Bellevue Park. Photo: Pernilla Nordström
From hinterland to wooden palace
At the beginning of the 18th century the area around Brunnsviken’s southern strand belonged to the unusable hinterland beyond the city. The terrain was rough and steeply sloped and the land was unsuitable for cultivation. A road ran between the hills from Norrtull to Roslagstull and the small lake of Ormträsket lay where we find the Wenner-Gren Centre today. By the turn of the century the site had been converted into one of Stockholm’s most exclusive sites and renamed Bellevue by Gustav III.
In 1755 the court painter Johan Pasch purchased the site to build a manor house. The principle building (Paschen’s Malmgård) was erected on one of the hills and gardens with a pavilion were laid out around it. When Pasch died in 1782 the property was sold to the court governor Carl Sparre, who that same year had purchased the neighbouring Stallmästaregården. Sparre erected a large timber building, known as ‘Sparre’s timber palace’, designed by Erik Palmstedt. But he also wished to create a pleasure garden in the style of Gustav III’s Haga. By owning both Stallmästaregården and the manor house, he could now link up his properties to Haga. In 1785 Sparre wrote to Gustav III: ‘My model was Haga, and how Nature herself linked the neighbouring sites in one and the same English style would be superfluous to repeat for your royal majesty’s enlightened eyes.’
The king’s architect is engaged
The king’s landscape architect Fredrik Magnus Piper was engaged to create the park. In 1784 a plan was presented which showed arrangements of trails and walks, carriage roads, viewing points and buildings. The dramatic terrain with its two hillocks was fully exploited: in the south, Bellevue Hill and its residence, and down by the water, Bellevue Point, an extension of the Stockholm Ridge. Piper placed meandering walks here on different levels. The flat areas between the hills were converted into softly rolling grassy lawns. The play between light and shade was important, so the lawn was fitted out with carefully placed groves of trees. A strand walk followed the water’s edge. The hills offered striking views and were utilized for viewing points which were marked out by small ornamental buildings and belvederes. The oldest maps of Piper’s creation show sight-lines drawn through different parts of Bellevue, which include ‘eye-catchers’, such as Haga, on the far side of Brunnsviken.
Bellevue after Sparre
When Carl Sparre died in 1791 his property, and his debts, were taken over by Gustav III who continued to strengthen the connection with Haga. However, plans for Bellevue’s environments met an abrupt end with the death of the king the following year. After this, Bellevue became a summer residence for the members of the royal family and distinguished visitors. It was placed under the administration of Haga Park and was managed to the same high standards. The notion of fully joining Bellevue with Haga, however, was never realized.
In the 1830s, Bellevue was put at the disposal of ‘the Society for the cultivation of native silk’. A plant school for mulberry trees was started in 1858. 600 trees were planted on the slopes between Sparre’s timber palace and Ormträsket. In 1880, the railway-line extension to Värta harbour cut right through Bellevue. The park began to fall further into disrepair and in 1889 Stockholm city took over the tenancy. Under city administration in the 20th century the area became a park for outings, sports and recreation. In 1940, most of Bellevue came under city ownership by a land transfer and its royal epoch finally came to an end.