years - from 1910 until
1938. It so happens that it is the therapy buildings - where Tanberg made his observations
of the guests who had rheumatic diseases - that have saved and been restored.
Andreas Tanberg was born in Drammen in 1873 and completed his medical examinations in
1899. Although he studied many areas of medicine he was particularly interested in
physiology and the effects of diet and nourishment on the health - knowledge of which were
most useful in his work as a spa doctor. In 1913, having already worked at the spa for 3
years, he took his medical doctor's degree. It was at the spa that he came into contact
with patients having rheumatic diseases, and became aware of what enormous suffering such
diseases could cause. Before 1938 there was no general treatment or help available for
these diseases. It was only at the spas that one could get treatment which might relieve
the suffering a little, but such treatment could only be afforded by the wealthy. Tanberg
realised that there were enormous numbers of sufferers who could never afford any help.
In 1929, in its search for someone to hold the main speech at its national
congress in Horten, Norske Kvinners Sanitetsforening (NKS - The Norwegian Women's Public
Health Association) invited Tanberg to talk about the subject in which he was so
interested. Tanberg was a brilliant speaker, and the speech, which is now historical,
resulted in a breakthrough for the treatment of rheumatic diseases in Norway and lead to
the acceptance of Tanberg as the founder of Norwegian rheumatology. NKS realised that they
now had a new cause to fight for - their previous battle against tuberculosis just having
been won. NKS adopted the fight against rheumatism as its main cause, and it has been ever
15th September 1938, the Oslo Rheumatism Hospital was opened as one of the
first such in Europe. Dr. Andreas Tanberg resigned from his position at the Sandefjord Spa
and became head of the new hospital. For the first time patients could be accepted for
treatment by the hospital, all expenses being paid by the social services.
Tanberg based his initial treatment on that given at Sandefj ord Spa, but the medical
discoveries of the 1940's and 1950's lead to totally new medicines and new forms of
Norway's rheumatology was born at the Sandefjord Spa. Dr. Andreas Tanberg
assisted at the birth and ensured that the child got an excellent start in life. He died
on 7th February 1968, 94 years old. He was then an honorary member of the Norwegian
Medical Society and had been awarded The Royal Order of St. Olav, officer first class and
the Norwegian Womens Public Health Association degree of honour.
The restoration of the buildings remaining from the Sandefjord Spa will
provide a worthy memorial to a long-gone spa tradition in Norway, to Thaulow and those who
created the Sandefjord Spa, and also to the man who found inspiration there to drive him
to develop, with the help of his successors, an important new branch of medicine.
Visitors to the Spa
Except for the last few years (1930's), a stay at the spa was very expensive.
Consequently, the number of guests always depended on the general political and
economic situation in society. Other factors influencing the attendance were competition
from other spas, the medical development and the «snob value» obtained by a stay at the
spa. With an average of 500 guests a year, about 50,000 persons were treated at Sandefjord
Spa in the period 1837-1939. Reading the guest lists we find lawyers, generals, ministers,
consuls, ship-owners, land-owners and their families represented. Most of them were
Norwegians or Nordic citizens, al- though people from most European
countries and the USA are found in the lists. Numerous famous artists stayed there, like
the painters Tidemand, Gude, Thaulow, Werenskiold, and the writers Welhaven, Collett and
Ibsen. Members of royal families also frequented Sandefjord Bad.
Already in 1869 the first fund with the aim of subsidising poor patients
was established, initially financed by voluntary gifts from some of the wealthy guests.
However, free or subsidised treatment was not common until the 1930's when the social
services started to play a more dominant role in this respect.
The Music at the Spa
Throughout the years the «Bademusikk» (the Spa musicians) consisted of 6 musicians, all
professionals, often recruited from the theatres of Copenhagen or Hamburg. They were
probably able to perform on more than one instrument because of the wide repertoir of
music performed marches, opera melodies, hymns, and classical pieces. Their duties
comprised a variety of performances, such as out-door concerts during the drinking of the
healthgiving sulphur water early in the morning and afternoon, as well as evening concerts
from the music pavillion, and dance music at the Sunday evening semi-public dances. The
band also took part in the excursions arranged by the management and at entertainment
evenings in the lounge or in the beautiful concert hall. Famous artists were often engaged
for the latter. The number of performances of high cultural standard were remarkable, this
being a good means of attracting potential guests to this particular institution. As the
cultural events in most years were also available to the locals, the impact on them must
also have been significant. For many people even just listening to the band in the park
meant a first contact with live music.
Sandefjord Town Council Takes Over
In 1936 Sandefjord Town Council acquired the Sandefjord Spa with its different grounds and
buildings for NOK 300,000. The aim was not to continue the spa, but rather to secure the
valuable grounds for future development of the town. The medical services continued
however, as before. The German invasion of 1940 put a definite end to Sandefjord Spa as a
medical institution. The German troops requisitioned the buildings and left them at the
end of the war in a terrible condition. After 1945 the buildings were used for a variety
of odd activities, waiting for the final decision with respect to demolition. The
buildings housing the restaurants and concert hall were demolished in 1958-59 freeing that
site for the present Park Hotel, and the Town Hall is situated on the neighbouring site,
where the original residential buildings once stood. The therapy buildings, the Kurbad,
were fortunately never demolished. Since 1948 one of the wings has housed a nursery shool,
which will remain there as a pleasant neighbour to the cultural activities in the other
The Work at the Spa
Through interviews and a close personal cooperation with a group of people formerly
employed at the Kurbad, the Kurbadets Venner has acquired much important information about
the old working day. They describe their working conditions, the friendship, the rigid
hierarchy between the various positions, the payment, the management and a lot of other
interesting things. They also describe the treatment in detail. Anecdotes and personal
memories, as well as a number of names of staff members and patients, have now been
recorded to, adding further details to the history of Sandefjord Spa. With their
assistance the inside of the Kurbad building could be described and in parts restored to
its original state. Thanks to these people we know today something about life at the spa,
information that would otherwise have been lost.
Kurbadet - a Healthy Investment
Reading history is said to facilitate the understanding of today as well as of the future
through the insight and knowledge we acquire about the past. To preserve old buildings is
in this context more important than ever. The Sandefjord Town Council consequently made a
wise decision when it decided to finance the restoration of the Kurbad. Private sources
have also contributed. The voluntary work being organized by Kurbadets Venner is unique.
Their efforts since 1980 have been important in several ways - economically through
man-hours in labour and planning, and culturally through the care and love for the
The Kurbadet as an Historical Monument in Today's Sandefjord
The discussion concerning preservation of the buildings of the Kurbad has today
calmed, indicating that local opinion appreciates what is happening. Kurbadets Venner have
cooperated closely with the Town Council and the Museums in Sandefjord. Material
describing some of the original spa functions will be on display in the Kurbad. The
buildings provide a document of substantial historical value, nationally as well as
locally. The «Dragon Style» architecture is inspired by old Norwegian building
traditions, but at the same time incorporates elements from the Viking ship findings at
Gokstad near Sandefjord. Furthermore, the Kurbad also represents a tradition in medical
treatment that has now passed. The institution was of great importance to the town. Today,
the buildings are again of value to those who live in Sandefjord.
Michael R. Kimbell/Svein Ingebretsen