Station: [20] Haus Olesen Exterior

M: You’re standing in front of the oldest house on the island of Föhr – it’s called Haus Olesen, named after the woman who last lived in it.

F: After her death, the house was at risk of falling into disrepair. So the Museum Association purchased her house, had it dismantled on its original site in Alkersum, and rebuilt it here. During the work, the date of 1617 was found carved into one of the roof beams!

M: In form and construction, it is a typical Uthland Frisian house, with a rectangular floor plan and a corridor running down the middle. The people lived on one side, and the livestock on the other. You only have to look at the size of the windows to tell who was accommodated where.

F: Speaking of windows: the windows didn’t open. So if the house needed airing, it had to be via the door, which is split in two horizontally. We’d call it a Dutch door, or a half-hung door, but locally, it’s known as a Klöndör (a chatting door). If the bottom half was closed, but the top half was open to let in some fresh air, you could stand comfortably in the opening, lean on the bottom half and have a chat with your neighbours!

M: The gable above the entrance is very typical of the Uthland Frisian style of house. It not only looks pleasing; it also has a very practical purpose. Take a look at the thick layer of thatch on the roof. Thatch is an extremely flammable material that will be ablaze in a matter of moments. In the event of a fire, people in the house would have very little time to get out. But if there’s a gable over the door, the burning thatch will tend to drop down on either side of the gable, leaving a narrow path along which people can get clear of the building.

F: On the right-hand side of the house, on the façade, there’s a long pole with a cloth mop on the end. People would use this to try and beat out any fire on the thatched roof – though sadly, that was all too often a futile waste of time!

M: The loft was used to store hay and grain. If there was a storm surge, the residents would take refuge up there. Incidentally, an Uthland Frisian house wasn’t supported by its external walls. Instead, it rested on a special framework of beams, so it was better able to withstand storms. Even if an exterior wall was crushed in, the house didn’t collapse.

F: Before you go inside the house, take a moment to turn around and look at the museum garden with its post mill, the free-standing barn, the replicas of two prehistoric tombs and a number of medieval sandstone coffins. After your museum visit, you’re very welcome to enjoy a stroll around our garden!

Fotos: © Dr.-Carl-Häberlin-Friesen-Museum