"It is perhaps symbolic that the first major building in a free Norway was a stock exchange building" observed Harry Fett, the Director General of Historic Monuments at the time of the Oslo Børs Centennial celebrations in 1919. It is no surprise that it was the building itself which attracted Mr Fett's interest - then as now the stock exchange building occupies an important place in Norwegian cultural and architectural history.
Throughout its 170 year history, the stock exchange building has been the subject of many and long debates over how it should best be managed and developed. A group of Christiania's most influential businessmen fought for several years to raise the finance and win approval to build a stock exchange in Norway's capital city, and the authorities finally approved their plans on 14 July 1826.
A committee had first been established in 1823 to choose the architect for the new building, and the designs put forward by Christian H. Grosch won the committee's approval. Construction started on the site known as Grønningen, and the building was completed in 1828. What came to be recognised as Norway's first monumental building cost 14,429 speciedaler.
In 1856 the head of the stock exchange proposed improvements to the interior layout so that some space could be rented out as offices. There was considerable disagreement on whether to spend 4,175 speciedaler on making these improvements or use it to pay down some of the outstanding debt. The result was a compromise, with some of the funds used to reduce the debt and the rest used for changes designed by the architect Holtermann. This was followed in 1886-87 by more major internal alterations.
New inventions also had their effect on life in the stock exchange building. Gas lighting was first installed in 1851, and was replaced by electric lighting on 28 December 1893 with 63 lamps, including 4 out of doors. In 1882 the Børs committee agreed to let Christiania Telefonforening install the first telephone, and the building was connected to the national telephone and telegraph network in 1897.
Records show that a debate on whether to move the exchange to a more central location started in 1889. However, the site proposed did not win the committee's approval and it was instead decided to extend the existing building.
A competition was announced, and although over 40 architects submitted proposals none were judged worthy of the first prize. The second prize went to Carl Michaelsen, and after some changes his design was used for the building work that started in 1909. This added a new wing to each side of the building and a rear extension, creating an internal courtyard. His Majesty King Haakon VII was among the 261 guests at a banquet for the official opening on 5 April 1911.
On 27 September 1911 the merchant Conrad Langaard donated a statue of Mercury cast in bronze, which can still be seen today in its original location in the stock exchange building. A number of the city's leading businessmen organised a collection for artwork to decorate the new lobby and staircase, and two paintings by the Norwegian artist Gerhard Munthe were hung in 1912.
As the volume of traffic started to increase in the early 1900s there was considerable concern that the building would be at risk from heavy traffic if roads were built too close, but these fears were allayed when the building came under the protection of the Director General of Historic Monuments on 23 April 1927.
After many years of only modest activity, the stock exchange began to see increasing activity after the Second World War. In due course the building began to run out of space, and in 1986 it was decided to build a glass roof over the internal courtyard to create a trading floor. This work was completed in 1988 and the first electronic trading system came into operation at the same time. Closing in the courtyard created the building as we know it today.
A continuing increase in activity again created the need for more space. The stock exchange found it necessary to accommodate some of its staff in other buildings, and this together with difficulties in making good use of the rather old-fashioned space in the building signalled the need to either find entirely new premises or carry out significant refurbishment. The latter choice was preferred, and planning work started in 2000. The refurbishment work started in November 2001 and was formally completed on 24 October 2002. All the employees of today's Oslo Børs are now back in the stock exchange building.