Herandsholmen ca 1900

Herandsholmen - Historical details

The isle of Herandsholmen is an ancient Hardanger legal venue, lodging and trading centre dating back to the times before road traffic, when all journeys were made by boat.

Hardangsloop from around 1800

In 1754 Carl Commerou was granted a temporary innkeeper's authorisation by Mr. Cicignon, the county governor.
The Royal Innkeeper's License was awarded in 1758. However, the site had been put to use for visitors lodgings long before that time, not least due to the centrally situated,
excellent harbour which made it easy for boats to come and go in all weathers.

Simon Holmen is the first owner of Herandsholmen on record, and he is believed to have lived here around 1650. The core of the main building is assumed to date back to his time.

The windowpane in the kitchen of the main house.

One of the windowpanes in the kitchen of the main building carries the inscription: "Sergeant Peder Olsen, Corporal Jens Ørn, Anno 1731." Another windowpane reads: "The most learned and right honourable schoolmaster Ole Gjerdrum 1731". These panes were probably crafted by master glazier Bernhard Siebentopf of Bergen.

In the period around 1680 - 1750 windowpanes inscribed with names and dates were customary gifts presented by guests. 1774 saw Peter Harmens take over at the helm. He was the brother of Hildebrann Harmens, a well-known and wealthy Bergen-based merchant. Herandsholmen became the legal venue for the Jondal and Kvam communities in 1760, and remained so for more than 40 years. For this reason, a courthouse was erected. The court was under the jurisdiction of Lysekloster.

Sjur and Eli Herandsholmen
When the first trading activities were starting to gain pace in the early 1800s, the courthouse was converted into a general store. By this time, Sivert Frimann had taken over the running of the inn, although his main line of business was in the export trade to Portugal and elsewhere, carrying dried cod from Bergen with return cargoes of salt. In 1835 he married Eli Sjursdtr. Rondestveit of Ulvik, born in 1800.
Sivert died at sea off Skudesnes in 1845 at the early age of 33. His sloop was carrying stoves from Ulefoss at the time, intended for sale in Bergen.

Sjur Torsteinsson Herandsholmen, born in 1805, took over at Herandsholmen in 1846 when he married Sivert Frimann's widow. Sjur T. Herandsholmen was an impressively skillful businessman. Trade flourished throughout his time at Herandsholmen, long before Norheimsund and Øystese set up as trading centres. People came rowing across the fjord to Herandsholmen to buy grain, salt, hemp, rope, leather, iron, nails, tar and lamp oil. Sjur T. Herandsholmen had two sloops sailing between Herandsholmen and Bergen, where he traded with prominent merchants such as Eche, Monclaire, Mohn, Heiberg and others.

The courthouse was converted into a general store early 1800s
He was also involved with the purchase and sale of vessels and farms, and he took part in the herring trade. Moreover, he was heavily involved with money-lending, providing mortgages, normally at 4% interest.
In 1897 Sjur died a very wealthy man indeed, 25 years a widower. In his will, he left a total of around NOK 20 million (the value of the Norwegian krone/ wage level / purchasing power to the value of the Norwegian krone in 2003) to the local authorities of Kinsarvik, Ulvik, Østensø sogn (currently Kvam) and Jondal. The latter alone was left an amount equivalent to around NOK 10 million, inclusive of the debt from which he released the Council.
The money paid for a new schoolhouse in Herand, providing accommodation for both primary and secondary school children. The baptismal angel which is still hanging in Jondal Church was also gifted by Sjur. On his deathbed, he asked for a message to be sent to all those who owed him money: If they would come and thank him, he would strike their debt off his books. Most of them turned up. The epitaph on Sjur Herandsholmen's listed headstone by Jondal Church, reads: "Here rests the dust of Sjur Herandsholmen".

Lars and Aagaata Storaas
Lars Storaas, born in 1847, the grandfather of the present owner, bought the property from Sjur T. Herandsholmen (his uncle) in 1885. Compared with other farms sold at the time, the purchase price was extremely high.
Lars Storaas was known to be a tough, accomplished sailor and a resourceful businessman. However, he was also a man capable of expressing his strong and warm emotions in verse as well as prose.
Among his writings is a collection of incredibly beautiful love poems dedicated to his beloved wife, Aagaata, who bore him 12 children. She died in 1943, 88 years old.

Lars Storaas was involved with the Nordland trade, being the owner of large sloops and ketches. He used to buy herring which he salted in barrels and resold in Bergen. Similarly, he bought fish at Lofoten which he salted in the vessels' cargo hold and shipped to the drying grounds. Herandsholmen, with its smooth rocks on the northern side of the island, was a much-favoured place for drying fish. The sun-dried split cod was shipped to Bergen and sold to exporters. Lars Storaas and his crew also carried herring to the Baltic, Riga being one of their destinations.

The schooner MUNIN from 1908, owned by Lars Storaas, Herandsholmen

The trading activity at Herandsholmen continued up to 1914. By then, Herandsholmen was no longer a hub for activities centred round the Hardangerfjord. Coastal steamers had taken over, and a number of other places were picking up the business. Lars Storaas was a man of considerable social involvement and he held office as mayor of Jondal for a number of terms. He was appointed Chief Arbitrator as well. His Mayor's Office was in the Auntie House (Tantehuset), and just past this office is the spacious hall where from time to time he would convene Council meetings.

When Lars Storaas died in 1925 at the age of 78, the "Hardanger" newspaper's editorial gave him this epitaph: "In Lars Storaas, Outer Hardanger has lost one the area's best known, longest serving and most prominent men. He has held more offices than anybody else in Jondal Council. And to be sure, no man has ever rowed the 20 kilometres from Herand to Jondal and back as many times as he has, often several times a week. But then he was a man of great strength and stamina, who never considered a bit of toil and a wet shirt to be too much of a bother.
He was a well-organised administrator who managed to get things done. The Council meetings he chaired were never long and tedious. He had no time for nonsense, pedantry, deferrals and half measures. He was a man of practical inclination and reliable instinct, capable of finding his personal stance in a jiffy, and expecting others to do the same.

Lars T. and Aagaata. A Storaas, in 1877,

An experienced businessman, he was well versed in financial matters and adept at controlling the Council's purse, which he did with great care, yet without being tight, but also without being lavish or extravagant.
Lars Storaas was a fine figure of a man: Tall and upright and nimble right up to a great old age. To his village he was a true chieftain - an honourable gentleman to his fingertips."

Torvald Storaas and his wife Ragna, the parents of the present owner, took over Herandsholmen in 1940. Torvald was involved with the coastal trade and spent much time away from home. Whenever he was ashore, however, he spent all hours maintaining the property, being particularly concerned to prevent leaking roofs. It is therefore much thanks to him that all the buildings are still standing today. Ragna was a highly enterprising lady in her own right, and it was she who first started letting the houses at Herandsholmen.

Torvald Storaas' eldest son, Torleiv Storaas, took charge of the property in 1974. In recent years, he and his wife,, have started a major refurbishing scheme. Together, they have successfully integrated modern comforts with original features and heritage items. Today, the houses at Herandsholmen present themselves as havens of comfort and beauty - worthy conservers of social history, picturesquely situated in the Hardangerfjord heartland.

Sources: Old letters and documents, copies of wills, The National Archives of Norway, The State Archives of Bergen.
Alfred Storaas: "Herandsholmen" (published by the author, 1969)

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