English lords and salmon fishing
In 1870, Lord Wigram leased the fishing rights to the River Flåm. The first foreign tourists to visit Flåm were sports fishermen who were lured by the large salmon and trout in the river. Many wealthy Englishmen followed Lord Wigram's example. It was not uncommon for a lucky angler to catch ten salmon on a good day.
These anglers often stayed at the farm of Christen Fretheim, the richest man in the village, who was both enterprising and physically imposing. He had taken over the farm in 1879. In 1890, he established a post office and five years later started a shipping freight service.
From farm to hotel
The guests enjoyed the hospitality of Fretheim Farm and soon a hotel was built to cater to their needs. Not surprisingly, the villagers referred to the first building of Fretheim Farm as the English Villa.
Soon, the hotel rooms were being booked by keen anglers, tourists and construction workers. So great was the demand for transportation that in 1902 Christen Fretheim opened a Posting Inn. He employed ten full-time coachmen and had 14 horses in his stables. As early as 1908, 79 ships carrying a total of 10,202 tourists called at the village of Gudvangen, at the head of the Nærøyfjord. The local boats carried an additional 4,500 people "to the heart of the grandest scenery, with a succession of marvellous views".
Christen Fretheim married the young miss Hertzberg but she tragically died prematurely in 1903, before they had any children. In 1909, Marthe Fretheim came to assist her cousin Christen. She was an excellent organiser and soon took charge of tasks both inside and outside the hotel. Christen had little time or concern for details such as feeding the farm's pigs or disposing of manure, but fortunately Marthe skilfully managed such essential tasks.
She enjoyed gardening and her hotel garden soon became renowned. The guests keenly appreciated Marthe's hospitality and excellent care. When a fleet of carriages carried 10–15 guests up the mountain, Marthe made sure that a layer of insulating newspapers was tied around their clothing, and that each of them was equipped with a hot water bottle. Marthe Fretheim took great care to ensure the comfort of each of her guests and in the evening she would guide them up to their rooms by candlelight. She treated her employees with the same care and respect.
Although Christen Fretheim died in 1916, Marthe stayed on at the hotel for the rest of her life. Some believe she still has a hand in ensuring the hotel is friendly and well run. Legend has it she makes a round every night, seeing that all is well with the guests at her beloved hotel.
The hotel's recent history
Marthe Fretheim died in 1933 and operation of the hotel became the responsibility of 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 Hotel. However, it soon changed back to A/S Fretheim Hotel and, in 1982, the Thorud family acquired the hotel, running it under the name Fretheim Hotel 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 the oldest section has now been refurbished and contains stately banqueting rooms and conference/event facilities.
Member of Historic Hotels and Restaurants
Fretheim Hotel is a proud member of the Norwegian organisation “Historic Hotels and Restaurants".
This is a unique organisation, which includes many of Norway’s most charming hotels and restaurants among its members. Membership is considered a stamp of quality for the company but entails compliance with rigorous requirements and expectations regarding quality, architecture and the preservation of historical values. The organisation is internationally associated with Historic Hotels of America, which is supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
As a member of Historic Hotels and Restaurants, our aim is to create new stories for our guests, through thrilling experiences with history as a backdrop. We hope that these stories will continue to unfold in the memories of our guests, long after they have returned home.
We offer a lot more than just a comfortable hotel bed and a tasty meal; we represent a wealth of experiences for both body and soul. Fretheim Hotel is where your own history is created!