August 20, 2010
Sómastadir opened after renovation

The renovation of Sómastadir in Reydarfjördur, East Iceland, is now finished, and the house was formally opened at a ceremony on 17 August. The Alcoa Foundation supported the project with a contribution of ISK 16 million. Sómastadir is in close vicinity of the Fjardaál aluminum smelter.

Sómastadir, which is one of the oldest stone houses in Iceland, was once part of a sod farmhouse, which has disappeared. The house, which is over 37 m², was built in 1875 by Hans Jakob Beck, a fisherman-farmer, and is considered very special. The house has a remarkable place in the history of Icelandic construction since glacial clay or marl was used to build it. Beck presumably became acquainted with this material in Scotland. Glacial clay was used as mortar for the laid stones. This is also the only stone house preserved in Iceland built with space between the uprights and rafters.
The opening of Sómastadir was formally celebrated with a reception in the house on 17 August, and the guests were pleased with the renovation. State Antiquarian Margrét Hallgrímsdóttir described the project and thanked the Alcoa Foundation and East Iceland Cultural Council for handsome grants and the Building Protection Commission, tradesmen and others for outstanding collaboration on Sómastadir.
Transformed into a gem
"The project was done very carefully and professionally from the viewpoint of relic preservation. The project took into account the house's structure and history. Extensive historical research was done on the house, including exactly what its previous colours were, what construction materials were used, the floor plan for the rooms, and such. Great emphasis was placed on preserving the house's value as a relic," said Margrét.
"It seems that glacial clay has not proved suitable in the Icelandic climate, so people quickly began using other substances, but it is part of this house's history. In refurbishing it, on the other hand, a cement mixture was used as mortar to bind the stones," said Margrét.
Sómastadir is under the care of the National Museum of Iceland and is part of its building collection. Old household items from museums in East Iceland will be displayed in Sómastadir, as well as photographs showing the building's history, for signs can be seen in many places of how it has changed over time.
"It has been particularly interesting to see how the house has been transformed into a small gem under the ministrations of the specialists who came to rebuild it," said Erna Indridadottir, Fjardaál's Managing Director of Community and Communication Affairs. She said that all of those involved can be very proud of the results. "It is very beautiful, and every aspect of the project was done meticulously." 

Click image to enlarge.


Farmer and seaman Hans Jakob Beck built the stone house at Sómastadir in 1875. It is hard to believe that he brought up his 23 children in this house, which counts 37 sqm plus a cellar and some space under the roof.