Agricultural reform gave farmers large swaths of forest they had little-to-no interest in. But just about at the same time, industrialization started, railways were built and selling off land and felling rights became a goldmine. Add to all of this a doubling of the population (thanks to peace and the smallpox vaccine) and the lack of a noble class and the farmers of Hälsingland soared. "Cash in their pocket," Gun-Marie Swessar explained to us at Ol-Anders, something incredibly new for a population of people traded goods amongst themselves. This is what they chose to do with it.
This farm, Ol-Anders, was originally down in Alfta's town center. However, after a 1793 fire destroyed almost all the buildings, the Anderssons and other families, moved their farms up onto hills, out of close proximity to neighbors. For extra protection, they set them up like mini fortresses. After the blaze, came the boom and what started as one story - two windowed buildings expanded upward and outward.
"In the 50s and 60s, everyone wanted everything new." All across Hälsingland, some design elements became casualties of modernity. But the festivities rooms, with their lack of insulation, were often the last things to get touched. "She did not have the money to renovate this whole, big house," Ivor said of his grandmother.
What I love most about these farmers' mansions is the clear idea you get of what was truly valued by the people who built them. Even as the farms grew almost ludicrously large, entire families would still sleep in a single room. Why heat more than one? They remained self-sufficient, continuing to spin, weave, slaughter, build, brew, bake... and all those big buildings gave them space to do it. On most grand estates, the space is filled with stuff. Here, they were filled with tools. On most, fashion trumps function, wallpaper and furnishings are switched out for newer styles. On these walls, art was made to last.
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