History of Singerheimen

William Henry Singer was born in Pittsburg in the USA in 1868. He inherited a large fortune from the steel company Singer Nimick & Co, but chose art over business. Singer was both a painter and a knowledgeable art collector. He gave funds to good causes in Olden and Nordfjord. He got married in 1895 Anna Spencer Brugh from Maryland. They met when he was 25 and she was 15. The couple went to Paris in 1900 and to Holland in 1901. They first came to Norway in 1903 and to Olden in 1913. They both enjoyed themselves here. They chose Olden as their home, and immediately after the First World War they started the plans. Singer built a studio in Olden in 1914.

The villa and other houses at “Dalheim” were built in 1921. The house had a floor area of 900 square meters spread over the 3rd floor. They moved in in the summer of 1921. This was a time of great unemployment, and the construction provided many welcome jobs. William sacrificed a lot for his art, but he also liked to go hunting, and he was fond of sport fishing. It was the wife who took care of the property and the day-to-day care of “Dalheim”. W. H. Singer jr. died in 1943, Mrs Singer in 1962. They rest in a mausoleum at Studio.

When the Singer couple came to Norway, they sought peace in Jotunheimen. Later they settled in Tydal (Trøndelag) and Nordfjord. In the end, Olden became their base. In Olden they lived from early spring to late autumn. They lived most winters in the small Dutch town of Laren. The Singer couple also toured the world. They gathered influencers in the international art environment, and were constantly on the lookout for art treasures. Olden was their hometown and a cathedral. Here the married couple found what they dreamed of. Here was the beautiful nature, a harmonious environment, peace and here they found inspiration. Singer was a citizen of the world and an impressionist. In Olden, he was “the painter of silence and atmosphere”.

When you drive along the Nordfjord and reach the village of Olden, the buildings of Singerheimen shine towards you. Villa Dalheim, the barn and the other houses are all painted in a green color that you hardly find anywhere else in Norway. This is a completely unusual facade color in Norway. Anna Singer saw the color in the river that came from the glacier and then the color of the houses became like this. Historically speaking, Norwegians have had a fairly conservative use of colour, which has primarily been shades of red or yellow, or untreated. The painter and his wife were inspired by mountains, water and rivers, but also by what they brought with them from other parts of the world. It is a color that was used, for example, in New York in the early 20th century. In a Norwegian context, the facility at Dalheim is unique. Here, the western building customs and Swiss-style architecture meet strong influences from American southern architecture and the international Arts & Crafts movement. Fredinga includes the villa, the bungalow, the studio, the mausoleum, the boys’ bedroom/teenager’s residence, the firehouse with cafe, the storehouse, the farm building, the woodshed and the garden, in addition to loose items.

Singer is particularly known for his support for the road between Olden and Innvik. When the Singer family came to Nordfjord, there was no road between Innvik and Olden. This road would connect Sognefjorden and Nordfjorden together overland by the road between Vadheim and Sandane. In the autumn of 1923, the construction of the road started, but the permits were missing. For a while there was a danger that the project would have to be shelved. Then William Henry Singer came on the scene. He sent two men to the county council in Høyanger with NOK 450,000 in bank notes. Later he chipped in with more, so that he provided a total of NOK 710,000 to the council for the road. The work took 13 years. It gave work to many who would otherwise have been unemployed.

The road was opened on 21st June 1936. Singer treated the 130 workers to dinner. In the evening there was a gala dinner with 200 guests. King Haakon VII opened the road. He thanked Mr. and Mrs. Singer in a warm speech and underlined what they had done for people and society. Singer received the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav.

The road workers also wanted to show their gratitude to Singer. They set up a memorial stone on Hildaneset between the center of Olden and the center of Innvik. They had found the stone in the spring. The memorial cost each worker five kroner. It amounted to about a day’s wages at the time. The memorial stone was unveiled the day after the official opening of the road.

Singer became involved in the health care system in the district when one of his friends in Olden, the hotel owner Sivert W. Yri (1880 – 1926), had to be sent all the way to Bergen with a life-threatening appendicitis and died on the way there. Singer had initially promised a grant of NOK 70,000 for a new hospital in Florø, but when the people of Nordfjord started fundraising for their own hospital, he withdrew the monetary gift there, and instead gave a larger grant of NOK 100,000 to the hospital in Nordfjordeid.

The hospital was built in 1936 in Prestemarka, on land donated by John Myklebust and Olav Monsson.

The hospital had its baptism of fire a few weeks after its opening in 1936, when it had to take in the wounded from the landslide accident in Lodalen.

After their death, Singerheimen was bequeathed to Nordfjord Hospital as a holiday home for nurses.

He became a noted local benefactor providing huge sums to build a hospital, school and roads as well as restoring the old church in Olden.

The Singerheimen Foundation

W. H. Singer died in 1943, and his wife in 1962. They rest in a chapel at the studio in Dalheim. The couple had no children, and this was a big issue for them. Singerheimen was first bequeathed as a gift to the Nordfjord hospital. Later, a foundation was established which is managed by the county council. The house was bequeathed with property, fixtures and a number of art treasures. Works of art by Singer can also be found in collections and galleries at home and abroad. In Maryland, Mrs Singer’s birthplace, there is a Singer museum of its own.