The Polar Museum comprises of several buildings that form a historical and beautiful environment by the seaside in Skansen.
The Polar Museum is located at the former Customs premises in Tromsø, comprising the warehouse, seaside building and Customs office building. The Customs Service moved out of the premises in 1970. The Polar Museum moved into the Customs warehouse and seaside building in 1978 and took over ownership of the office building in 1992. All the buildings are protected by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage.
In 1991, a pier was built at the Polar Museum. The pier is perpendicular to the warehouse building to the south, so that it almost closes off Tollbufjæra. The reconstruction of the pier was based on photos taken in the 1950s. The pier is also built on poles to enable the sea to flow freely beneath it. The Arctic vessel MS Polstjerna was previously moored here.
Brygga (The wharf building)
The wharf building was originally built as a warehouse for the Customs Service. It was used to store items that were waiting to be custom cleared.
The building’s foundations are on vertical wooden poles on the seashore – and the sea flows freely underneath. The walls are cog joined and are covered with vertical wooden panels. The roof has a conventional gable design and is tiled with cut slate and roofing bricks. The building is 29.8 m long and 9.8 m wide. It originally had a chimney, but this has been removed. The building originally comprised of two storeys and a loft. However, the loft has now been fitted out such that the building has two and a half storeys. One of the long sides has a corridor in half-timbering. The gable facing the sea has an arch with a winch and large double folding doors on each level. The long side facing the sea also has an arch with a winch and large double folding doors on each level. The north-facing extensions, which were added in 1843, are cog joined and panelled the same height and width as the original building. A couple of minor additions have been added in later years with vertical panels, including an annex being converted into a toilet and cloakroom for the Polar Museum.
The Customs Service got its own boathouse as early as 1800. The original warehouse was built in 1833 and in 1843 it was extended by builder J. C. Berg. When the Customs Service discontinued its operations in the Skansen area, the warehouse was rented out as a storage facility. When the Polar Museum took over the building in 1978, it was restored and fitted out before the museum reopened in 1986.
Customs boathouse/Seaside building
The boathouse was constructed around 1800. It is now located behind the warehouse. The current boathouse originally had an earth floor and a timber frame with exterior vertical cladding. The roof is supported by rafters of the same height. It was originally tiled with roofing bricks, but these have been replaced with concrete roofing stones. The boathouse did not have windows. The northern side of the boathouse contained a large port opening, which had earlier been a double folding boathouse door. The foundations consist of a thin layer of stone. The boathouse was extended in 1994 and is now part of the Polar Museum’s exhibition space.
Called Tollbufjæra, this is the sole remaining beach in downtown Tromsø. The tide still rises to the original shoreline and wharf building and Customs warehouse stand on poles in the sea as they did originally.
The beach is important because it provides an indication of what the entire shoreline looked like. To quote architect Jenssen’s comments in a protest about building on the shoreline in 1971: “The beach is namely the part of the Skanse area that explains and provides the intention for the location of Skansevollen and its connection with the sea.” The stones on the eastern part of the beach are the foundations of a wharf that previously went over this section of shoreline. The wharf had openings to enable small rowboats to go ashore.
Customs office/Customs shed
The Customs office was constructed by builder Johan Conrad Berg and rented to the Customs Service as an office building. The Customs Service purchased the building soon after. These new offices were far more suitable than the old Customs shed.
The foundation walls of the Customs office are made of natural stone and a binding material, while the cellar is of walk-in height. The building is cog joined and cladded with horizontal panels. The conventional gable roof was originally tiled with red bricks. These were later replaced with square cut natural slate before roofing slate was laid in 1996 to return it to the traditional style. The building’s base is a square 11 m by 11 m, it has two storeys, a chimney and a secondary arch has been added on the southern side.
The building was built in 1839-40 and was used as a Customs office until the 1970s. It was then used during an interim period by the outreach section at Åsgård Hospital before the Polar Museum took over the building in 1992. The Customs office was then restored.