Historical retrospective

Tornøes Hotel 150 years – 1865-2015

For a hotel, a 150-year anniversary is remarkable – especially when it comes to continuous hotel operation throughout all 150 years with the same name and location next to the old renaissance harbour. It is also good to see that the hotel is in fine shape. The harbour has undergone an extensive renovation project funded by the Realdania Foundation. With its old warehouses and the hotel’ distinctive main building, the painter Johannes Larsen called the old harbour the “Face of the town”.

If you ask the locals, most of them would say with a smile that Tornøes Hotel is the best hotel in town knowing that for long periods of time it has been the only hotel in town

The year of establishment, 1865, was well-chosen. It was that magical year where the railway came to Funen linking Nyborg with Middelfart. There was still about 10 kilometres from Kerteminde to the nearest stations in Ullerslev and Langeskov but the transport revolution had reached Kerteminde and with it new unprecedented travelling activities.

In 1861, a Member of Parliament, Christopher Krabbe, arrived to Kerteminde which he unmercifully characterised as “plain and inconspicuous” also with regards to inns. The landlord made big eyes because travellers were “rare birds”. With just three hotel beds, the landlord had no vacancies only once a year, and that was when the session gentlemen were in town. Krabbe was maybe amused, but only four years later, Tornøes Hotel was established targeting the new times. The hotel was established around 1800, located by the harbour in the beautiful main building that is still standing today.

From 1834, it was run as a brewery and pub and from then on also as a hotel.

Back in 1865, few people would probably have imagined that only a couple of decades later, it would become a treat for the rich and well-off to travel to the idyllic Danish coastal towns for luxury beach holidays. But this was a new era, also for Kerteminde. In 1880, Councillor Emil Kiørboe stayed in Tornøes Hotel with his wife, two children and a nanny. They were here to swim in the ocean! They stayed for a whole month, and the price for board and accommodation was around 100 DKK (equivalent to a month’s pay for a craftsman at the time). Emil Kiørboe noted contendedly that “Councilor Tornøe had apparently never experienced this before.” But that was about to change.

In 1900, the railway came to Kerteminde announcing new times and unprecedented possibilities – especially for tourism. Tornøes Hotel expanded in order to accommodate the expected tourist boom, and just a couple of hundred metres from Tornøes Hotel facing the train station, the Beach Hotel was built, which was almost gigantic for a small town like Kerteminde. Later Kochs Hotel was built, and in Langegade the Landmandshotel was established but unfortunately, the new times were not all that good. Only Tornøes Hotel survived the following the economic drepressions and bankruptcies, and one of the reasons, besides the fabulous location, was probably also that it had become Kerteminde’s cultural house.

Already in 1884, an impressive new hall with room for 150 people was inaugurated, and after a fire in 1908, the side wing was reconstructed with “our new theatre”, as the newspaper wrote. The theatre was used extensively for shows, plays, concerts and readings and Tornøes Hotel even had its own regular visitor, the writer Christian Houmark, who was part of Kerteminde’s creative milieu. Houmark even claimed that Kerteminde was his birthplace (even though it rightly was Ålborg). In 1937, he hung his portrait in Tornøes Hotel. Today, many cultural activities still take place in “our new theatre” not least the Kerteminde Revue under the resilient direction of Mads Nørby.

Back in 1865 and the beginning for this cultural house and hotel, it was simply named after the founder Wenzel Tornøe. He wasn’t just anybody. Councillor, royal measure and weighing official, ship broker, chamber member, were some of the hotel owner’s titles. Wenzel Tornøe was hotel owner for 38 years and that has not been surpassed yet! The current hotel owners, Charlotte Frandsen and Morten Birkerod, started their hotel activities back in 1986 – 30 years ago so who knows?

Even though it is often overlooked, this unusual 150-years anniversary is thanks to the fact that the right place was found by the right person with the right vision. It also wouldn’t have been possible if the original owner hadn’t sold his property to its promising future. Therefore, let us all remember this person. It was Kerteminde’s entrepreneurial master painter Niels Christian Jantzen. He lived in Præstegade where the painter company still is located now through four generations. This master painter was my great great grandfather and therefore includes a little bit of me in this story.

Erland Porsmose
Museum Director