English aristos and anglers
The year is 1870 and Lord Wigram of England obtains a lease on the Flåm river. The first foreigners who came to Flåm were salmon fishers because the river had abundant trout and salmon. This tempted many well-off Englishmen and, later on, avid anglers from the Bergen area.
The anglers stayed on Christen Fretheim's farm, which later became the Fretheim Hotel. He was a shopkeeper, and took over the farm in 1879, set up a post office in 1890 and then a shipping agency in 1895.
From farm to hotel
The guests lodged at Fretheim, enjoyed staying on the farm and the need for a hotel soon became apparent. The first building was locally known as the English villa, and was soon filled with salmon fishermen, tourists and construction workers. There was such a great demand for carriages and coach drivers that Christen opened a staging post in 1902 with 14 horses in the stable and 10 permanent drivers.
In 1909, Christen's cousin Marthe Fretheim arrived to help at the hotel. She was exceptionally clever and quickly took command, both outside and in. The dung carts in front of the steps and pig bins in the yard were details that Christen did not have time to bother with, but Marthe did.
Marthe was a friendly lady with green fingers, and rumours about the lovely garden at Fretheim Hotel spread quickly. The guests were also familiar with Marthe's caring attitude when the caravans went up the mountain. In 10-15 carts in convoy, the guests were wrapped in newsprint and long woollen scarves and put in hide bags with hot-water bottles to keep the cold out. Marthe Fretheim became renowned for the way she took care of both guests and her staff.
Christen Fretheim died in 1916, but Marthe remained at the hotel for the rest of her life – or even longer if we believe those who live and work in the hotel. It is said that Marthe still does her rounds every night to check that everything is in order.
The hotel's recent history
Marthe Fretheim died in 1933 and running of the hotel fell to her niece and nephew, Astrid and Atle A Fretheim. In 1958, Hans Petter Thorud became director of the hotel, though it was still owned by the Fretheim family. In 1979, the hotel was sold to the Sørvig family from Lillehammer, who changed its name from Fretheim Hotel to A/S Langseth Hotell. But it was soon changed back to A/S Fretheim Hotell and in 1982 the Thorud family acquired the hotel, running it under the name Fretheim Hotell AS.
In 1997, Fretheim Hotel was sold to Aurland Ressursutvikling AS. In September 1999, work started on extending the premises, and this was completed in May 2000. The hotel is still run by Aurland Ressursutvikling and its oldest section has now been refurbished and contains stately banqueting rooms and conference/event facilities.