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Buildings. Society and fashion.

The General Manager’s House, house No. 17, is today the Townhall in Røros, and it is one the mining town’s most distinctive buildings. The large, grand residency bears witness to the way in which the upper classes built their houses.

Amund Spangen

The house was built in the style of the last part of the 1700s and can be compared to the most imposing of wooden palaces that were built in Trondheim at that time. Taste and style worked its way into large parts of the country from the coastal regions and towns. Røros was also on the receiving end of new trends. The General Manager’s house and the other great houses, which were built in the same period, indicate that the builders knew very well what was going on in matters of style in Europe.

The use of panelling and particularly the use of paint had long been considered a matter of luxury. The aesthetic employment of panelling was first used in the towns and it was the wealthy who allowed themselves to be influenced by foreign practices. The desire to cover the outside of lumber built buildings with panel, and the choice of the colour of paint springs from the wish to copy foreign, stone and brick building architecture. Wooden buildings were intended to look like stone buildings. In some cases the copying of stone buildings was very obvious, for example when the panels were laid edge to edge to achieve a smooth wall as in a stone or plastered building, and when the corners of buildings were formed to resemble ashlars blocks, or when pillars, and lintels and other stone building features were copied in wood.

Norway had no tradition of building in stone or brick and very few people in Norway at that time would have had access to foreign building materials. Panelling, profiled mouldings, cornices, log casings and carved details could be taken care of by the carpenter. The house painter could match and imitate colours and even produce tiled or brick finishes or make likenesses of sandstone or marble. The building’s façade was meant to demonstrate that the owner was well up to date in matters of building style that were fashionable at the time. Style from periods such as, Baroque, Rococo, Louis XVI and Empire were imitate by carpenters and house painters.

The town hall in Røros has many distinctive architectural features originating from the classical form that was popular at the time the building was erected. The rooms are divided on each side by continuous corridors. The 43 meter long street façade facing out towards Bergmannsgata is severely symmetric in form, divided by panelled boxes terminating in carved capitals. The drip trays situated over each window are supported by uprights, which at their base terminate in the classic cog pattern. The doorway is also classic in design. The doorframe is decorated with cuts in the woodwork made to resemble the space between masonry. In the space above the door and the window in the floor above is the emblem of the Company framed by carved cog pattern, decorative carving, pillars with horizontal cut marks and bell-shaped flowers – all of it inherited from ancient classic styles. Over the door is a piece of wood constructed to resemble an archway keystone. The keystone, which has its origins in classic-style structures, was a vital feature of the rounded stone arch. Without the keystone the whole arch structure would collapse. On the façade of the town hall the keystone, for good measure, is built into a square opening!