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Kragerø town was founded in the 17th century.

It was the export of timber that formed the basis of the town, and in the times that followed, Kragerø became a central port for ships from countries like the Netherlands and England. At one point Kragerø was one of Norway's largest shipping ports.

Originally, it was Kil in Sannidal, which was to be the center of the district, but Niels Søfrensen Adler from Kragerø decided that the city should be built where it is today.

In the middle of the 17th century, the Danish-Norwegian king needed money, so he gave Kragerø city status. That way he could collect taxes from the large industryn of timber export, and on 12. of July in 1666 the city privileges were announced in Kragerø.

The same year the great fire of London occurs, and Kragerø profits of the need of timber to reconstruct London. However, towards the middle of the 19th century, a new big industry emerged in Kragerø - export of ice. The ice was used for refrigerators and storage of food, and was exported throughout the whole Europe. Towards the end of the 19th century, this exports decline, and the days of sails runs towards the end.

Edvard Munch's painting, ”Skipshhugging”, from 1909 shows how the ending of the days of sails was in Kragerø.

Kragerø City Centre

Kragerø town as we know it, was built after a big city fire in 1711. The first settlement in Kragerø was most likely built on Øya before it was expanded to the mainland where the city centre is today.

Kragerø's mainland was originally much smaller than it is today. Large parts of the city center are built on stones that came with sailboats, especially from England and the Netherlands.

Many places in the city, significant families from history have given names to streets and areas. Examples are Biørnsborg Park, Barthebrygga and Thommesheia. In the center, the city's merchants and their families lived, along the Barthebrygga, the city's most wealthy lived, while the Andølingen and Jøransberg was working class areas. Several of the city's workers came from other parts of Telemark to work in Kragerø, and with them they had the timber from their houses numbered. Several of the houses at Andølingen and Jøransberg have originally been elsewhere before they were rebuilt in Kragerø.

The city was built at a time when most people wanted to live in the city center, and therefore it was built tight to accommodate everyone. Kragerø's narrow streets and alleys are an excellent proof of this, and over 350 years later, the city still has its original charm.

Important dates in Kragerø’s history

  • Ca 1590: Kil in Sannidal gets royal customs and develops into a seaport with significant exports of lumber, especially to Holland, Denmark and England.
  • 1615: Oldest surviving written source naming the place Kragerø.
  • 1652: The office moved from Kil to Kragerø.
  • 1666: King Frederik 3. grants Kragerø status as Norway 10th township after a request from the magistrate in Kragerø, Nils Sofrensen Adeler.
  • The 1600s: The origins of the Gunnarsholmen Coastal Fort can be traced back to the 1600s. Three of the cannons on the north bastion date to the 1700s and the others to the first half of the 1800s.
  • Approx. 1660-1670: Barthebrygga, Kragerø’s oldest existing neighbourhood, is probably built up at about this time. (Strong urban growth in Kragerø)
  • 1711: Almost the entire city in Kragerø is burning. Only the buildings on Barthebrygga were spared from the fire.
  • 1783: Kragerø becomes an independent parish.
  • Approx. 1790-1897: “The Golden Years” – Kragerø’s most prosperous period.
  • 1808: Napoleonic Wars. The English frigate Tartar reaches the outside of Kragerø archipelago and sends four smaller vessels into the city. These are met with gunfire from Gundersholmen Coastal Fortress and retreats.
  • 1808: Anton Martin Schweigaard born in Kragerø. He became a professor at the University of Christiania and is honored with one of the two sculptures in front of the university building on Carl Johans gate in Oslo. Among his many works to be mentioned is that he managed to introduced free competition on maritime transport in Europe, which opened for a Norwegian shipping heyday.
  • 1811: Peter Andreas Heuch, merchant of Kragerø, donates 15,000 riksdaler towards the establishment of a university in Oslo. This is nearly the same amount contributed by the entire city of Bergen.
  • 1857: The artist Theodor Kittelsen is born in Kragerø. His childhood home in the centre of town is now a museum. A bust of the artist has been erected in the grounds of the police station and beside the museum.
  • 1862: Skåtøy Church is built. This is Norway’s third largest wooden church.
  • 1867: Kragerø’s town hall is built in the so-call Swiss Style according to plans drawn up by Emil Victor Langlet, architect for the Parliament Building in Oslo. It is first used as the private home of the Biørn family.
  • 1870: Kragerø church completed and the old Christi Church from 1651 being demolished.
  • 1872: Øybrua (The small bridge which is connecting Kragerø downtown and "Øya") opens.
  • 1875: Kragerø is now the country’s sixth largest shipping town. The town’s fleet consists of 170 ships whose crews total 1,614 sailors.
  • 1882: The three municipalities Skaatø, Sandøkedal Parish and Kragerø are created.
  • 1882: Christian Krogh, Erik Werenskiold, Theodor Kittelsen and Frits Thaulow meets at Frøvik in Kilsfjord, Telemark. That fall they establish with other young artists the first autumn exhibition in Christiania.
  • 1885: Football is introduced to Kragerø by Georg Dahll. This is the first incidence of the game in Norway.
  • 1886: The last great town fire breaks out in Kragerø on 15 June 1886, destroying 192 buildings in three districts and leaving 1,500 people homeless.
  • 1896: Kragerø Fjordbåtselskap is established.
  • 1909: The artist Edvard Munch settles in Kragerø. The 6 years he spends in Kragerø are among his most productive.
  • 1909: Kragerø first car, a French Berliet, being hoisted ashore from coastal route ship at Dampskipsbrygga. It should serve as shuttle bus between Kragerø and Drangedal.
  • 1916: The fountain in Biørnsborg Park, created by the sculptor Gustav Vigeland, is donated by former Kragerø residents to commemorate the city’s 250th Anniversary.
  • 1998: A statue of Edvard Munch is erected at Skrubben. It was made by Per Elsdorff.
  • 2002: Opening of Nordraak Park in memory of Rikard Nordraak and Bjørnstjerne Bjornson. They wrote the words and music, respectively, to Norway’s national anthem. Both men’s families originally came from Kragerø.

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