Preservationists and thousands of others in Oslo were mourning the severe damage from a fire during the night at the oldest building in Oslo’s popular Grünerløkka district. The property, known as Nedre Foss gård, had just recently been fully renovated and converted into one of Oslo’s best new restaurants.
The fire is believed to have started in a grill at the restaurant. Firefighters, who battled for 13 hours before finally gaining control over the blaze Thursday morning, think the fire then spread to the restaurant’s ventilation system and the roof, which collapsed a few hours after the fire broke out.
Guests dining in the restaurant Wednesday evening already had been quickly evacuated and no injuries were reported. The damage done to the historic main building that dates from 1802 was extensive, however, with city officials and its celebrity owner calling the blaze tragic.
“No, no, no,” exclaimed Fredric Hauge of the environmental organization Bellona, which once had its offices in the building. Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party, newly elected leader of Oslo’s city government, noted that the building “was of cultural value to the entire city,” and he hoped it could be repaired. His predecessor, Stian Berger Røsland of the Conservative Party, was also quick to express his concern and sympathy for the owners of the restaurant and the building itself: “Tragic news about Nedre Foss gård. Hope this important place can be rebuilt.”
Christian Ringnes, the celebrity real estate investor who owned the property said he hoped it could be rebuilt, too. “This is terribly sad,” he told newspaper VG. “It’s a fantastic building. I’m prepared to build it up again, but the question is whether it will lose some of its soul if its old structure has been destroyed. We hope that’s not the case.”
It may take time before either Ringnes or restaurant owner Nevzat Arikan can fully assess the damage and make any plans. For Arikan, who also runs several other popular restaurants in Oslo, the fire was a huge setback. He had just spent three years and invested NOK 50 million (USD 5.6 million) restoring the property’s manor house, gardens and side buildings for his latest restaurant, which opened in May and could accommodate 400 guests. His project also included a microbrewery and distillery. Readers of newspaper Aftenposten had also just voted Nedre Foss gård as Oslo’s best new restaurant of 2015.
“This is unreal and terribly sad for our city,” stated Oslo’s historic preservation agency Byantikvaren via social media. “Nedre Foss is a pearl!” The property itself dates back to as early as 1220, when it was mentioned as housing a mill that belonged to the cloister on Hovedøya, an island in the inner Oslo Fjord.