so-called Cabinet House (Stjornarrad) has carried a few names since it
was built as a prison during the period 1765-70. The original
idea was to accommodate vagabonds who were fit enough and able to work
for the pioneer woolen industies of the country. The governor of
Iceland at the time, Skuli Magnusson, was an ideologist, who wanted to
create employment possibilities for the
agricultural population of the
country by building those factories. He managed to see his dreem
come true, but workers were hard to come by.
The Danish government of Iceland at the time, however, decided that
the house should serve as a prison, which it did until 1816. It
probably stood empty for three years, until the Danish governor, count
Moltke, arrived and found his lodgings uninhabitable and his office
space unusable. He managed to have the government fund the
reconstruction of the house and moved in with his family and
In 1874, the Icelanders celebrated the millenium of the inhabitancy of
the country, and the Danish king, Christian IX, participated. He
also brought along the country's first constitution and handed it over
in the ancient Parliamentary Plains (Thingvellir).
In 1904, Iceland was granted home rule by the Danish government.
This announcement was read publicly on the steps of the Cabinet House
and the official flag of the country was hoisted in front of it for
the first time. Consequently the house was occupied by the three
ministers of the Icelandic government and got its present name.
In the late 19th century, vegetables were grown in the garden, and the
first trees were planted there in 1834.
Now the house is occupied by the offices of the prime minister.
The offices of the president of the republic were moved there in 1973
and remained there until a political opponent of the prime minister
was elected president in 1996. The prime minister did not waste any time
and evicted the president promptly.
The statues in front of the house are the work of the sculptor Einar
Jonsson from the years 1915 and 1931. One depicts King Christian
IX handing over the constitution in 1874, and the other Hannes Hafstein, who
became the first minister of the country in 1904.
SOUTHWEST ICELAND SAGA TRAILS