Villa Frescati. Photo: Lars Nyberg
Summer amusements and private residences
When the park was changed from a hunting park to a summer park in the mid-18th century, the number of private dwellings rose considerably. Gustav III, who reigned from 1771–92, liberally donated plots to his confidants. Count Maurtiz Armfelt was given the property of Lilla Frescati on Brunnsviken’s northern strand with a hundred-year lease. Gustav III had many reasons for this. His friend could easily take a boat over to visit the king at Haga, and by building a gracious home with surrounding park, Armfelt would contribute to the grandeur of the area. In 1792 Villa Frescati, also known as the Armfelt Villa, was built in the Neo-Classical style using designs by Louis Jean Desprez. However, the king’s death the same year changed everything, and Armfelt never moved in. Villa Frescati still stands today and is a private residence. Stora Skuggan in northern Djurgården is another well-preserved residence, for which the king’s private secretary Abraham Niclas Edelcrantz was promised a hundred-year lease in 1792.
In the early 19th century more and more wholesalers, diplomats and other wealthy city folk established themselves within the present national city park. A number of their plots were on the strip of land between the former game-park fence and the water’s edge on Djurgården. Earlier simple dwellings and buildings mainly associated with maritime activities were replaced by large summer residences with pavilions and gardens. Over the years these were transformed into privately owned permanent homes. Many magnificent villas embedded in luscious greenery now line Djurgården’s shores.
In Ulriksdal, King Karl XV granted land for summer residences to his actor and artist friends. Twenty separate houses lie among the high trees to the south of the palace. The houses were erected mainly between 1860 and 1880, and many have the typical ornamental carpentry of the period with rich fretwork decoration.
After Gustav III’s death, the widespread granting of royal land was more openly questioned. A commission was established to better regulate the disposal of property on Djurgården, and the recreational needs of the city’s inhabitants were taken into consideration. It was feared that the area was becoming too privatized. There was also an interest in keeping Djurgården for the use of future regents.