Blågårds Plads history

Blågård means blue court or blue farm and was the name of a large single-storey house with stables and outbuildings that was built here in 1706 by Prince Charles of Denmark. The name is thought to have come from the blue glazed tiles that covered the roof.

At that time there were very few houses immediately outside the city walls, in the area between the city wall and the lakes, left clear so that there was no cover for any soldiers attacking the city from the land side and so there would be clear lines of sight for defending fire.

In the 18th century, leaving the city by the north gate, close to the position of Nørreport railway station now, the traveller would have crossed between the lakes that were then wider and more irregular in outline. The house was on the left side of the road, not facing the road but facing back towards the lakes with extensive gardens between the house and the lake and further gardens beyond the house roughly where Blågårds Plads is now.

A detail of the map of the city in 1779 shows the north gate at the bottom centre with the defensive walls, the bastions and outer ditch and to the right the recognisable outline of Rosenborg and its gardens. The bridge over the lake has a gap indicating a draw bridge and the main road north follows the line of the present Nørrebrogade.

The buildings of Blågård are in the centre towards the top, on the left of the road, with formal gardens and two square ponds towards the lake and a semi-circular terrace and then presumably further gardens (the site of the present square) running across to what appears on the map to be a stream or ditch, the River Ladegård, that was a boundary following what is now Åboulevard which still has that distinctive curve.

In 1780 the buildings, by then enclosing a courtyard, were converted to a clothing factory and in 1791 the property became a teacher training institute. It was used as a hospital during the bombardment of Copenhagen by the English in 1807 and then in 1828 it became Nørrebro’s first theatre. The house was destroyed by a fire in 1833 and it was after that that the area became more densely built over. 

Even as late as the 1850s there were very few buildings along the shore of the lake or along the river that formed the boundary between this land and what is now Åboulevard then called Aavein Aagade on one side of the river and Ladegaards Veien on the far side.

A map of 1860 shows that by then the much more urban grid of roads had been laid out although there were detached houses along the lake side of Blaagaards Hoved Gd (Blågårds Gade) set back from the road with front gardens rather than the continuous line of apartment blocks there now. Building work and the infill of empty or garden plots was then rapid and by the time of the map of 1886 the area was densely covered with buildings.

The streets around Blågårds Plads went from a slightly untidy and piecemeal growth of houses and commercial properties with lots of gardens and open spaces in 1870 to one of the most deprived and densely packed areas of Copenhagen just 30 years later. By the beginning of the 20th century this was one of the poorest working-class areas of the city so there had been quite a transformation from the royal manor house and gardens 200 years earlier.

The creation of Blågårds Plads around 1912 was actually a major decision in terms of city planning as a whole block of commercial buildings, including an ironworks, were purchased by the city and demolished to create the new open public space. Presumably this was controversial and there were certainly protests again in the late 1970s when more properties were cleared and the library on the side opposite the church and new apartments and courtyards at the back of the square were built. Criticism of the scheme were, apparently, so strong at the time that the city authorities resolved to make public consultations a more significant stage of the planning process for any future redevelopment.

The Sculpture of Blågårds Plads