Corrugated Iron and Colourful Rooftops

The Reykjavík City Archives contain a rich collection of information concerning land and all the houses in Reykjavík. These documents include building site lists, building site leases, census and construction permits. Another invaluable group of records are so-called, fire-evaluations, which are available for selected houses from the first part of the 19th century, and for all houses except turf-houses from the year 1874 when Reykjavík joined the Danish City Fire Insurance. These documents describe the houses in considerable detail, for example; their type and structure, the material they were constructed of, how rooms were inner space are organised and general utilisation. The sources are very useful when it comes to rebuilding and restoring houses to their original form, or when researching old neighbourhoods.

The house on Vesturgata 18

Vesturgata 18 is a good example of how houses in Reykjavík were constructed between the years 1880-1930. It was built in 1901 by Árni Eiríksson, a merchant, a well-known actor and one of the founders of the Reykjavík City Theatre.

According to an evaluation that took place on the 16th of November 1901, the house on Vesturgata 18 was made of timber, boarded with corrugated iron, on both the walls and the roof. On the first floor, there were four rooms with radiators, a kitchen and a pantry. The rooms were panelled and painted. The ceiling contained three layers for isolation. Upstairs, there were six rooms with four radiators and a loft. They were also panelled and painted. A cellar was under the entire house, divided in to five parts. On the north side of the house was a shed made of the same material as the house, with a staircase connecting the floors.

By 1980 the house had fallen into disrepair and the City of Reykjavík bought it for a token one króna, only to sell it a year later for a hefty profit. The house was moved to another building site at Bókhlöđustígur 10, near the Pond (Tjörnin) in downtown Reykjavik, where it was renovated and still stands.

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Fire evaluation of Vesturgata 18 dated 18th of November 1901. From the description it is possible to know in detail how the house was built. (BskjR: Brunabótavirđingar 2.4.1900-13.11.1905, ađfnr. 735. Photo KB)
Vesturgata 18, now Bókhlöđustígur 10. The house is a beautiful addition to the area today. (Photo Kristín Bogadóttir)