A historical account by Kirsten Moth
Hotel Hesselet – Hotel Hesselet - Where people meet 1998
Tekst: Kirsten Moth
Century Old Style 12/25 punkt
Grafik work: Christina Bakkegaard Nielsen
Time was against them
It was in the beginning of the 60’ties and successful business men nor capatalists were not popular. As so often before the two friends met over a game of golf at Sct. Knuds Golfcourse in Nyborg. Here the two cosmopolitan businessmen relaxed, exchanged business ideas, jokes & ideas. One idea was to become fateful. For both men, their families, their wealth and for the citizens of Nyborg and for the whole of Denmark.
With this idea arose a project that later became a myth. Hotel Hesselet in Nyborg
From a historical perspective have Hotel Hesselet & the Nyborg area always been the place to meet. In battles, wars, love & lovemaking. Hesselet is an old danish word for hazel forest and means > the place, where small hazel trees grow <.
The area, adjacent to The great Belt, a little north of Nyborg was therefore named ”Hesselet”. The vikings lived here. The sailors onboard Bishop Absalons fleet used Hesselet for go ashore i the battles against the Wendish robbers. The strategic location in the middle og the kingdom made the danish kings choose Nyborg as the capital city in the late middle ages.
In the years ca 200 to 1413 some of the most important historical decisions were made in Nyborg, when the King called the great men of the country to parliament at the Danehof castle.
In 1435 the Danish King offered Hesselet to the citizens and the council of Nyborg.
Wars, bloodshed and hard years during the Swedish wars continued to ravage the hazel forest. But in a magical way it always resurrected itself to grow strong.
A more peaceful epoke began in 1801, when a little inn was built in Hesselet. In true spirit from the king’s gift to the people as in the 1400 hundred, the citizens of Nyborg held birdshooting in the garden of the Inn for some 150 years.
The inn later became a Seaside hotel with everything that entails: Music Tribune, Regiments music Gæstgiveriet blev til et badehotel med alt, hvad dette indebærer: musiktribune, regimentsmusik, walking ladies with tournure and gentlemen with lapels and tophats. Both times and fashion changed, and the seaside hotel in Hesselet changed to Christianslund. However, the idyllic manifestations of life were still the same until that day in 1940 when everything changed in an instant. With the Germans occupation of Denmark on the 9th April 1940 Christianslund was seized by the occupying power and turned into a lazaret. It turned out to be the fall for the seaside hotel as the citizens meeting place. But as so aften before the spirit triumphed in the hazel forest – a new era followed after the anguishing years for Christianslund. The magic of the area of Hesselet as the place to meet as they have done for hundred of years proved to survive as so often before.
This time in the form of a unique hotel in an international class that could also satisfy the most demanding guests from all over the world.
An idea – a hotel
Look, how about we build a small little hotel here at Sct. Knuds golfcourse?
Just a small 18-bedroomed one – Suggested Karls Haustrup, his good friend, Kaj Wolhardt, who was back in Denmark for his two month long Sommervacation.
He had moved to Japan some years earlier with his wife and had established an enterprising trade business in the far East.
The two mens friendship started during the occupation of Denmark in 1943, where they met at a sailing race in Horsens. Both were avid racers and in especially Wolhardts family had racing been a favoritte for genrations.
For years he was chairman for KDY – Royal Danish Yachtclub and at the Olympics in Tokyo in 1964 he made an active push for Danish sailing. The age difference between the two men were relatively large and on so many levels were their business principles completely different.
Maybe their differencies were some of the attraction, .
Part of the dynamic between the two were that Karl, was the technical minded, the art enthusiast and the administrator. Kaj was the tradesman and had eye for business and insisted on being titles when adressed.
Kaj was a merchant for our lord, as some of his acquaintances referred to him as.
At the Olympic in 1964 Lissi & Karl Haustrup visited the Woldharts in Tokyo. Wolhart’s Stepdaughter, Lise Poulsen, was also visiting and it was here the foundation for Hotel Hesselet was made.
We were on the floor at the hotel Imperial in Tokyo and built Hotel Hesselet in Lego blocks, Lise Poulsen says, who herself washotel trained og became the hotels first reception manager. She is the starwitness for the myth.
However it is a fact that the two businessmen didnt have a clue in running a hotel. But they had two things in common: They were both perfectionists and they had both together with their wives stayed in numerous luxury hotels all over the world. They knew what they wanted. Karl Haustrup applied for planning permission at Sct. Knuds golfcourse, as it was still the link between golf and the beautiful golfcourse the idea for a hotel had occurred. The application as refused and the experienced eye for business returned to the old Christianslund area by the best beach in Nyborg –the permission by the politicians to allow the ever so popular and enjoyable meeting & dancing venue and during the Summer a spahotel to be levelled to the ground was met with some scepticism among the locals
The alternative – a luxury hotel without comparison throughout the country – was probably not what the citizens had envisioned either.
The Consortium – 25 % V 75 %
The consortium ”Hotel Hesselet” was formed and consisted of Lissi & Karl Haustrup, who jointly owned 75 % and Kaj Wolhardt, who participated with his usual 25%.
Usual because Wolhardts business principle was, according to his longterm accountant, Preben Haugård Nielsen, rather simple, ” I want to participate”
But I dont want to own all of it nor even half. – If the other owners get into a position whereby they need to be careful of their invenstment – well then they will also look after mine. That’s how things run smoothly, when I can’t be there all the time
A close friend of Wolhardt remembers a comment when they were talking about difficulties in running a hotel: - It is weird, for my share of Hesselet is the investment I take the greatest delight in, said Kaj Wolhardt. – Ohh why is that? His interested friend asked. Because for every 25 ”øre” I pay I know that Karl Haustrup needs to pay 75 ”øre”
Hotel Hesselet being build
The most famous and used architect at the time, Bent Severin, was given the job to build ”Denmarks most perfect hotel”. His technical advisors were the civil engineers Axel Nielsen, Odense, as well as Helge Jacobsen and Mogens Balslev, København.
The Entrepreneur company Islef & Co was the main enterpreneur, and the inventory was mainly delivered by Lysberg, Hansen and Therp, København, as well as chairs & furniture store. Only one local Nyborg company was involved, The installers Kruse og Bech.
The end result became an angled building, build in two storeys of red stones and black woodwork, in harmony with the surroundings.
A building that even today defines as cultivated classical danish architechture of the 1960’ties. 42 newly decorated rooms most of them facing the great Belt. With Wolhardts connection to Japan, the far Eastern character became dominant in the decor.
Later developments increased the number of rooms to 46. Both Karl Haustrup and Kaj Wolhardt agreed on calling the hotel for: A delicate move which has been preserved since the opening in 1967 is the logo of the hotel. Done in Karl Haustrups handwriting as it it very destinctive and easily recognizible:
The inauguration in 1967
During detailed discussions with gaping minds Hesselet was officially inaugurated on the 19th of March 1967. Rarely had an architect had so little say.
But it had been a fun project, Bent Severin said in his opening speech.
A remark that spoke its clear language that the directors of the consortium were used to taking responsibility and running a business.
Critical voices that the new super-hotel was for everyone other than the people of Nyborg and the rest of Funen, have later proved to be out of place.
At the time, the criticism was i.a. met with the building a patisserie in a separate wing of the hotel. With this Hesselet got a section where the people of Nyborg on their Sunday stroll along the great Belt could get a cup of coffee and a pastry just as they had done in the old seaside hotel.
However the patisserie had to be abandoned later.
The real big attraction were the eight Japanese girls– geisha´er, ”imported” directly from Japan by Kaj Wolhardt.
It was truely a modern twist from the great big world . Dressed in silk kiminoes these girls served the tables in the restaurant, handing out steaming hot terry napkins and smiled the mysterious smile of the East.
A Japanese chef cooked by the open Tranquebar-grill, so everybody could admire the handy work and afterwards enjoy the food served on the Tranquebarservice made by Royal Danish porcelain factory.(Tranquebar was a danish colony just off the Eastern coast of India from 1616 to 1845).
If you were in need of a Japanese massage - well then another girl had been ”imported” to cater for this.
Newspaper articles suggested that the ”daughters of the sun” supplied other services than just serving in the restaurant, All of a sudden Hotel Hesselet was the centre of a cultural debate.
Later the geishas terms of employment changed to a union matter – they were not able to have their working permit extended and was send back to Japan.
Two of them however stayed in Nyborg and both married local men.
The exotic element in the Hesselet culture was a result of Wolhardts close connection to the far East. A connection & an inspiration there at the time was rather unusual & revolutionary for the danish people.
The Art Collection within Hotel Hesselet
Karl Haustrup on the other hand was the representative for the funen influence regarding the interior design, the operation and style. Karl Haustrups vivid interest in art, especially the Funen painters, resulted in an artcollection in Hotel Hesselet, which quickly assumed impressive dimensions, bought on auctions both nationally & internationally. One of most concentrated acquisitions by the Funen painters were done when the collection at the former Funen town hall were listed for sale.
For several years the owner of Town hall had been collecting from the Funen painters such as Fritz Syberg from Fåborg and Niels Hansen who lived on Thurø.
In this collection there were paintings which could not be sold privately due the their mere size. The most talked about pinting at Hotel Hesselet is however ”Eliza”, painted by the English royal portrait painter Norman Hepple. Karl Haustrup bought the painting at an auction in England as a confirmation gift for his daughter. Eliza, whose likeliness has been compared to female personalities like Twiggy and Brigitte Bardot, gained a dominant position in the Library and was chosen as the front cover of the menu.
Eliza is still the girl er like ”a fair lady”, who proudly meets the discerning Hesselet guest with a challenging look. – A front cover with a nice lady on promotes the appetite, Karl Haustrup once said.
He and Lissi Haustrup dined in the restaurant at least three times a week. Hence it is not so strange that great demands were made not least to the kitchen, one can understand that the quality control was peformed in the most constant and effective way. A tradition which is still maintained today and this is probably one of the reasons why Hesselet’s restaurant ranks among the best on Funen.
Stylish & exclusive atmosphere
Stylish & exclusive atmosphere
From very early on Kaj Haustrup wanted to introduce a ban againt children in the restaurant. After much deliberation the hotel staff convinced him it as a bad idea, he put a lot of emphasis on that the atmosphere was stylish and exclusive.
Was it the guests dresscode or the head waiter’s heavy duty to make the guests aware that ”the suit” needed changing. Or that a shirt needed a tie, the classical story of the former politician Niels Helveg Pedersen, who in the 1960´- Denmark was one of the first men to exchange the shirt & tie with the turtleneck sweater.
During a visit to the hotel he was refused ccess to the restaurant - reason because he was wearing the turtleneck sweater.
Many Americans who visited the hotel, totally unprepared of this formality. – We are on vacation, we don’t bring ties with us was the typical reply. Following several episodes where rich Americans had been denied access for not wearing ties, headwaiter Eddie Van Der Brekel decided to make a special drawer with a selection of ties, the Idea was to lighten a tense situation, so that guests could get adgere to the hotel’s etiquette.for many years one couldn’t say Hesselet without saying Eddie. The name Eddie Van Der Brekel bring smiles & warm glimpses and a string of anecdotes. With his charming Dutch accent and a contagious zest for life – he soon became one of the front people on the hotels personel history throughout 30 years. Eddie retired in 1996, but continued to help out during peak times.
- My motto which I have passed on to the younger staff has always been: you may well be angry – but you can’t allow the guests to notice. Smile to the world and the world smiles to you. That way it will be easier to work and indeed to live, Eddie said who left Holland in 1960 to try his luck in West Germany and later at Hotel Hesselet Another central member of staff was Zvonko Tresoglavic, who was restaurant manager at Hesselet from 1967 till 1968 and from then on overtook the overall management through to 1993.
Hotel as a hobby
A hotel this size was and is not a goldmine. Looking back, Lissi Haustrup says: To run Hotel Hesselet was more of a hobby. We knew from the beginning that it wouldn’t be a prosperous business. However on the other hand an exciting hobby. I loved to decorate. Buying furniture, select fabrics and colours I think Hesselet will always be a hobby - it can never be e profitable business.
A difficult year
A difficult year
1983 became a turning point for Hesselet. Kaj Wolhardt died, and Lissi og Karl Haustrup became the sole owners of the hotel. Preben Haugaard Nielsen, who managed the estate after Wolhardts, met shortly after Wolhardst death with Karl Haustrup for lunch at Munkebjerg. He had just bought himself a new Jaguar. Both children were well on their way, so now it was time to be good to oneself while you still could. Only three later Karl Haustrup became ill and passed away. His wife remembered how Karl Haustrup shortly before his death was very keen to have all the paintings hung up in the right places in the hotel.
It was as if that part of his life’s work needed to be fulfilled. Lissi Haustrup was left as the sole owner of Hotel Hesselet. It was a difficult time with growing problems for hotel operations. Changed deduction rules and rising vat threatened to stifle the hotel & restaurant operations. The following years was therfore a vacuum for the hotel with no prospect of investments nor future plans.
Hotel Hesselet is up for sale
in 1992 Lissi Haustrup decided after a lot of careful consideration, to put her beloved Hesselet up for sale. Director Tresoglavic consulted with restaurateur Kurt Vøttrup, from restaurant Divan 2 in Tivoli.
Vøttrup had just sold his Hotel Mayfair in Copenhagen to an investor group through Global Finans, and Tresoglavic wanted to examine this possibility for Hotel Hesselet. As so often before in the history of Hesselet it became the game of chance – fate if you like – who had prepared the cards for new development
Mogens Fenne Frederiksen and his englishborn wife lived in England, Mogens came from a modest background in Svendborg and is a selfmade businessman. In 1970 he and a companion started a playequipment production, which from a pioneer beginning developed into the wellknown listed success story ” Kompan A/S in Ringe. That made Mogens Frederiksen to what is best described as a well-off man. He moved to England in 1985 with his wife and two daughters. The main purpose was to give his daughters an English education. Mogens Frederiksen continued his very active participation in Kompan’s international activities and that led to regular meetings in at the headquarters in Ringe.
Mogens Frederiksen had already become aware with hotel Hesselet in 1973 as the then german salesagent often stayed at the hotel. The well travelled german agent, a true hanseatic grand seigneur, considered Hotel Hesselet as the finest in Europe, and he loved the combination of business, golf and Hesselets beautiful atmosphere After the move to England in 1985 Hesselet meant a lot more to Mogens Frederiksen, as he as often as possible stayed at the hotel when he was attending meeting in Ringe. I have stayed at several hotels all over the world but when all things considered, Hotel Hesselet is my favourite, he once told hotelier Kurt Vøttrup, who is married to Mogens Frederiksens cousin. Mogens Frederiksen knew through his friendship with the Vøttrup family, how difficult it was to run a hotel in Denmark. However hotelier was the last thing I would want to be, unless of course Hotel Hesselet was up for sale he joked to Kurt Vøttrup.
Some years later, in 1992 Mogens Frederiksen received a phonecall from Kurt Vøttrup. Mrs Haustrup wants to sell Hesselet and if you are interested I will help you. However I would advice against going into hotel operations as this is hopeless in Denmark, explained the experienced hotelier. But if there was something that could tempt Mogens Frederiksen, it would be to start a project that others considered hopeless. Audrey Fenne Frederiksen knew from her marriage how demanding it could be to be to be the driving force in a business. She was therefore very sceptical with the prospect of becoming a hotelier although she was also a hotelier and delighted about Hotel Hesselet. The Passion won over reason. During the following months a deal was struck in which Audrey og Mogens Frederiksen took over the hotel on the 15th February 1993.
Now history repeats itself
Now history repeats itself but with new players. The new owners had just like Wolhardt and Haustrup, no experince in running a hotel. They had also stayed in several hotels all over the world and experienced a service and a luxury that just didnt exist in danish hotels. As passionate globetrotters they knew what demanding hotel guests wanted. They too like the Haustrups were very interested in the arts.
And they simply couldn’t help themselves in procuring supplementary paintings and antigues for Hesselet’s collection. The are also perfectionists who understand the importance of quality down to the smallest detail.
Therefore, they threw themselves into the challenge with all the energy and financial capability that Hesselet needed. A thorough renovation was carried out throughout the hotel, with the aim of re-establishing Hesselet as Denmark's best hotel. As in the time of the Haustrup´s, it became a marital passion to decorate and run the hotel, where it was especially Audrey Fenne Frederiksen who became the driving force to find and choose fabrics, furniture and colors. This time the inspiration came from England. London's Fashionable interior design shops were combed to find the right ideas. Fabrics for curtains and furniture were purchased from England, France and Italy, wallpaper from the United States. Specially produced carpets were ordered in Denmark. Granite for a classic renovation of all bathrooms was supplied from Italy. The 30-year-old hotel received new roofing and a completely new pipe system for water and heat supply. Central heating was installed.
The famous library has been lovingly renovated and combined wuith an elegant and classic bar with the nostalgic name ”Tranque Bar” Two new luxury conference rooms have been set up, designed for director and board meetings, where creative thoughts and plans can be developed. The leisure facilities the hotel has by virtue of the indoor swimming pool with sauna, the two new astro-turf tennis courts, the location right next to one of the best beaches on Funen, close to one of the country's most beautiful golf courses and in the middle of a paradise for cycling, and hiking enthusiasts. With the opening of the new Great Belt Bridge, Hesselet has moved one hour closer to Copenhagen. Audrey and Mogens Frederiksen make no secret of the fact that the hotel always strives for a level that also satisfies demanding business and international guests. It may make some people think that living on Hesselet is expensive. - But we do not think that this is the case, say Audrey and Mogens Frederiksen. When you take into account the quality level and all the facilities that Hesselet offers, you really get something for your money. And at a similar hotel in a big city, you will easily pay double or more for the same service. In 1994, Hesselet was admitted as a member of the international hotel organization "Small Luxury Hotels of the World", which includes more than 200 luxury hotels in Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Australia
In addition to the joint international marketing of the hotels, the organization contributes through strict quality requirements and mutual inspiration to support and develop the member hotels' quality level and cosmopolitan orientation. - It is an organization that we feel at home in, and which fits well with Hesselet, We are a Danish hotel with predominantly Danish guests, but we think it is important that we constantly measure ourselves with international levels. - On the other hand, it is just as important that we, as long as we can preserve Hesselets distinctiveness and keeps us free from the unification and industrialization that characterizes the large hotel chains and conference “factories”. Therefore, Audrey and Mogens Frederiksen profess with conviction and joy to the Wolhardt - Haustrup hotel concept that exudes culture and class. - The founders wanted to create a hotel that could be compared to a real mansion with a unique homely atmosphere. We try as much as possible to follow this concept - with the gentle adaptation and renovation that is necessary. - A hotel must of course keep pace with developments in society, but in a time where everything must be bigger and everything must go faster, we need breathing holes, where size and time assume more human dimensions, and where the surroundings exudes peace and harmony. Then there will be time for smiles and humanity, and then at least the outer framework is favorable for successful and directional meetings and thriving societies. - Hesselet is a place where people meet. A hotel you talk about when you have been there. And a hotel you always look forward to coming back to.