The island of Florö.

1 History.

2 Natural resources and predisposing factors for habitation:
2-1 Wind shelter
2-2 Fresh water
2-3 Autonomy

3 The five buildings came under The Department of Conservation, 1994, together with the park:
3-1 The Inn (Krogen)
3-2 The Captain’s House (Kaptenshuset)
3-3 The Boatshouse/Herringfactory/Magasinet
3-4 The Captain’s Cabin/Kajutan
3-5 The Barn/Ladan 

4 Special attractions:
4-1 The waterlily pond(s)
4-2 The caverns from the ice age
4-3 The Park and nature
4-4 The fauna

5 Looking into the future:
5-1 Maintenance
5-2 Potential income without spoiling The Paradise

1 History.

 About thirty thousand years ago there was a severe climate change and the  Scandinavian peninsula became covered with ice, in some areas assumed to have been as thick as several kilometres. Considering its enormous weight it is possible to understand how the ice sheet could compress the underlying granite rock about 25 meter down into the ground as it built up over the 15.000 years until it completely had melted away. Since then the land has risen and returned back to its original level by about one meter per one hundred years in the latter millennia until there is now no more movement.
When the ice melted it cut through the granite rock and gave Bohuslän its characteristic  archipelago, leaving about 35.000 islands behind – today a paradise for fishing, sailing, swimming and tourism. All the islands have thus been polished by the ice and sea and today function as primitive ovens, heated during sunny days so that you can warm your feet walking barefoot in the cool of the evening. The granite rocks are amazingly sensitive to shifting light, giving the islands and the sea a respectful metal grey tone on a windy or rainy day while the whole landscape looks beautifully inviting on a sunny summers day, allowing the shifting and colourful rocks and sea to show off all the different shades of the palette.
We are today still discovering ´new´ rock carvings from our ancestors from a period two to six thousand years ago. The most famous rock carving location – Vitlycke – is part of the World Heritage. It can be reached in about 30 minutes from our island and has a museum recently built next to the rock carvings, filled with items and information in an excellent display together with a farm and farmhouse as we imagine it may have looked at the time. Since most of the islands were then submerged under water these rock carvings have been found about 10 to 20 kilometres inland from the sea.
During the Viking period (600 to 1000 AD) there was a concentration of people living in this particular area called Ranrike (the name Ran being one of the gods of the sea and his ´rike´ which means territory or kingdom). From here many viking ships set sail. The word viking means ´trade´ and they are known to have travelled to most corners of the world.
The name Florö consists of two parts – the first part – Flo - has been derived from the Norwegian ´flo´ (pronounced as flaw) that means high tide (from high and low tide) most likely referring to the strong currents often arising in the northwest sound between the neighbour island Fläskö and Florö – called Kungsund (The Kings Sound – see below). The second part is ´ö ´, which is Swedish for ´island´. In Norway there is a bigger peninsula by the same name - Florö -  supporting this interpretation. Furthermore, one of the early owners of Florö was the Captain Peter August Johansson who is known often to have said “I am Captain of my ships and King of my island” carried ´Florön´ as his nickname.
Other efforts to seek the background of the name Florö have suggested it may be related to the English word ´floor´ because of its’ quite flat topography - especially when compared to surrounding islands. A third explanation has also been suggested - that the name could be related to the ´flora´ of the island since the vegetation is more prosperous compared to the neighbouring islands.  The most plausible explanation, however, is the first given above due to the fact that this part of Sweden (Bohuslän) for several centuries belonged to Norway and many surrounding islands still carry Norwegian names, e.g. Bar(r)lind(?). These barlind trees are still growing there and seem to thrive especially well on this island, giving the west slope its characteristics. According to our late neighbour on Fläskö - Professor Theodor Svedberg (Nobel Prize winner in physics and chemistry 1948 and also a recognised botanist) - the oldest trees are estimated to be at least 1000 years old and have, thus, survived there since the Viking era!). Bringebärsholmen (Norwegian for raspberry-island) - also close by - is another example of the Norwegian influence.
The main sources of income in Bohuslän since the Viking period has been the rich fishing grounds – especially lobsters and oysters were exported by Dutch sailing ships coming to pick up big loads. The early charts have Dutch names from this area, e.g. Kattegatt (the entrance from the North Sea/Skagerack) which translated from Dutch means the hole/backside of the cat – probably indicating the nasty navigation and reef/rock-infested seas that they would encounter in these often fatal waters. Periodically herrings came to the shores of Bohuslän in such abundance that it became a full fledged industry for export, salted in 150 kilogram barrels – also on Florö during the last two decades of the 19th century as well as canning anchovies from a world famous recepy. Thirty girls came to Florö early every morning to clean and salt these herring catches and as much as 22 ships could be waiting to load herring in this area. Those herring periods usually lasted about 30 to 70 years and have been described from medieval times. During such a period in the 18th century they also boiled the herring in huge containers to produce fish-oil for burning oil-lamps, also for export. Herring was called the ´Silver of the Sea´, turning the otherwise extremely poverty stricken population of Bohuslän into ´Richies´- as long as it lasted. Wood for ship building was another export article, especially oak, pine and spruce, depleting Bohuslän of most of the trees and woods. In the 19th century Bohuslän´s granit rock became a big industry and export article, carving cobble stones by a rapidly growing number of skilled stonemasons. It is said that underneath the asphalt in Manhattan, New York lies thousands of shiploads of Bohus granite cobble stones, used for pavement. There were big risks involved, especially from the granite dust causing premature death by destroying their lungs – so called ´stone-lung`. This industry died around 1930 during The Big Depression.
Most transport in the those days used shipping since the roads usually were in such poor condition. And Florö became a central point for seafarers because of its suitable and readily accessible location, sheltered from the open sea and – above all – offering/selling ´aquavit´ (hard liquor) to all the thirsty sea- and fishermen at the inn called ´Krogen´ on Florö – opened around 1840 by the feisty woman Abela (1807 – 1882) until the license was withdrawn 1888 (under the influence of the then strong teetotaller and often very strict religious organisations of the time). The drinking habits had in these ´good days´ resulted in wide-spread alcoholism in the male population. This also often meant that the wife and children could wait until late before the husband/father arrived home drunk and pennyless, creating enormous hardship. From that aspect Abela can probably be compared to the temptations of The Sirenes calling/singing irresistably for the sailors to abandon their ships and swim ashore to their island!
The son of Abela – Captain Peter August Johansson - had made his fortune from several different sources such as shipping, owning several sailing ships with exports of goods - such as timber to the Mediterranian countries and bringing home salt, having the right to all the locally stranded sailing ships and their often valuable cargoes that often could be saved. When the last herring period started in 1877-78 he built and extended the herring factory building (see pictures). Florö - being the central on/off loading place/island for goods and people - one can vividly imagine the hussle and bussle of these times. When two of his sons drowned in 1881 – forced by their father to sail to the mainland to buy more snuff that he had run out of – it was the ominous beginning of the end of the prosperous era and place of Florö in the local history. We know very little of the island being inhabited before 1800 until the first known house – that later became the inn - was built by a family Zimmerman in 1831 – 100 years before my father bought it. The house was a 2½ store - for being on island in the outer archipelago - enormous building. It is said to be originally from Gothenburg and in architecture estimated from around 1750, dismantled and re-assembled on the island – a common way in those days, since timber was expensive.
Captain Johansson died from a painful cancer of the tongue 1998. He was by that time bankrupt and the estate taken over by a local banker – Carl Larsson - who a few years later sold it to a theatre director – Oscar Wennersten. He came with his family and used it mainly as a summer place and stored plaster busts and other ´back-drop´ decorations in and outside the houses, giving the island an exotic and surprising look for by-passing boats and ships. By 1928 the island was again in receivership and taken over by the same banker until sold to my father 1931.
There is very little known when Florö was first documented in the official Registry of properties as Hjerterön 1:5.  During the 16th century was the first time a neighbour island Dyngö was known to have people designated by The Crown to service the area with piloting. So we can assume that was a time when people started to inhabit some of the islands around Fjällbacka archipelago. We also assume that islands like Florö would have been important for grassing animals (mainly sheep and cows) as an important income and function for early settlers.
We have no knowledge that people have lived permanently on Florö until the first house was erected there in 1831 by the new owner J.P. Zimmerman. There are, however indications of buildings/sheds? that may have been for temporary habitation for seasonal fishing, like on some neighbouring islands, going back many hundred years.

 

 

2 Natural resources and predisposing factors for habitation.

2-1 Wind shelter.

To the north Florö has a natural harbour area, suited for landing/jetty. This part of the island must have been one of several attractive elements for habitation, close to the open sea but still very sheltered for all wind directions apart from Northerlies.

2-2 Fresh water.

The island has a natural reservoir of fresh water in a meadow (Ängen). This meadow is a sand bank (acting like a water filter) which was once a reef of shells (oyster, mussels etc.), several meters thick. We have one well for watering the vegetable garden and one for drinking water going to the Inn (Krogen) and to the Heering shed (Magasinet). The Captain´s house has an old well just in front which was probably the main water supply until my father bought the island. It is still providing fresh water to both that house and the guest cabin and in between those there has recently been built an outdoor shower.
Most islands have no or much less access to fresh water but we have never experienced a shortage, especially important when having herding animals like sheep and cows.

2-3 Autonomy. 

Florö is not only a good and natural place for fishing and using/catching all the resources of the sea but also has good soil for growing crops, vegetables etc. and grazing - with the potential of keeping all kinds of animals belonging to a farm, such as sheep, cows, pigs, chicken etc. At some time from 1910 to 1925 a neighbouring family (Sandmark, mother and son,) lived in Krogen and she milked the cows and sold the milk to the fisherman and other families on the neighbour islands, picked up by somebody rowing to Florö. Thus, Florö was especially favoured and more self sufficient than most other islands - even when it was isolated for longer periods by ice or really bad weather. The worst situation being when the ice was not thick enough to carry man or vehicles and boats were unable to get through the ice. The location of Florö on the main trade route from north and south (between bigger cities like Gothenburg and Oslo), meant excellent access from the inner- and outer archipelago and – above all – the access to buy liquor were both major attractions!
During the latter half of the 19th century Florö was the central point for all seafaring traffic in the region with the responsibility for the owner – Captain Johansson - to make sure all passengers stepping off on the big jetties of Florö were sailed or rowed to their final destination (´skjutsplikt´) - similar to the plight of keeping horses at the inns on the mainland).
In my childhood half a dozen men came early August to sickle the hay on the meadow and ship it back to another island (Hjerterön), the original main island (where Florö was one of about twelve) , still having about 30 cows, needing hay for the long winters.
In year 2000 we bought two cows – Highland Cattle – from a neighbour. One swam ´home´ to her ´family´! – one stayed, named Flora and the following year we bought her a handsome bull, called Ferdinand, of course! This breed is specifically good at keeping the growth at bay. Over the past 50 years the vegetation had gotten the upper hand and started to grow into the meadow and all over the island like never before. The reason for this is not quite clear to us - milder winters, climate change with acid rains also saturated with nitrogen from overusing fertilisers on all farms in such abundance, possibly also making the sea toxic to fish, now more or less completely gone during the same period. The commercial fishing along our coast, using modern equipment and huge and complete foreign floating factories is probably not helping the desperate situation, making local, professional fishing impossible, driving the total fishermen population to have to leave their houses, boathouses, jetties and all and move to the mainland. Thus, during this last half century all the islands have been drained of their original population and replaced by wealthy big city dwellers for them to have as a summer place, driving prices through the ceiling for the smallest boatshed. Flora and Fedinand were given to a Norwegian farmer nearby last year, the wonderful but shy animals having done a good job. We have now decided to switch to seasonal grazing, the European and national regulations becoming impossible to follow for the special circumstances of having cattle on an island all year around.

3 The five buildings:

3-1 The Inn (Krogen).

The building is said to have been first built in Gothenburg around 1750. As so often in those days building material/wood was scarce and therefore often houses were bought and moved to save money.

J.P. Zimmerman bought, dismantled, transported and erected the building on Florö in 1831, having bought the island for him and his family. The architecture of this 2½ storey house reminds of what can be seen more often in south Norway and – at the time – must have looked enormous, compared to the traditional houses - especially on an island. Already six years later it was sold to Benjamin and his wife Abela Johansson. Abela had already run a business selling liquor, requiring a license and now started such a business on Florö. It became an extremely popular attraction for all people around and a preserved register from 1881 for book keeping indicates that she made a fortune. At times there were so many boats and ships around the island that all traffic through the sound was blocked and the people had to walk over all the other boats to reach the inn. The following year she died and it is said that one reason could be her grief when 2 grandsons (20 and 11) drowned under tragic circumstances the previous year.
Her son – Peter August – took over, but soon the license was withdrawn in a time when alcoholism was prevalent and increasing rapidly and a major threat to society. In December 1888 the last barrel with aquavit was opened on the ice by the jetties with Peter August and his closest friends present  ´celebrating the wake´.
We are fortunate to have a copy of a painting from 1882 by a 14 year old family member, Rudolf Florén. By then Krogen was yellow and the Captain´s House white and today it is the other way around. My father had two walls removed in 1931, so that the Inn is now a combined dining room and living room, the latter called Abela´s Chamber.
Since then the building downstairs has been more like a ´museum´  or used for dinners and party´s as well as guest rooms upstairs when friends are visiting. Recently (1980) the kitchen has been modernised and a toilet and a shower etc. installed in a (3 by 5 meter) built-on part towards the Park.

3-2 Captains House.

When Abela’s son Peter August had successfully asked for the hand of his wife to be he built her a beautiful house in traditional local architecture near the sea and gave it to her as a ‘morning gift’  on the day of the wedding in 1856.  Being a successful businessman we believe that he had his office next to the kitchen which has recently been restored to its original look with wooden panel and linse seed grey oil paint in the ceiling and a special technique of oak imitation brushpaint on the walls. About one meter from the floor the walls were painted in a dark purple nuance called ‘bröstning´, common in those days. On this southern side of the house there is a bedroom next to the office. Next to the kitchen to the north is a dining room next to it a living room with a lovely seaview. In the ceiling of the living room we have recently recovered a wallpaper! in very pretty rose patterns, partly ´withered´, a very unusual way and fashion of decoration.  Upstairs are two big and two small bedrooms and ample storage space. All bigger rooms have a tile stove and only recently have electric panels been installed. A big cellar is accessible from the kitchen, probably also used as a pantry and cooling store. To the west of the house my father had a concrete cellar built directly on to the granite rock where a special concrete room contained ice blocks cut up in the winter on the frozen lakes nearby on the mainland. These one meter ice blocks were buried in sawdust, used as a primitive ´fridge´ with a compartment for the ice, chopped from the big blocks into smaller pieces. The big ice blocks lasted all summer. The main entrance is to the east with a long stone staircase, hand masoned.

3-3 The Boatshouse/Herringfactory/Magasinet.

The original western part of this long two storey building (today about 40 meters long and 15 meters wide) is built on stone support (piles of rough granite blocks, seemingly not moving much over the past 150 or so years - along the waterfront, directly in contact with the wooden beams carrying the whole construction. The sea can come and go under the building with a maximum of about 2 meters difference between high and low ‘tide’ (= high and low pressure, practically no tidal changes exist on this latitude) without ever touching the lower beams. We have no knowledge when this first part was built but we assume that it may have been raised in connection to the Inn being built. The main use was most likely for keeping lobster pots, fishing- and boat gear etc. For as long as we know it has been painted (as most buildings in this part of Sweden) with linse seed oil and ochre – a warm and sunny yellow colour). 
When the last herring period started in 1877-78 the building was extended in two phases as the industry expanded. Two enormous jetties were built when Florö became the central shipping point for the area. A lot of information has been told us by generations of fisherman who have been told by their parents etc. Thus, we have heard that at the peak of the herring period (1980 to 1990) 30 girls/women came rowing to Florö early every morning from surrounding islands to clean and salt the fish in 150 kilogram barrels. These were stored on a second floor until loaded on to freight sailing ships, in later years motorised. The loading wheel with drum and all is still there intact under the roof. We have also heard that Captain Johansson started a production of tinned anchovies (baby herrings) with a secret brine that had already put little Fjällbacka on the international market, winning gold medals in Paris etc. The machine making the lids of these tins - with the Captain´s name and Florö - is well preserved and can be seen in the local museum in Fjällbacka.
We  believe that The Captain hired a lot of men and women to drive the rapidly growing business consisting of – apart from the herring industry – the freight commerce from a big fleet of initially mainly sailing ships, later in the 1990ies becoming more motorised. He also had the right to all the wrecked ships in the area and their cargos. Just in these decades before the turn of the century lighthouses were being built along the coast so that ships could approach the coast even at night and find their way to a safe place out of reach for the storms and hurricanes. Thanks to Abela and her booming aquavit/alcohol commerce they didn´t mind staying a bit longer, perhaps blaming the (bad)weather! And ill winds from the ´wrong direction´!
Sweden has the oldest register of the whole population in the world, stemming from a legislation in the 17th century under the control of the state Lutheran church. Thus, all deaths and births were registered and is thus a dream for genealogists. Unfortunately the church and its archive burnt in the neighbouring parish Kville in 1928(?) where most of the old material became victim to the flames but recently there is a community and voluntary driven effort to try to save what is left of these books/ledgers. Fortunately Fjällbacka took over their own book keeping when the church was built 1891(?) From there we can see that at some stage around 50 people were registered to live and work on Florö. From a handwritten narrative by a son – Alfred - of the Captain we get to know of at least one more family Johansson (not related) who had their house on a slope behind the Herring Factory and what their every day looked like. One of them helped Abela and her son to ship all the liquor from the distillery in Gothenburg to the island. A lot of people in those days preferred to ´burn´ their own homebrew, illegally! Especially when licenses were withdrawn and we later had to be authorised with a ´motbok´ allowing only men over 21 years of age to buy a certain amount - I believe, a maximum of 7 litres of aquavit per month.
With the death of the Captain Florö was declared bankruptcy and his wife and children had to move to relatives in Fjällbacka.
Suddenly, gone were the spectacular days of fame, wealth and glory and the deserted island with houses and the park was left to the forces of weather.

3-4 Captains Cabin/Kajutan.

One of the last tall ships to wreck in the area left a captain´s cabin drifting around the islands after a severe storm when discovered and collected by its new owner – Captain Johansson. He saved it from the sea, had a stone foundation built where it has since become a guest house, also in ochra yellow. My sister and I spent several summers there with my mother´s tasteful decoration of blue nautic patterned wallpaper. It is amazing how powerful and deep such a trivial thing as a wall paper pattern and colour can penetrate into one´s mind. In the 1970ies a wood storage for heating purposes in the southern part of the cabin was transformed into a kitchen, dining space and in a separate compartment a wash baisin making it into quite an independent living quarter. It is placed right next to the stone pier, the waves lapping you to sleep, and has become quite attractive to our children/grandchildren and guests.

3-5 The barn/Ladan.

We are unsure of when it was built but probably about the same time as the inn, i.e. 1831, indicating the autonomy that Floro then became, adding all the possibilities that goes with running a farm. The oldest, western part of the Boatshouse was most likely built at the same time to complete the perfect dwelling. The barn contained lofts for the hay, space for two cows, a pig, chicken etc. Today we store our quadbike and other machinery there as well as wood for our stoves, wood burner in the sauna and open fireplace. It is painted in a classical/traditional red colour so common in most parts of Sweden of the old times (both houses/cottages and barns) called ´Falu rödfärg´ - and so we keep it.

4 Special attractions:

4-1 The Lilypond(s).

About 100 meters east of the the planted Wood there is a natural fresh water pond – about 30 meters long and8 meters wide. My father thought it to be an ideal place for goldfish – but the seagull soon made it to a short lived fishing ground. He then tried kräftor since he thought they would be well camouflaged against the black mud on the bottom – but no - in no time they too were all gone the same way. He also tried carp fish to help clear the weed but the were struck by the same ugly destiny. He then moved to a complete other species buying a few tame ducks. I was told that they actually stayed a few years before they probably succumbed to a blastingly evil and cold winter. That was the moment when he, again, changed species and bought two cages of waterlilies – one with big and beautiful red and one with equally big and beautiful white flowers. Problem solved and the pond is now well known and attracting lots of local people and tourists to land on this east side, close by the pond with all kind of boats, have a walk to the pond and around the island before enjoying a picknick at the waterfront, also ideal for swimming and sheltered from the prevailing wind (south-west). South of the Wood there is a much bigger fresh water pond where he planted also planted waterlilies but the pond is much more overgrown and there is not much space and open water for them to extend and thrive. He therefore asked his two stone masons to try to build a dam with stones and concrete to raise the water level but unfortunately it leaked leaving that mission incomplete. Wild underbrush, mainly small birch trees have taken over a big part of that pond. On both sides of this bigger pond rain water is flowing from south to north until it reaches the ditched meadow, turning into the west shore in a deep ditch ending in the sea. In torrential downpour the whole meadow can be covered by so much rainwater that for a short time it becomes a lake. I have seen a photo where they had dragged a dingy up there and somebody is rowing around the meadow!