Return to Sundsvall town

For "viking"- and pre1621 historic Sundsvall history please refer to the Sundsvall museum at Kulturmagasinet. For this website 1621 is the "kick off" for Sundsvall.

The town was founded in 1621 by king Gustav II Adolf, Sweden´s most succesful military leader. At the time Sweden was a growing superpower state and the plan was to give Sundsvall town privileges to make the Baltic Sea region more powerful.

The king strived to make Sweden more developed and more like towns in continental Europe.

And for this purpose he needed cities as a symbol for power and prosperity and cause towns and cities generates taxes and incomes for the head of state. The great plan of Gustav II Adolf was to turn Sweden into a superpower state full of cities. The same year as Sundsvall was founded, Latvia was invaded.

The king made Sweden a great power, captured huge territories in the Baltics, the east and south as far as Poland. The king was eventually killed by his Catholic enemies in the Lützen battle in 1632.

The king´s descicion to give Sundsvall town priviliges was not popular among the local farmers. One of them, Peder Pedersson from Tuna, complained loudly: -"Sundsvall stad skulle hava varit i helvetet, när han blev bygder emillan Hudiksvall och Härnösand, samt ock att alla de där bo äro loppor, prackare, skinnare och skaffare". It´s very hard to translate this sentence but it means something like: Sundsvall town should go to hell. All people living there are scammers and lice.

The town of Sundsvall was established by royal decree in 1621. During the 1600s as a new great power, Sweden was constantly at war and in need of money and weapons. For this reason more than thirty new towns were established in Sweden and Finland. In addition to Sundsvall, the towns of Umeå, Söderhamn, Kristinestad and others came into existence during this period.

These new towns were encircled by customs' walls with gates supervised by customs officers. All commerce with the surrounding rural areas was prohibited. Before being permitted to sell their produce in a town the farmers were required to pay a customs duty which served as a source of revenue for the monarch.

In 1721 Sweden was at war with Russia and Russian troops reached Sundsvall. The town dwellers fled inland and soldiers under the command of Major Fiandt attempted to defend the town but without success. (There is a memorial stone located at Videsbron.)

All of Sundsvall, with the exception of the church and bell tower, was burned to the ground by the invaders. The residents of Sundsvall now faced the task of building up the town for the second time in its history.

During the 1800s Sweden was one of Europe´s poorer economies with an economy entirely based on agriculture. However it was Sweden´s natural resources such as timber and iron ore, that formed the basis of its new-found wealth.

At the late 1800s Sundsvall became the most important town for trade in the region of Norrland. With the growth of the timber industry in the 1850s-1860s, it became a real boomtown, with a further rapid increase in population.

The harbour proved to be of great importance. Sundsvall became the centre of Sweden's largest timber production areas.The population increased tenfold between 1800 and 1900. A lot of poor people migrated to the town looking for work, but the town also became home to some of Sweden's wealthiest people at that time, having made their fortunes in the sawmill industry. The town became segregated. Working class suburbs, which were mainly unplanned and unregulated, grew up on the outskirts.

In 1879 the first major strike in Sweden among workers took place here in Sundsvall (the Sundsvall strike). You can see a Sundsvall strike monument 3 km South of town at the Oljehamnen (Oil harbour). The reason for the strike was a decrease in wages.

Much of Sundsvall was reduced to ashes in the devastating fire in 1888. The "Stone city" of Sundsvall earned its nickname after the disastrous fire in June 1888 which wiped out the wooden town. Architects from all over Europe were called in to rebuild Sundsvall in grand style and in stone over the next decade. "Thanks" to the fire our town has fine examples of neo-Gothic, neo-renaissance and neobaraoque architecture.

The fire left over 9000 people homeless but miraculously the fire left only four people dead. Apart from a few buildings like Hedbergska skolan/The Hedbergska school, the current Nordea banking complex and current Casino Cosmopol, remained nothing but ashes in the centre. In 1888 the town of Sundsvall was one of the wealthiest towns in Sweden thanks to the forest industry and sawmills.

In 1895 Sundsvall exported 700 000 m3 wood, an incredible 19% of the total Swedish export. Sundsvall was one of the world's largest sawmill districts. At its zenith during the 1890s the district had over forty steam-driven saws.

The rebuilding of the town created a very different kind of society. The town centre was rebuilt with stone houses which were inhabited by the wealthier people; this drove large groups out of the inner town. The town became segregated into two parts--one planned and one unplanned. The present Storgatan follows the same route as the original Stora gatan and has for centuries served as the town's main road.

In September 1891 famous author August Strindberg visited Sundsvall for a week. He visited the restaurant Tivoli night after night for "recreational" purposes.

In 1910 the first tram took off from the town centre to the suburb of Kubikenborg.

Did you know: The Sundsvall wrestler Rudolf "Preven" Svedberg won the gold medal during the berlin Olympic games in 1936. As a memorial an oak tree was brought from Germany to be planted at the Idrottsparken football arena. Unfortunately the tree had to be taken away in the 80s.

In the 1960s and 1970s the Sundsvall population "grew" a lot but that was only on paper and for administrational purposes since several municipalities were merged with Sundsvall.

Our main business products has always been related to the forest industry. Timber, beam, planks but also different forms of iron products. The most prominent business areas today are cellulose/wood/timber, IT and Telecom, banking.

Today the Sundsvall region, is the home to some 115,000 people, is the most densely populated area of northern Sweden. It plays a prominent role, not only in sports, industry and commerce, but also in education, culture and the arts.

In 1621: About 35 (!)
In 1721: 500 (at the time of the Russian invasion and destruction)
In 1810: 1 485
In 1850: 2 837
In 1885: 10 275
In 1910: 16 854
In 1930: 18 007
In 1940: 18 852
In 1950: 25 706
In 1960: 29 419
In 1965: 58 174. The areas of Alnö, Selånger, Skön are included in the statistics.
In 1970: 64 920
In 1974: 92 483. The areas of Njurunda, Matfors, Stöde and Liden are included in the statistics.
In 2004: 93 707
In 2005: 94 044

Barbro Björk, Sundsvalls museum.
Umeå Universitet.
Sweden. Lonely Planet
Destination Kasino. Erika Moll
Sweden. Insight guides

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