From a seamen’s mission…
In the 19th century, the social destitution of urban slum areas and in the harbour quarters of coastal towns was growing. Many people began to be aware of the great need for relief work from charitable organisations, not least the free church movement. In 1879 a number of sea captains with an interest in religion formed Stockholms Sjömansmissionsförening [the Stockholm Seamen’s Mission Association] with the aim of undertaking missionary work among seafarers in the Gamla Stan area of Stockholm. From the beginning, the operation involved maintaining a seafarer’s missionary in Gamla Stan and visits on-board boats.
…to accommodation opportunities
In 1881, an apartment was procured in one of the old properties down at the Stadsgården quayside area. To start with, there were 2 rooms and a kitchen which was expanded in 1882 to a dining room and 5 lodgings. (Stockholms Sjömanshem – Stockholm Seamen’s Home).
With grants from King Oscar II, a new board of directors was established, tasked with organising a new Seamen’s Home. In 1891 sufficient money had been collected to enable the board to purchase the property at Slussen (just beside the entrance to the underground railway) and to equip it as a Seamen’s Home which was gradually expanded to have 160 beds.
Better conditions for seamen in port
In the early 1900s, when the social conditions for people in general started to improve, people realised that something would have to be done for seafarers in port too. Above all, the living conditions needed to be reviewed and a series of animated discussions ensued. As a consequence of these, Stockholm’s Central Board of Administration passed a resolution on 20 November 1941, concerning the establishment of the Stockholm Seamen’s Home Committee. The task was to ”investigate the options for the City to participate in organising the seamen’s home operation in such a way as to bring about collaboration concerning the care of seafarers in Stockholm. The central issue concerned the living conditions of mariners”. This was how Stiftelsen Stockholms Sjöfartshotell [the Stockholm Seafarers’ Hotel Foundation] originated.
Among the consequences of the City’s resolution was the fact that, immediately after the war, the Government also appointed a commission of enquiry to look into welfare arrangements for mariners in port – the Seafarers’ Commission of 1946.
On 15 April 1947, the 1946 Seafarers’ Commission submitted its report to the Ministry, ”Welfare Arrangements for Seafarers in Port” (SOU 1947:29).
The report described the seafarers’ situation in port and the major requirement for contributions in the form of social measures and leisure activities needed to improve the entire social situation for this occupational group.
As a direct consequence of this report, Handelsflottans Välfärdsråd [the Merchant Navy Welfare Board] was established in 1948 (later Handelsflottans Kultur- och Fritidsråd – the Merchant Navy Culture and Leisure Board), which devoted itself largely to leisure activities and service to seafarers in the ports. The Board has since been wound up and, as from 1 January 2007, its activities are now part of the Swedish Marine Administration – the Swedish Seamen’s Service. In Stockholm, the Seamen’s Service encompasses the leisure facility at the Kaknäs Seamen’s Centre in Norra Djurgården.
A very important part of the report was the description of the accommodation situation for seafarers. In Stockholm, the accommodation requirement for seafarers was largely resolved by means of subletting and rooms in lodgings, as well as through the Seamen’s Home (at Slussen) with its 80 beds, and other provisional arrangements. In a letter to the Central Board of Administration on 28 June 1961, the Seamen’s Home Committee put forward a proposal for the establishment of a seafarer’s hotel in the Prinsen district at Katarinavägen/Glasbruksgatan.
A new seafarer’s hotel
The proposal involved a 200-bed seafarer’s hotel with a restaurant and facilities for leisure activities being built within the framework of a Foundation created for that purpose. The financing of the Foundation’s building costs would be managed by means of a collaborative operation between Stockholm City, Stiftelsen Stockholms Sjömanshem and Handelsflottans Välfärdsråd together with a construction loan taken out by the Foundation.
On 20 November 1961, Stockholm City Council approved the committee’s proposal and resolved, among other things, to grant the site at Prinsen 16 to the Foundation, to approve the charter for Stiftelsen Stockholms Sjöfartshotell, and to approve the agreement that was made with Stiftelsen Stockholms Sjömanshem concerning the town’s take-over of the Seamen’s Home at Slussen.
Stiftelsen Stockholms Sjöfartshotell’s charter was established by the Office of the Governor of Stockholm on 18 May 1962 and the hotel was completed and officially opened on 12 June 1964.