The old French hospital in Fáskrúðsfjörður, East Iceland, originally built in 1903, has been renovated. It opened as a hotel and museum last month. The museum is dedicated to the thousands of French fishermen who operated in Icelandic waters in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The annual French Days festival will be held in the village next week.
“They worked up to 20 hours per day. Between 4,000 and 5,000 fishermen died … and therefore there are many graves in a cemetery in Pampoul where the headstone simply reads: ‘Lost off the coast of Iceland’ or ‘Died off the coast of Iceland’,” the museum’s director Annette Schaafhirt told RÚV.
Photo: Áslaug Snorradóttir.
The hospital in Fáskrúðsfjörður was one of three built in Iceland by the French government to service injured or ill French fishermen, as well as Icelandic patients. From 1939 to 1964 the building was used as a school and home, with 50 to 60 people living there, as stated on Wikipedia.
After that the building stood empty for nearly 50 years and was in a state of almost complete decay when its renovation began in 2008. Only two percent of the original timber could be used, ruv.is reports.
The old hospital has been connected with the old residence for physicians, built by the French government in 1907, with a tunnel underneath the street Hafnargata. The old French chapel from 1898, morgue and preliminary hospital from 1896 have also been renovated and placed next to the main building.
Fosshótel operate a hotel and restaurant in part of the buildings. The restaurant is called L’Abri, which means ‘shelter,’ as stated on the hotel’s website. L’Abri serves dishes made with Icelandic ingredients, cooked in a French style.
“[The renovated hospital] opens up a lot of opportunities for us to provide our guests with recreation and services … and tourism companies here in Fjarðabyggð [municipality] to work together. Hopefully it will encourage people to stay longer, travel between places and enjoy what we have to offer,” Annette concluded.