INDIA HOUSE IN STOCKHOLM, THE OFFICIAL RESIDENCE OF THE AMBASSADOR
Sometime in 1950 the Indian Legation rented 14 rooms on the Second floor in Villagatan 13-A. The premises were previously occupied by the Chinese Legation. The first occupant was Mr. R.K. Nehru, Minister and Head of the Legation, who happened to be a cousin to the Prime Minister Nehru. Besides Sweden, he also covered Denmark, Norway and Finland. He was officially accredited in June 1951 and stayed until 1954.
In diplomacy, a legation is considered as a diplomatic representative office slightly lower than an embassy. Where an embassy was headed by an Ambassador, a legation was headed by an Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary. The distinction between a legation and embassy was gradually dropped following World War II. Now all diplomatic representative offices are designated as Embassies or High Commissions. In this case it was done after Prime Minister Nehru’s visit to Sweden in June 1957.
Mr. John Edward Bernard, born on 8 April 1874 in Stenbrohult, Smaland, was the Swedish architect who designed Villagatn 13. He was educated at the Technical School in Örebro and at KTH in Stockholm. He also studied in Germany and opened his own architectural office in Stockholm year 1910. The flats were ready for occupation In 1917.
The real owner of the The flats at Villagatan 13 was Hufvudstaden who even today are involved in the running of the flats. Hufvudstaden founded in 1915 was co-owned by the Match King Ivar Kruegar . So Kruegar took a flat in this prestigious building. It is possible that many of the flats were sold to his friends of Krueger.
When the house was built, it was considered very modern, partly because tenants had great potential to influence the layout. But rents were high; For example, Mr.Helmer Key paid 12 500 in annual rent, which corresponds to 378 000 SEK in today's money (2007).
The price tag corresponds today to a breathtaking 87,500 crowns per square meter in 2010.
In the early 1930s Architect John Edward Bernard was also commissioned by Ivar Kreuger to design a property for the Banque de Paris de Suède and owned by him.
FLAT 13A SECOND FLOOR
The first occupier of this flat was a Mr Carl Andreas Sahlin a mill manager and a historian, born 15 December 1861 in Vollsjö, Malmöhus County, and died 22 January 1943 in Danderyd. Sahlin graduated in 1883 as a metallurgical engineer. In 1888 Sahlin entered in the Great Copper Bergslags service in Falun, first as a mining engineer eventually becoming a deputy member of the board from 1888-1900 and from 1900-1917 was managing director and CEO of Laxå utility company. Sahlin left the CEO position at Laxå in 1917 and from 1917 to 1924 he was Managing Director of Bångbro stakeholders AB. Sahlin was elected in 1921 as a member of the Academy of Engineering Sciences. He performed extensive research on Swedish mountain and was the initiator of no less than three museums of technical-historical nature: Bergslaget museum in Falun, Laxa industrial museum and the Museum of Technology in Stockholm.
Sahlin also wrote on metallurgy and mining engineering. A list from 1941 of his writings includes more than 382 papers and articles, mainly on Swedish industrial history. Sahlin had several awards including: Honorary Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Stockholm, the Royal Medal Illis quorum and in 1936 he was awarded the Brinellmedaljen on the grounds for his research on the mountain's historic area.
The second occupier was Mr. John Bernström along with his wife Mrs. Henriette Bernström. He died in 1925 but his widow stayed until 1933 when she took over part of Ivan Krueger’s fourth floor flat.
Johan (John) Peter Frederick Bernström was born January 26, 1848 in Helsingborg. After studying at grammar schools in Helsingborg and Kristianstad, he was accepted at the Karlberg officer school in 1867 but preferred to take a job at a machine shop. Between the years 1870-73 he worked in England, as an inspector for skeppsbyggerier (ship builders) in Newcastle, where he got a good insight into the operation of the machine shops. From 1873-76, he was an engineer and office manager of the firm of Graham Brothers (elevator manufacturers) in Stockholm. In 1876 he founded a machine agency, which he held up to 1887. He entered then as Managing Director of AB Separator ( a leading producer of specialized products and solutions used to heat, cool, separate and transport such products as oil, water, chemicals, beverages, foodstuffs, starch and pharmaceuticals), a position he held until 1915, with a brief interruption as its Chairman of the Board,. In the 1890s, he brought a world leadership position for the company in the field of machinery for agriculture.
Next occupants were the Chinese legation that stayed from 1933 to 1949. However the Chinese nationalists were expelled in 1949 from the mainland by the communist forces and retreated to Taiwan. In this period Chu Chang-nien the Head of Mission stayed at the flat in 1934 and the charge d’affaires stayed from 1935-36 was Mr. Beue Tann.
Diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and the Kingdom of Sweden were formally established on May 9, 1950.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh & Princess Margaret visited the Indian Legation in Stockholm in June, 1956. The royal party was received at the entrance of the Legation by the Indian Minister Shri I.S. Chopra and Smt. Chopra, who garlanded them.Photo shows Her Majesty the Queen leaving the Indian Legation. With Her Majesty appears Shri I.S. Chopra. At right in the picture are Prince Margaret and Smt. Chopra.
INDIAN AMBASSADOR FROM 1950-2012 WHO HAVE LIVED IN INDIA HOUSE
I.S. Chopra (1955-1958)
Kewel Singh (1958-1962)
Tailok Chand Rana
N.P. Alexander (1978-1981)
Kamal Nath Bakshi (1981-1984)
P.S. Sahai (1992-1996)
Sushil Dubey (1996-2000)
Ms Chitra Narayanan (2001-2004)
Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa (2005-2009)
Balkrishna Shetty (2009-2010)
Ashok Sajjanhar (2010-2012)
Banashri Harrison (2012-Present)
FLAT 13A 2ND FLOOR
What is noticeable that very little has changed in the structure of the house since 1917 except for a couple of cupboards being adjusted to make way for bathrooms.
Most interestingly the original floor plan of the Indian Ambassador’ flat is used to illustrate Tarras Blom’s book on Villagatan 13. Consisting of 14 rooms, its plinth area is 550 square metres. It has three doors of which one is now a dummy door and the entrance was made into a cupboard earlier and now a toilet (2012).
Below is a wine cellar which would have held Kreuger’s wine collection along with individual bins for all occupants and there is also a loft for storage.
VISITORS TO INDIA HOUSE
The Queen of England visited the then Minister I.S. Chopra 15th June 1956 at Villagatan 13-A. She was in Sweden for a state visit and a private visit to the Equestrian sports for the Australian 1956 Olympics being held at the stadium, next door to Villagatan from June 11, 1956 to June 17, 1956. It is not clear why she visited though the previous minister’s cousin Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was ambassador in UK?
The Belgian Embassy was in the flat directly below the Indian’s Ambassador’s and used to receive the old King of Sweden, King Gustav V, as his niece Astrid Bernadotte of Sweden was married to the King of Belgium. She tragically died in a car crash in August 1935.
FAMOUS OCCUPANTS OF 13A
The most famous occupant of the building was undoubtedly Ivar Kreuger, known as the match king, and once considered the third richest man in the world. He had a flat on the fourth and fifth floor of 13A. He actually committed suicide in Paris in 1932 after his empire started to unwind. He made his fortune after the First World War by offering loans to the impoverished countries in return for matchstick production monopolies. At one time he owned 70% of all matchstick production worldwide.