Ole Larson's Folks

In 1841, when Anne Larsdatter was imprisoned there, and gave birth to Ole, Oslo Prison (Kristiania Tukthus) was located at #33 Storgata (“main street”), less than a mile from the present-day Oslo Central train station. The front entrance may have looked much  as it does in this 1910 photo (courtesy digitalarkivet).

front doorAfter returning home, I got a link to oslobilder.no, “the official website for historic images from Oslo.” By searching the term “tukthuset,” (the prison) I got 49 photos, including the ones below:

south facadeThis shows the entire south facade facing Storgata, taken about 1900.

rear courtyardAnother 1910 photo shows the rear of the same building, with its attached wings, and a courtyard enclosed by a wooden fence.

courtyard2Another view of the courtyard in 1910. Note the extra-tall garret on the right, with no glass in the windows. One can almost imagine armed guards monitoring the prisoners, including Anne. In fact, one can see something inside the garret, but not clearly enough to tell if it is human forms.

The next two photos were taken in 1938, just before the prison was torn down.

Wall1Entrance to the prison yard on Bernt Ankers gate, a cross-street to Storgata. Unknown what street is on the right, or where this in relation to the previous photos.

Wall2Another part of the same stone wall, and a building not shown in the other photos.

Unfortunately for my efforts, the entire prison was demolished. On the site today stands a modern, 9-story office block. Exploring under a drizzling rain, here is what I found at Storgata 33.

Storgata 33About two blocks away, on the opposite side of Storgata (#46), stands a separate but related site called Prinds Kristian Augusts Minde. This site is partly preserved (although in poor condition), thanks to a historic monument designation in the 1990’s. This is my photo of the front gate and part of one of the buildings.

Minde gateBefore visiting, I thought that the prison was also a part of this compound, although it was outside the area currently under protection, having already been demolished. The Minde, as it is known, was originally a lavish Medieval estate. It was purchased by a philanthropic organization in the 1810’s, for use as a workhouse, poor hospital, and insane-asylum. In theory, destitute people could come voluntarily, but in reality, it was usually forced upon them.

Another building in the preservation area is an old factory, probably for textile manufacture.

FactoryI imagined that Anne Larsdatter may have been forced to toil in such a place, but it seems she probably had it even worse. I next visited the University of Oslo, which is celebrating a historic occasion of its own.

UniversityProfessor Hilde Sandvik of the Institute for History and Archaeology took time from her busy schedule to meet briefly with me, and referred me to other scholars whom I later contacted by email.

I learned that the prison, despite its close proximity, was always completely separate from the Minde, and the prisoners lived and worked under conditions worse than those of the workhouse inmates across the street. I leave you with one final photo of the prison’s interior, again from around 1910. I don’t know whether this was a living or working area. Either way, it must have been pretty grim.

Prison interiorMore details as I learn them. Keep in mind, though, that Anne and baby Ole not only survived this ordeal, but came to America a quarter-century later, and founded the family that today numbers in the thousands.

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