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Kurbadet 1837-1987 : Sandefjord Bad, Kuranstalt, Svovl- og Søbad, Sandefjord i Norge / Egil Christensen...<et al.> ; redaktør: Gro Laheld Lundh

Sandefjord, 1987. - 135 s.


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 historical value.
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 winter.

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 considerably.

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 restored them.

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 boats.

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 concerts etc.

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 since.

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 therapy.

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 wing.

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 buildings.

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


Sist oppdatert   16.07.07