Östermalms Saluhall is a beautiful and well preserved historical document of urban residents interest in good food and for 130 years it´s been a veritable oasis for gourmets and gastronomes. Here is a brief summary of the years.
Today we are amazed at how quickly new buildings are taking shape. However, Östermalms Saluhall, opened in 1888, was also built at a rate of knots. If we count from the date of foundation work which began on 1 June 1888, it took no more than six months to get the mighty building complete. But how did it all start? “Östermalms Saluhallar Limited” was formed in spring 1888. The idea was to build and lease food halls and other sales offices in Stockholm. For the construction of a large covered market in the neighborhood “Riddaren” (meaning The Knight) at Östermalmstorg, a million dollars was allocated while an architectural competition was announced. Full ten proposals were received but none of them appealed to the discerning building owners. Instead, two relatively young architects got the assignment. Isak Gustaf Clason and Kasper Salin drew inspiration from their scholarship during trips to North Germany, Italy and France in the mid 1880’s. They had seen many examples of exciting brick architecture, and especially in France, there were several monumental cast-iron structures of the advanced type that would become the backbone of the food halls brick cathedral. Most remarkable was of course the Eiffel Tower (opened 1886).
Building permit application was submitted March 13, 1888 and approved three days later. The existing buildings in the area were demolished in April/May and the foundation work then began on 1 June. Three weeks later, the foundation was inspected and ready. On 29 September the roof also was in place and the entire workforce of 500 people gathered for a topping-out ceremony (a party held when the last beam is placed at the top of a building). And soon the whole building was thus complete. With its towers, pillars, and large glass roof, there the food hall was in all its glory. Like a perfect combination of a castle and a greenhouse of impressive dimensions and with an immersive beautiful warm red brick taken from Börringe in Skåne.
The opening ceremony took place in the presence of King Oscar II’s on November 30, 1888 and it is easy to imagine that the joy was apparent on this day. Despite the magnificence of the building and the beauty of its surroundings trading at Östermalm’s Saluhall was slow at first and several of the 153 stalls were empty. The City of Stockholm then, in 1914, purchased the building and the bureaucratic finesse, introduced soon – with hygienic arguments as a basis – a “market trade ban ‘for the lively trade in the square outside. It was just for traders to move in and immediately the business grew.
So what are the similarities and differences between the food hall which opened in 1888 and then one in which we are shopping today? In fact, a significant part of the original interior remains. As the stalls beautiful carvings in dark lacquered wood and the design on tradors signs. But part is also changed. The original food hall was more colorful and decorated. The pillars were painted red and blue with walls of bright plaster had a red and blue frieze. In addition to clock, calendars and barometric the walls adorned of all sorts of maxims and a large vendor list. It´s a bit unclear when all this disappeared but who knows, maybe soon we once again adorn the walls with little thought-provoking lyrics. You might want to take a closer look when you visit next time.
Although one might think of Östermalms Saluhall as listed of historical interest, that is not the case. However in practice it already enjoys the same level of protection according to Stockholm City Museum. The fantastic building is still here for future generations of food lovers and connoisseurs to appreciate and enjoy. After 130 years it´still vibrant, vivid and impressive.
Text: Lina Bielsten and Martin Engelbrecht. Facts from “Östermalmshallen – ett rekordbygge” by Britt Wisth (Stockholm City Museum).