Q: I was told that the Kvos building is one of the oldest in Reykjavík and it has served a number of different functions: the town hall, a brothel, a theatre and a café.
I wondered if you could give me a timeline of this building, what it was, when, and also tell me a bit more about its history.
Nichola, London, UK
A: Kvos(in) is actually not a building but part of a district in central Reykjavík north of the Tjörnin pond, east of Aðalstræti and west of Lækjargata and Kalkofnsvegur.
The house on Aðalstræti 10 in Kvosin is the oldest building in central Reykjavík. The exact date of its construction is unclear but it was before 1774, as stated on leikminjasafn.is.
The Icelandic version of Wikipedia states that the house was built in 1762 as one of eight buildings constructed as part of the industrial project Innréttingarnar by national treasurer Skúli Magnússon (sometimes called “the father of Reykjavík”) to enhance the Icelandic economy with financial support from the Danish state.
The house was called Kontor- og Magazinhus and served as the apartment of the vice-president of Innréttingarnar as well as accommodating its book keeper, and facilitating a clothing storage and clothing industry.
When Innréttingarnar was sold around 1800, the building was bought by merchant Westy Petreus.
Leikminjasafn.is recollects that from 1807 to 1823, Geir Vídalín, the first bishop of Iceland whose residence was in the capital, lived in the house.
A close friend of his, Sigurður Pétursson, chief of police in Reykjavík and district commissioners of the county until 1803, also lived there. They wrote the first Icelandic plays that were staged.
Next door, on Aðalstræti 8, was a house called Fjalakötturinn. Built in 1893, it was the first building in Iceland constructed specifically as a theater.
According to Wikipedia, Aðalstræti 10 ceased to be a bishop’s residence in 1849.
Jens Sigurðsson, rector of the higher education institution Lærði skólinn in Reykjavík (now MR) lived there from 1855 to 1868, as did his brother Jón Sigurðsson, Iceland’s independence hero, when he came to the Alþingi parliament from Copenhagen.
After Jens, the director general of public health was accommodated in the house and later merchant Matthías Johannessen and others lived there.
In 1926 it was bought by the merchants Silli and Valdi who ran a store there for 50 years. After 1984 various restaurants have been operated in the house, including Fógetinn.
In 2001 the house was bought by the City of Reykjavík and it was restored to its original appearance. The city has an exhibition space on the ground floor.
In the backyard a new house and a connecting annex of glass were constructed. The new house facilitates the store Kraum which carries Icelandic design.
I couldn’t find any information on the house on Aðalstræti 10 having ever served as a city hall, theater or a brothel; if that was the case it wasn’t its official function.