Old houses in the village

In the center of Vopnafjordur, just up from the grocery store, stand the oldest houses in the village: Guðjohnsenshús (Jaðar, 1880), Baldursheimur (Einarshús, 188384) and Kaupvangur on the other side of the parking area (1884). In many ways, not least for historical reasons, these buildings are remarkable. They were built by Frederic Bald, master builder, who also was in charge of the building of the Alþingishús and Hegningarhús in Reykjavík.

Kaupvangur, or Factor's house, is one of the oldest buildings in town. It was built in the summer of 1884. The Danish mercantile company Ørum & Wolff used the building until 1918, when the Vopnafjordur Cooperative bought it and operated their store there until 1959. The building housed the main store of the cooperative and also the store manager's flat. After the store was moved from the building there were three flats and also storage for the cooperative until 1982 - after that the building stood empty. About 2000 the house was nearly a ruin. The people of Vopnafjordur began the enormous work of refurbishing this old building and it now stands before visitors to Vopnafjordur as a wonderful witness to the expansive thinking of both old and modern times.

 

Glæsibær was built in 1910 by Olgeir Friðgeirsson, then store manager for Ørum & Wolff. The living area was on the lower level and a store on the upper floor. Glæsibær is built of timber, sided with metal siding and probably painted red. The current owner thinks that the bright color led to the name "Glæsibær."

 

Between Glæsibær and Baldursheim once stood a house called "The Bakery" which has now been torn down. Pétur Guðjohnssen built Guðjohnssenshús (Jaðar) and his brother, Einar Guðjohnssen the doctor, owned and lived in Baldursheim. Pétur was store manager for Ørum & Wolff 1875-1883. Einar died by accident as a young man after only three years as the local doctor in Vopnafjordur. The brothers were well respected and took a lively part in the community. In the memorial about Pétur it says: "...was involved in most projects for improvement which were completed in the community for more than the 25 years he lived here." From 1906 the telephone exchange was in Guðjohnssenshús and the postal service in Baldursheim, but in 1922 the phone exchange was moved to Baldursheim; both services were there until about 1950.

 

Framtíðin on Hafnabyggð is a handsome, steep-roofed timber house with a cellar, first floor and attic. Jón Vídalín and Lous Zöllner were in business with a cooperative purchasing society here in Vopnafjordur about 1900. In 1897, Jón and Zöllner made an agreement to rent the lot and build Framtíðin. A year later, they opened the store and the first manager was Grímur Laxdal, popular and respected man in Vopnafjordur. It ended that Vídalín and Zöllner quit working together, and in 1901 Jörgen Hansen bought Vídalín's share of the store here in Vopnafjordur. This store was quickly popular and people tried to free themselves from doing business with Ørum & Wolff in the Kaupvangur and move their business to the "upper store" as it was often called. The cooperative society Framtíðin was organised in 1907, with other stores in East Iceland, and the house kept the name in spite of its later partnership with "The Combined Icelandic Stores". The store in Framtíðin operated until the 1930s. After the store was closed it had several owners, among them the Cooperative Fishing Company of Kolbeinn the younger. In the end the Vopnafjordur Cooperative bought Framtíðin from the bank and used it mostly for storing wool, later for general storage. Over time the building deteriorated because no one cared for it. In 1998 Árni Magnússon, electrician in Vopnafjordur, bought the house and refurbished it over a few years. Framtíðin now enjoys a renewed life and is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the village.

 

Kirkjuból, at Kolbeinsgata 7, was built in 1900 for the manager of the Vídalín & Zöllner store. In the 1901 census the house is called "New Castle" and later "Zöllner's house"; clearly the Kirkjuból name is a later addition. The brothers Jón Múli and Jónas Arnason were born in Vopnafjordur and took their first steps in this house. Their father, Árni from Múla, was manager of The Combined Store in Vopnafjordur for a while and lived here in Kirkjuból with his family. The brothers are well known among Icelanders and reputed for their rich contributions to culture and the arts during their lifetime. They wrote plays, music and poetry which most Icelanders know well. Who doesn't recognize, "Don't cry, my dear, although you need vitamins..." or the famous "Once upon an August evening..."

In the Kaupvangur is an exhibit about the brothers, in Múlastofa, dedicated to the brothers and their lifework. Also in the Kaupvangur is a model of mid-Vopnafjordur, created by Jón Pétur Einarsson, as it appeared about 1900. We encourage you to drop in and see this model.