Hidden places with Jonas Svanström

Follow urban explorer Jonas Svanström on a trip to some of Sweden's best urban exploration sites.
By Jonas Svanström

In the lead up to the premiere of Urbex we caught up with Jan Jörnmark and Jonas Svanström to talk about Urban exploration. After two amazing articles from Jan we will now let Jonas guide us to some of the unique spots that he has found during his explorations all around Sweden.

Von Döbeln

Towards the end of the nineteenth century a cholera pandemic swept over Europe. Hundreds of thousands of persons died. The cholera bacteria is spread through contaminated water, and causes diarrhoea which soon leads to dehydration. Towards the end of the nineteenth century in Europe it was fairly well known how the disease spread, but still cholera is a problem in parts of the world.

There never was a cholera epidemic in Sweden that time. Quarantines were erected at strategic places. Ships arriving from places where cholera had broken out had to anchor at these places for forty-eight hours. If nobody on the vessel took ill during that time, the vessel was allowed to continue to its destination. If there were signs of disease, the passengers were to be admitted to the place of quarantine where there were staffed hospitals. There were two quarantines in Sweden in the 1890s; Känsö in the Gothenburg archipelago, and Fejan in the Stockholm archipelago.

The quarantine on the east coast was placed on an island in the outer archipelago, Fejan. Firstly, a wooden building was erected and used as a hospital and some years later another tile building was built, the von Döbeln’s hospital.

At the end of the Second World War cholera was gone. Instead the von Döbeln’s hospital was used as a transit station for Baltic refugees, fleeing in boats. Later the Swedish Naval Volunteers moved in to the building but it is now empty and sealed. The original wooden building is used as a hostel.

A short distance from the tile building an old GB ice cream truck is abandoned. How it ended up on Fejan is another story.

The hidden subway station

The Stockholm underground is so much more than is experienced in everyday life – the crowds, packed platforms and backpacks in your face on the train. What the commuters do not see are the tunnels underground where only the homeless and the urban explorers go. There you find the trace of grand urban plans that never took off.

Kyminge station is one example. When the blue line was built in the 1970s certain state agencies were also supposed to be moved to the area, and a residential area for the thousands of employees to be built. This never happened, and the station was never finalised. There is a platform at the opening of a tunnel at the Järva field. This is the only ghost station of the underground.

There are other examples of unfinished underground stations. In the Southeast part of the underground grid, at the station Masmo, the Masmoberget was supposed to become a suburb. It was to be an area with blocks of apartments, but the plans were cancelled. It was stated that the levels of radon in the area were too high, and also, the Million Program, a large common housing program, had already been launched. In the existing station there is an elevator shaft behind an orange wall, and blind doors to the shaft. On the Masmoberget, the entrance is visible in the woods. It looks like a day quarry down into the underground. The elevator shaft is also visible, but sealed with concrete.

The station at the University was also supposed to have a Northern exit, towards the Natural History Museum. There is a flight of stairs from the platform and a bricked wall with a hollow area behind it. It is phased out for a kiosk and for travellers to get out; a small stone paved square is already in place in front of the planned exit. Today the exit is only used as an emergency exit. There are ongoing discussions to open the exit, but so far Stockholms lokaltrafik has said no.

Finnboda and Kvarnholmen

These two areas are separated by a bay and they do not have much in common besides their location. But both places have had different types of industrial manufacturing: ships and foodstuff.

At Finnboda wharf large ships were produced, tonnage at around 35 000 when the production was at its height. The wharf then had about 700 employees. Finnboda had then taken over what was left of Beckholmen’s wharf in Djurgården and Ekensberg’s wharf in Gröndal. Outside of Nacka there was a huge dry dock. In the mid-1970s the company turned to repairing ships rather than producing. In the 1990s, however, the company went bankrupt, the wharf industry was since long dominated by companies from other countries than Sweden. The large dry dock was shipped to Mexico.

A couple of years later the nightclub the Docklands started using the large welding plant. For a number of years a rave dance club was run in the large plant every Saturday. However, it was severely criticised and was shut down in 2002.

Kvarnholmen, on the other side of the Svindersviken, was for a long period the Kooperativa förbundet’s (the Cooperation) almost reservation like area for both industrial production and also had housing for the employees. The mill Tre Kronor was required in 1922, and soon enough the whole island. The primary production sites were the mills, but also the warehouse for Nordchoklad, a phosphorus plant and the Cirkelkaffe roastery. The gasoline company OK/Q8 had an oil depot at the quay. The mills have not been used since 1992. The staff housing is still standing and the island is still owned by Kooperativa förbundet who rents out the flats. The island is now being developed; among other things flats are being built in the old mill from 1897. Some of the old industrial plant is untouched, for instance the old oats mill from 1928.

Kungshatt tegelbruk

At what was once the largest tile industry in Mälardalen, time stopped in when a large fire wiped out the entire plant. If someone looked out of this window on September 17, 1947, he or she was met by a horrible sight. The whole plant was on fire. However, it was already decided that the plant was to be closed since the clay in the area was about to run out. At its height, among 100 persons were employed; most of them lived on the island.

The area around the plant has gone wild. There are overgrown lime tree avenues, mountains of crushed, crumbled tiles and some remnants that survived the flames. In this wild area there is also a gigantic concrete construction, reminding of a cathedral with an altar in the woods. Before the tile plant was built, a manor had been constructed. The surviving wings are from the eighteenth century and some of them have occupants. The avenues are wild, and the once prepared roads are now trails.


Kålsyrefabrikernas AB

On Lövholmen there are remnants of one of the last industrial areas that were built in close vicinity to the Stockholm city centre. Cementa is still running, as is Nordström Trä. However, a number of other industrial facilities are empty.

One of the more conspicuous buildings are the rusty distillation towers of De Förenade Kolsyrefabrikernas AB, a chemical technical company manufacturing carbonic acid. Another noticeable building is the Becker’s large paint industry building, closer to Gröndal. A hundred years ago there were a buzzing activity all over the area. There was even a car factory where Cementa is now located. For a couple of years it was run by Gustav Ericsson, the son of LM Ericsson. There was never any mass production before the company ended, but some prototypes are said to still be running. De förenade kolsyrefabrikerna AB was running between 1896 to 1988 and is supposedly one of the oldest preserved of its kind in Sweden.

Becker moved its paint production from the inner part of Stockholm to Lövholmen in the early twentieth century. At the start the company worked from a previous mechanical shop (the Palmcrantz House). It is now a café and an art exhibition. In the mid-1960s a bigger paint factory was built. It is empty since 2008 when the business moved to Nykvarn. There are plans for close-to-water flats in the area, but still there are reminders from the industrial era. A memento from the period when the shores of Stockholm were full of industrial plants and docksides.

Texacos oil depot in Orminge

In the Stockholm inlet, soon after the last turn after the Oxdjupet towards the city, if paying attention, you can see the Caltex/Texaco old oil depots by the hills towards Orminge. The cisterns are so rusty so to almost blend in with the ragged cliffs. Even before Caltex moved there, there was loading and storing fuel at the site. At the end of the nineteenth century a wholesale merchant, dealing in kerosene, built a small quay and terraces where the freighted barrels were unloaded. Texaco added cisterns and docks long enough to welcome vessels 200 meters long. The company also installed pipelines to the depots higher up on the cliffs, which also went further to a gas station for tank trucks.

The employees lived in the area and were to be available to unload vessels at any time. It is also rumoured that cigarettes and alcohol was smuggled. Stories from far away countries came from the foreign sailors.

The depot stopped being used in the 1970s. The plant is unused while waiting for the zoning plan to be set to work. Meawhile, the location is still visited. It is an exciting place, and most of it seems to have been left just as it was when being used. There is only a little more rust.

Villa Kassman

On an island in the Stockholm inner archipelago there is a beautiful summer villa. This was once a magnificent summer residence belonging to the banker Gunnar Kassman. He bought it in 1917 and immediately undertook major restructuring. The cultural elite were socialising at the villa; actors, artists but also wealthy guests. In one wing there was a theatre and an art gallery. However, in 1921 the bank was bankrupted, and a finance company, where Kassman was one of the partners, took over the responsibility for the house.

The ensuing years involved a period of distribution of plots from the land, and the house also served as a guesthouse. Among others, Greta Garbo and Alexandra Kollontai, the then Soviet Union envoy in Sweden during the Second World War, are said to have spent time there.

After this the villa and the garden dilapidated, something which has continued. During periods of time the house has been vacant, but it has also been used as a summer residence. Not until the 1960s did Kassman sell the house. For a period the house was the place for a collective. However, the decay of the house was already so severe that it was seen as more or less beyond saving, the costs for restoring the house would be astronomical for a single person. Today parts of the house is covered by plywood and tarpaulin.

Nevertheless, the villa is still standing and has a historic value. There have been plans for tearing it down, but the future is uncertain.

Can’t get enough of stories like this? Don’t worry.

Coupled with extreme action, a beautiful first person perspective, and heartfelt personal stories, Urbex brings you another understanding of why people are driven to explore – a drive that proves to be borderless. Check out all of the heart pumping action of Urbex here.

If you want more Swedish Urbex inspiration check out these articles from the Swedish urbex ledgend himself Jan Jörnmarks here and here.

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