The Norwegian government put the central portion of an entire coastal town under historic preservation orders on Friday. Once known as a sailing ship and herring hub, the unique white wooden buildings of Skudeneshavn are now meant to be saved forever.
“We want to secure an extremely special and well-preserved coastal town,” said Ola Elvestuen, the government minister in charge of climate and environmental issues. He, his government colleagues and King Harald V, meeting for the weekly Council of State at the Royal Palace, thus ceremonially approved what the Norwegians call the fredning of Skudeneshavn, literally putting it at peace.
The preservation order covers all of the town’s narrow streets, its public squares, buildings and downtown park, the entrance of which already features a well-preserved wooden figurehead from an old sailing ship. The government announced that the order applies to a total of 180 properties.
Skudeneshavn is located on the West Coast, between Haugesund and Stavanger, at the southern tip of the island of Karmøy. The entire island is full of coastal, industrial and Viking history, while Skudeneshavn itself has long been known as having one of Norway’s best-preserved collections of wooden buildings.
“It’s here that we see the development from a coastal community based on fishing to one based on trade and more urban functions,” Elvestuen said. The preservation order is meant to protect the cultural history of the area and the architectural value of the entire community in two zones, one applying to the original central area with buildings dating to the 1700s and the other applying to the “new” downtown area built at the beginning of the 1900s.
The order will prevent or at least restrict any changes in the buildings but isn’t meant to hinder development of the town as a residential, trade and light industrial center that also has become an increasingly popular tourist destination. Interior modernization of buildings will be allowed along with “ordinary” exterior maintenance, as long as it uses the same methods and materials.
The town received Norway’s annual prize from the state agency in charge of cultural heritage, Riksantikvaren, earlier this year, when it’s also been celebrating the 50th anniversary of its local historic preservation association, Foreningen Gamle Skudeneshavn. Queen Sonja visited the town earlier the year as well.
“It’s extra gratifying that we can do this during the jubilee year,” Elvestuen said. The municipality of Karmøy, of which Skudeneshavn is part, contributed to the preservation effort “along with engaged and proud property owners,” he said.
See more photos from Skudeneshavn here.