Summerhouse of Emanuel Swedenborg

mullersummerhousejan09.jpgAccording to the Rev. Nicholas Collin of Philadelphia, who visited Emanuel Swedenborg at his home in 1766, the charming summerhouse (Swedish lusthus) in his garden was “a kind of temple, to which he often retired for contemplation.” The summerhouse, which has been preserved and can be visited by the general public, has retained a special allure for those interested in Swedenborg’s theological writings. (For the quotation see R.L. Tafel, 1877, Documents Concerning the Life and Character of Emanuel Swedenborg, Vol. 2, part 1, p. 423.)

The property (see diagram) on which the summerhouse originally stood was purchased by Swedenborg in 1743 and remained in his possession until his death in 1772. It was situated in southern Stockholm on Hornsgatan, near Lake Malaren. Swedenborg’s summerhouse stood at the far end of his property and could be reached from his house by a path leading through the garden. During Swedenborg’s time the summerhouse was connected to two other structures on either side—a garden shed to the north, and his library to the south. The exterior of the house was painted yellow, a typical Swedish color, with vertical boards in a contrasting color providing a visual accent to the structure’s exterior. A visitor in the 1860s described the colors as “dark red lines [presumably the vertical boards] on yellow ground, with white window frames and a black roof . . .” (see the online article Swedenborg’s Property).

summerhouseskansenjan09.jpgThe summerhouse remained on Hornsgatan for 124 years, but gradually fell into a state of disrepair during the nineteenth century. In 1896 it was rescued and moved to Skansen, Stockholm’s famous open-air museum (see photo, left). The man responsible for the move was Arthur Hazelius, founder of both Skansen and the Nordic Museum. The goal of Skansen was to save elements of Sweden’s rural, pre-industrial past for the sake of future generations. The Nordic Museum struck a medal that same year to commemorate the move of Swedenborg’s summerhouse from Hornsgatan to Skansen. A photograph of a watercolor painted by H. Muller in 1865  shows the summerhouse before the move, when it was still in its original location on Hornsgatan (see photo, top). This photo was given to Alfred Stroh in 1907 by O.W. Nordenskjold, a member of the Stockholm New Church congregation. On the back of the photo Stroh wrote that Nordenskjold “told me that it was at his suggestion that his friend Arthur Hasselius, to whom he gave kr. 100 for the purpose, removed Swedenborg’s ‘lusthus’ to Skansen” (Inscription on photograph. Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA).

summerhousejan09.jpgkarinswedenborgjan09.jpgToday Swedenborg’s original summerhouse can still be seen in Skansen, fronted by a beautiful rose garden. In 1989 a full-scale replica of the summerhouse was erected on Hornsgatan where Swedenborg’s house and property originally stood. It was not possible to place the replica in the exact location, but it resides in a beautiful courtyard with garden plantings leading up to it. The Academy of the New Church Archives has photographs from the unveiling ceremony, which was attended by the President of the Stockholm City Council, and Karin Swedenborg, a descendant of the Swedenborg family (see photos, left).

Photos: The photograph of the original watercolor by H. Muller is in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA. The photo of the summerhouse in Skansen was taken by Ed Gyllenhaal in 2001. The photos of the summerhouse replica on Hornsgatan and of Karin Swedenborg standing by the door were taken during the formal ceremony (photographer unknown). Both are in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA. 

Further reading:

 An 1896 Swedenborg Medal Commemorates the Moving of His “Summerhouse”

A Portrait of Emanuel Swedenborg: Accurate Views of His Residence and Summer House . . .

Swedenborg as Gardener

Swedenborg’s Hobby

Swedenborg’s Property

Questions and comments may be addressed to the editors at [email protected].

January 31, 2009 | Posted by: Ed and Kirsten Gyllenhaal in New Church History Fun Fact