“More and more people are talking about it – and no one who has been there will ever forget it. The atmosphere at Villa Sjötorp opens all your senses. Narrow thoughts and small ideas would get this house to crumble “(written in our guest book many years ago)
High above the sea in Lyckorna you will find Villa Sjötorp, or Haegerska villan as it is also called.
Carl Emil Haeger was the engineer who in the 1800s started one of Swedens largest paper industries, the Edet Mill. Like most upper-class families, they spent their summers at the coast and Carl Emil bought a piece of land in the newly established spa town Lyckorna. During the last decades of the 19th century members of the country’s high society flocked to Lyckorna where there were clubhouses with restaurants, warm and cold baths, and daily steamboat and rail connections. Prominent guests like Victor Hasselblad, Viktor Rydberg and King Oscar II of Sweden spent time at the “Lyckorna Bath and Sea Institute”, set up in 1877 by Scotsman Robert MacFie.
Carl Emil Haeger himself designed the family’s holiday home, which had a time-typical design language with elements of Norse dragon heads and Swiss style. The building was constructed in parts at the woodwork plant in Lilla Edet; the parts were then tagged and transported on barges along the Göta River, via Gothenburg and up to Lyckorna. The building was mounted on a heavy stone foundation which was built in the steep slope. The work was overseen by carpenter Nilsson and his craftsmen. They had started with the foundation in 1899 and in the summer of 1901 the house was ready for occupancy.
The building was constructed as a framework, with a lining of alternating horizontal and vertical panels, and the roof was coated with corrugated sheets. The construction plan was normal. On the ground floor there was a lounge as well as the children’s and Mr. and Mrs. Haegers bedrooms, with a door in between the latter two.
On the second floor there were several bedrooms and a large staircase. The rooms had beautiful panels, Arts & Crafts-inspired wallpapers and decoratively painted ceilings and moldings. Emil’s wife, the artist Anna Haeger, was in charge of the color palette and the decoration of the house.
The food was cooked on a cast iron stove downstairs. The former hot kitchen today allows guests to creep into a big iron bed that previously belonged to Charles de Gaulle. There was a large wine cellar and a separate area for ice for storing of consumables. Towards the sea there was a large open porch whose remarkable, three-piece roof was finished with rich decorative carvings. Stables and outbuildings were built in the same style.
Haeger’s family inhabited the house during the summers, the winter months were spent in Lilla Edet. In an interview on May 6th 1977 with Inger Dejke, Gunnar Haeger recalls; “I’ve stayed in Lyckorna almost every summer for over 80 years. Our family, namely my mother with all of us, used to move in around the 10th of June. We were six brothers and two sisters. The move was a major thing, the service was something else at that time. There was a cook and a help cook, two maids, a gardener and his wife. The gardener lived in the Lyckhus house opposite the property. And we had a servant too.
Very often, my father had foreign businessmen as guests. My mother always had a German maid, she was German herself and wanted us children to learn the language.
My father was first married to a younger sister of my mothers, but she died in childbirth. Our Mother came here to visit when her sister was sick, and so it was to be.
A lot of luggage was brought in from Lilla Edet. The journeys were by means of horses and carriages. There was no bridge between Ström town and Lilla Edet at the time. Carriages went to the ferry terminal a few kilometres up the canal and then down to Ström. Since I was a child I have traveled this road on horseback, by horse and carriage, on motorcycle, and seen the entire development.
My father never had a car. He had a handsome equipage with 2 beautiful horses and an elegant carriage. He never had a vacation, except in conjunction with all his trips abroad, mostly to Germany and England. He came out to Lyckorna every weekend and the big move back to Lilla Edet took place after September 12th, as father always wanted to celebrate his birthday at Villa Sjötorp.”
1919 C.E. Haeger passes away and the responsibility for the mills falls on the youngest son Olle, who at the time was in Paris studying the violin. To his siblings he set an ultimatum: in exchange for giving up his dream in Paris he demanded to stay in America for several years studying the manufacture of crepe paper.
On his return home some new investments were needed for the mill. The Sjötorp harbour area was sold to “Kalle from the shipyard and his wife Mrs. Nilsson”. During a period in the 30’s and 40’s they ran a boarding house in Sjötorp; first by the Nilsson family, later Mrs Zachau took over the business. Her daughter Eva Sahlström sometimes visits Sjötorp and talks about their childhood summers with her hard working mother. Besides the guests who stayed in the villa she had boarders in rented cottages, which would mean up to a hundred full-board guests. During the war years Mrs. Zachau would ride her bike around the farms in the district to procure supplies for her guests.
Olle Haegers innovative ideas with the soft paper turn out to be very succesful and eventually he is able to regain their beloved Sjötorp. In the summers business dinners are held there and some family members are staying there during the holidays. The beach below is made available to the public and free of charge beach buses meant for Lilla Edet families run on the road out to Lyckorna.
The man who would later receive the honorary award of “Lilla Edet Resident of the Century,” Olle Haeger, passes away in 1964. His second youngest grandchild Ellika Mogenfelt is 8 months old and lies in her cradle by his bedside. Five years later, the family decides to sell the mill and Sjötorp becomes a part of the deal.
It had started with friends who used to gather at Sjötorp in the summers. A rather loose collective, with a common desire to take care of and preserve the place. Over time, rumors spread about the house by the sea. A large, lofty, mysterious old house. A house for freedom, togetherness, rest and celebration.
We are many who nostalgically look back to the “Hippie Summers” at Sjötorp. We were artists, writers, visionaries. Magical meetings between people who were in a phase of creating their future lives. Dinners around a long table on the porch and life-altering talks in the summer night. Everything was possible at Sjötorp. We were meditating, drinking herbal tea and red wine. We were dancing and barbequed whole lambs. Bread was being baked, herring preserved and elderberry juice bottled. Many times there was rock n’roll and nightly dips in the ocean with mareel.
Hotel and Restauration in stages
In 1995 Ellika Mogenfelt reacquired the former Haegerska Villan, her grandfather’s father’s summer house, and started to develop Villa Sjötorp into the “House of the Many Guests” that it is today. A meeting place for both private and business guests where culture, history and nature embrace the visitor and create a unique tranquil atmosphere. Villa Sjötorp is today a place for efficient meetings and a paradise for active persons who enjoy life.
Ellika, who had experience in the restaurant world, envisioned a meeting place in Lyckorna, a place where people could stay, eat, enjoy, maybe listen to music. The plans were not clearer than that at the time.
The maintenance of the villa at the time was greatly neglected, the roof leaked and the paint flaked off. Moreover, the house lacked both central heating and hot water and the cutter shavings that once gave some insulation had collapsed and left behind a very drafty construction. Despite, or perhaps because of its age, the villa was also well preserved. The beautiful outhouse still stands in the garden, but its original purpose has now been taken over by modern water closets indoors. The fixtures and fittings and all the original decor was still in place and the construction was dry.
All renovation was planned in collaboration with the builder Henrik Benjegård. The craftsmen’s skills and creativity have been crucial to the outcome. “Henrik and I were in complete agreement about how the work would be done,” said Ellika, noting that she had never been able to complete the project if the craftsmen had been skeptical about her idea to preserve and maintain with limited resources. Henry for his part remembers that it was a fun job, especially when the drawings were missing and no part of the building was the same as the other. Everything was solved in place, without general solutions.
In the first years the budget was scant and the investments minimal. “Better to do nothing than to do it badly” was the watchword. In order to run a restaurant in the house, a kitchen was first built – like in a separate box, a room-in-a-room on the villa’s ground floor. In that way it was not necessary to tear down the original decor, but it was still possible to reach the required standard.
“The major work began after a few years”, says Henrik. We opened the panel meter by meter to inject Ecofiber. It was an extensive project. In the ceiling we had to loosen the panel, take down the studs, insulate and put back the original panel. “
Eventually geothermal heating and a hydronic central heating system were installed. Henrik came across the old cast iron radiators when the Bergslagen Rail Line station buildings and Josefssons department store in Gothenburg were being renovated. The radiators were sandblasted and repaired to be installed in Villa Sjötorp where they seem to have stood since the house was built.
The idea was to also be able to offer accommodation, but to open a hotel even more investments were required, as well as an approval from the fire authorities, who initially gave a strict no. Sprinklers were installed to provide fire protection. The installation of the sprinkler system had to be done very carefully. Ellika praises the creative craftsmen, who accepted the challenge of putting the new technology in place without damaging the original furnishings.
Today, fires are often made in the large ceramic stoves that first had to be picked down into their components and then built up again to make them operational. The largest of them stands in the dining room, a beautiful neorenaissance stove in dark green, made in Gustavsberg in Stockholm.
The next major step were the bathrooms. But how to force in a bathroom in each hotel room without making changes to the structure or destroying the room character? By gently loosening and re-using fixtures and fittings, moving out the walls and using every conceivable nook, the carpenters succeeded with the intention of creating modern bathrooms that look like they have been there from the beginning. Henrik Benjegård is still satisfied with the operation, which involved solving problems in many stages. Ellika, who stood for the interior design, remembers how she reveled in colorful tiles catalogs, but chose in the end a simple eggshell color. The house did not seem to allow anything else.
In Haegers time the house was not inhabited in the wintertime, but inner arches were still made for all windows. In 1995, the arches stood in their original condition in the attic and waited to be glazed. A couple of full days in spring and autumn were dedicated to put in and take out the inner windows.
The industrial magnate Haeger’s family villa was so converted from a private summer residence into a welcoming hotel, open to all who want to enjoy the magic of the place. That age has been allowed to take its toll gives the house its very special character, what once was haughty has been ground away and the atmosphere is warm and permissive.
Ellika Mogenfelt has transformed the Haegerska Villan from a private summer house to a welcoming hotel that holds the highest standard. The house wants to introduce itself to each new, expectant visitor. Whether you come here in the spring, summer, autumn or winter.
Villa Sjötorp is a unique hotel, with fourteen individually decorated rooms. The swing that is hanging on the huge copper beech tree makes one think of Kristina från Duvamåla, while the guests are slowly enjoying their meals on the porch or in the dining room and the fairytale-like sunset paints the silhouette of the Orust island. It is good for the body and the soul to be at Villa Sjötorp.