Norra Latin and Folkets Hus are not only situated in the heart of Stockholm – these buildings have also played a role in Stockholm’s history and development.
As recently as 1850, the area that is now Norra Bantorget consisted of impenetrable thickets, mud and brushwood. This marshland was bordered by two penal institutions, which were situated where Folkets Hus stands today. Opposite the prison area, where Norra Latin was later built, was a leafy English-style pleasure park and a kitchen garden that had been planted by the Swedish Horticulture Society in 1830.
The construction of the railways played a key part in the creation of Norra Bantorget. The Stockholm-Uppsala section of the Northern Main Line was opened to rail traffic in 1866, bringing with it demand for a market square. The new square was completed in 1867, and was named Norra Bantorget.
The labour movement took the initiative to build Folkets Hus, but by the time it was completed in 1901, the entire project was in dire financial straits. But then help came from an unexpected source: the Stora Bryggeriet brewery, which was owned by the leading Wallenberg financial family and Ernest Thiel. The brewery donated SEK 100,000 worth of shares on the condition that that the labour movement would give publicity to the brewery’s beer!
By 1917, Folkets Hus had already outgrown its premises. In order to ease the pressure, the adjoining properties – Wallingatan 21 and Barnhusgatan 12 – were bought, but the
possibility of building a brand new Folkets Hus had already been raised. During the 1930s, the famous architect Sven Markelius drew up plans for a new building and decided which additional plots would need to be acquired. The outbreak of the Second World War meant that the project had to be shelved. Instead the modern-day Folkets Hus was built during the 1950s in three stages and inaugurated in 1960. In the 1960s, the new Folkets Hus was the largest conference venue in Northern Europe.
When Norra Latin came to be built the city made a major investment. The most famous architect of the time, Hugo Zettervall, was engaged. He designed and built the school in palatial New Renaissance style. All told, the cost of the plot, the building and its furnishings was more than SEK 1,135,000. The inauguration ceremony on 3 September 1880 was attended by King Oscar II, and the dedication speech was given by the archbishop.
Norra Latin was a stronghold of the classical languages. In 1918 it was proposed that Norra Latin should also be open to girls, but despite the proposal receiving approval it was not until 1961 that the first girls attended the school.
Norra Latin became an extremely modern school, with elements of social engineering. Norra Latin boasted Sweden’s first school canteen and in the 1940s, the parents’ association employed the country’s first school welfare officer. It was also one of the first schools to have a student council.
As the residential areas of central Stockholm were replaced by office blocks, the number of pupils grew fewer and fewer. In 1984 the entire school relocated in suburban Tensta. In 1989 Norra Latin opened its doors once again in its current form, as a venue for conferences, congresses and concerts.