Frederiksstaden and Christianshavn

Copenhagen expanded with the growth of the colony and saw a great increase in shipyards, warehouses, sugar refineries, textile factories, rope works and many other facilities that supplied the merchant ships. The expansion also generated companies that bought and processed imported goods. The Navy grew and its housing in the Nyboder area was redesigned and enlarged.

Some provincial towns – for example Helsingør and Flensburg – flourished in the heyday of the colonies in the 1700s. From Flensburg came the bricks for building in the colony, but the merchants of the town also made the long voyage to engage in the booming sugar trade. The town’s production of schnapps switched to the production of rum, and Flensburg has been known for this ever since.

For several generations prominent merchants such as those of the Andreas Christiansen dynasty sailed the route to the West Indies and traded in sugar. In Flensburg there are still town houses and warehouses testifying to the town’s share in the flourishing trade.

Since the reign of Christian IV there had been plans to expand the capital with a new neighbourhood, ‘New Copenhagen’, where large Baroque mansions and villas with gardens were to be built. However, many years passed before the district was seriously planned and developed. The plans came to fruition during the reign of Frederik V, when the King’s close friend, the shipowner and merchant Andreas Bjørn, suggested a district on a portion of his own land. A. G. Moltke got the architect Nicolai Eigtved to develop the plan, which became one of Europe’s most complete Rococo developments; named ‘Frederikstaden’.

Andreas Bjørn – nicknamed ‘the King’s Bear’ – was a powerful man in Copenhagen. He was a shipping magnate, a merchant and a major shareholder in the West India and Guinea Company. He owned several lumber yards and a shipyard. Since he even owned some of the proposed building sites in ‘New Copenhagen’, he was actively engaged in plans to build this beautiful new part of town. He also owned ‘Bjørnholm’, where his shipyard was located, as well as a very large part of Christianshavn, where he had a lumber yard. There he built the property Strandgade 46 on the corner of Bådsmandsstræde and Strandgade as a house fronting the street with three brick storeys and a high basement. The house is a strict Baroque building without ornaments of any kind, and was intended as part of the street with a view from the first floor of activities in the harbour. The property was owned by the family until 1766.

The prominent families who built large mansions in ‘Frederiksstaden’ are for a great deal those who appear in the list of shareholders in the colony. At the same time Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve built the most prominent example of Baroque architecture in Copenhagen, ‘Charlottenborg’ on Kongens Nytorv. Today the building houses the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

Christian Gyldenløve lived in the palatial mansion built in the later Rococo style on the corner of Bredgade. Today the building houses the French Embassy. On the corner of Dronningens Tværgade and Bredgade is Gyldenløve’s smaller mansion, which today houses the Danish Association of Craftsmen. The fine Baroque building decorated with elephants and other exotic figures has been owned by those listed below, all of them involved in the West India trade:

1686-1704 Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve
1704-1717 Ferdinand Anton Danneskiold-Laurvig
1717-1762 Ferdinand Louis Danneskiold-Laurvig
1762-1763 Anna Joachimine Ahlefeldt, married Danneskiold-Laurvig
1763-1783 Christian Conrad Danneskiold-Laurvig
1783-1788 Niels Lunde Reiersen and Frédéric de Coninck
1788-1794 Frédéric de Coninck
1794-1796 Dowager Queen Juliane Marie
1796-1836 Constantin Brun

Bredgade 28 is the Schimmelmann mansion – now known as the Odd Fellow Palæ – and was designed by Nicolai Eigtved. The mansion was originally named Berckentins Palæ after the developer. This stately mansion was bought by Hans Christian Schimmelmann and later taken over by his son, Ernst Schimmelmann, in 1780.

Amaliegade 18 is one of the most modern houses of that era, built in 1764 by Nicolas-Henri Jardin for the slave trade director H.F. Bargum. Today, it houses the Lord Chamberlain’s Department.

The nobility and the wealthiest citizens built the most beautiful Rococo houses in Frederiksstaden, which together with the Royal Palace Amalienborg is considered a masterpiece of period architecture. During this period members of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie both rebuilt their country houses with annexes and exquisite interiors. The bourgeoisie also invested in town houses in Christianshavn and in the inner city, and built large villas outside the city to enjoy the country life like the nobility.

Sugar was now a more common luxury in society, and furniture of West Indian mahogany enjoyed high status among the nobility and later the bourgeoisie. The King, however, could trump most people in terms of luxury. For example he had a fish pond with live turtles at the harbour in Christiansted. The animals were sailed to Copenhagen and provided the court with turtle soup. The shells were processed into useful combs and other exquisite objects. Adorning yourself with the wealth that the West Indian trade had brought back was not uncommon.

A person who dared to engage in this risky business and managed to profit from it was seen as ‘enterprising’, i.e. as someone who had a talent for exploiting others for personal gain and who was happy to display this talent. The most visible sign that you were making a fortune from the African slave trade was to acquire a page boy to wait on you hand and foot. On the islands it was quite common to have house slaves to do this, but over the years it also became common among the richest people in Denmark to have a servant or nanny from the West Indies.