The story of Northern Norway’s oldest hotel, Fru Haugans Hotel in Mosjøen, has everything from murder with arsenic to strong, capable women.
It all started in 1794, when skipper Erik Sjursen was granted royal consent to operate a “guest house and trading post”. This included trading, running a shop, selling spirits and running a hotel and was one of over 200 trading sites along the coast of Northern Norway. He was given a site from the family farm and started business down by the River Vefsna, many years before there was a town called Mosjøen.
Arsenic poisoning created commotion over ownership
In 1827 merchant Peter Heitmann died while on a fishing trip in Lofoten, probably as a result of arsenic in the food container that his wife, Anne Christine Clausdotter, had given to him. She subsequently married her lover, skipper O.H. Schrøder, who went on to become a major trader. Finally, it was Schrøder’s second wife who was left at the trading post. However, by this time the trading post was past its heyday, and the focus was on running the hotel. In the meantime, Mosjøen had become a thriving lumbering town in inner Helgeland, and it had quite a Clondyke atmosphere at times. The oldest part of the current hotel complex was built in 1866. However, the hotel owners went bankrupt in 1882.
Mrs Haugan took control in 1898
Ellen Haugan moved to Mosjøen from Ålesund in 1885, after her husband became bankrupt and suffered a nervous breakdown. To earn a living, she seized the opportunity when the hotel was put up for rent. Initially, she rented it, but she bought the hotel in 1898 for 15,000 kroner. Mrs Haugan was an astute businesswoman, and managed to get a failing hotel back on its feet, earning the hotel a reputation for excellent food and service. The wooden hotel was gradually extended.
The hotel has continually adapted to the clientele
Mrs Haugan’s daughter, Eli Jensen Hals, understood expansion in the 1930s, and the hotel was extended with 40 new rooms in a concrete functionalist style: A new age requires new architecture. In 1940, the hotel was taken over by the Germans, and Eli cut down the flagpole to prevent the swastika flag being raised. Further extensions were carried out in the 1990s, and the last was completed in 2015.
Capable women have run the hotel for generations
In Elistuen, the oldest part of the hotel, four women gaze down on us from the oil canvases. Ellen Haugen, who gave the hotel its name, her youngest daughter, Eli Jensen Hals, who succeeded her, and then her niece, Eli Jürgensen, who took over in 1970, followed by Jürgensen’s niece, Bjørg Jürgensen Johannessen (in charge from 1991). Johannessen’s daughter, Ellen Løvold Strand, now runs the hotel. No other hotel in Norway has been in the same family for so long. The Ellenstuen Restaurant and Fruen Bar that tell the long history of the hotel can be found inside the old wooden hotel itself.
The hotel museum represents a trading post past
The hotel museum is decorated in the style of a house from the old trading post from the end of the 1700s. The first merchants lived here, and it has since been used as a storehouse, kitchen and staff accommodation. Gradually, old things were put in here, and the treasures went on to form a museum. The kitchen boasts stoneware from the Egersund Fayance factory, an old-fashioned ice machine and an icebox that pre-dates the electric fridge, which was kept cool with blocks of ice. A beautiful Art Nouveau lounge, four-poster beds, washstands and an organ from Dønna form part of this collection of curiosities.
The Renaissance garden is down by the riverside
Old trading posts also featured beautiful gardens, and the hotel’s garden can be found down by the River Vefsna. In keeping with the fashion at the time, the garden is very symmetrical and designed in the Renaissance style, with a summer house, water mirror, perennials and large deciduous trees.
Staying at Fru Haugans
If you stay at Fru Haugans Hotel, you are likely to have a room in the contemporary and comfortable new wing. To experience the history of the place, visit the old lounge, the old restaurant and the bar. On sunny days, a trip to the summer house in the Renaissance garden is a must. Along with Sjøgato, the old town in Mosjøen, Fru Haugans Hotel completes the historic part of the beautiful town at the mouth of the River Vefsna.
For all the information you need about Helgeland, including Fru Haugans Hotel, check out the Visit Helgeland webpage.