The Thomander House was the home of professor Johan Henric Thomander and his family from 1833 to 1850.
Nestled in Kulturen’s city quarter lies an imposing, blue-grey house. It was originally built in 1814 on Paradisgatan, a stone’s throw from Kulturen. Professor Johan Henrik Thomander moved in to the house in the autumn of 1833. Some months later, in January 1834, he married Emilie Meyer and together they lived in this house until 1850. Their daughters – Fredrika, Ida and Emma – were born between 1834 and 1839, and foster daughter Nathalia joined the family in the early 1840s.
Johan Henrik Thomander was a clergyman, professor, translator and parliamentarian. He was fairly well-known in his time and ended his career as bishop of Lund diocese. His success was not a given, born as he was out of wedlock in 1798 in a vicarage in Fjälkinge and brought up by his grandmother. She noticed early on how gifted Johan Henrik was and so, despite their meagre circumstances, spent what she could on his education.
Emilie’s upbringing, on the other hand, was very different. She came from a wealthy merchant’s family in Karlshamn. Her marriage to Johan Henrik is likely to have been approved of by her father, Ernst Meyer, who saw potential in him befitting his daughter. Emilie was also educated; she had attended the boarding school Demoiselle Linde’s Institute for girls in Copenhagen as a young girl. There she was taught languages, mathematics, geography and religion. But pursuing a career was not an option. The focus for a woman of her class at this time was to develop morals and character with which to make a future husband happy.
Johan Henrik had just been made professor when the couple moved into the house on Paradisgatan. He had a good salary, but was not rich. It was Emilie’s father who stood for furnishings and larger expenses. Mr Meyer often made it known that he felt the couple had expensive taste in their choice of furniture. The bed alone cost 120 Swedish riksdaler, which is a lot when you consider that a maid’s annual salary at the time was 35 Swedish riksdaler!
A housekeeper and maid were also a part of the Thomander household. They lived in the servants’ quarters where they shared a bed. Their few belongings, such as items of clothing, psalm books, catechisms or simple woodcut prints were kept in a chest. The maids were mostly employed for a year at a time, rarely staying longer. We do, however, know that Johanna Lundgren, the Thomander housekeeper, stayed with the family for 12 years.
The servants took care of all the housework and their days were long. They cleaned, fetched water, cooked food and kept the fires going in the stoves and fireplaces. The laundry, however, was left to the charwomen who were paid by the day. The same applied to the courtyard and garden, where the upkeep was managed by a hired farmhand. Food was bought from the market square and local shops, but this was a time without fridges and freezers so everything had to be preserved and stored to last as long as possible; meat was salted, fruits and berries pressed and made into jams and vegetables pickled.
The family’s weekday meals were simple fare but dinner parties could call for several courses. One such dinner could consist of soup, aspic, poultry paté and roast veal. Dessert could be kissel, a type of thickened fruit or berry soup, or sugared rosette fritters.
A housekeeper and maid were also a part of the Thomander household. They lived in the servants’ quarters where they shared If you enter the house today you will see a beautifully laid table in the dining room, with East India china and napkins smartly folded to resemble French lilies.
Emilie did not involve herself with the cooking but she was fastidious with the bookkeeping and recorded all expenses in a ledger. She used to sit at the sewing table in the bedroom and “keep accounts”. The household ledgers still exist today, now kept at the Lund University Library. It is a priceless source of information detailing the life of the Thomander family.
When the house was due to be demolished in 1924 one of the daughters, Ida Thomander Warholm who was 87 by then, bought the house and donated it to Kulturen. The house was at that point moved from Paradisgatan to the museum grounds. Preserving the memory of her loved and lauded father was important to Ida. With her help, and that of pictures and objects from the family, the house was restored to look as it had done when the Thomander family lived there.
A few compromises have been made to adapt the restoration to Ida’s wishes. One of these is the library. Ida wanted all of her father’s books to be on display, so the library you see today is considerably larger than it would have been when she lived there. Today the books number in the region of 9,000 volumes.
This text is taken from our booklet Kulturen Open-air Museum, that you can buy in our museum shop.