Many Swedish photographers have tried their luck in New York, Lars Lönninge
(above) is one of the few who has succeeded. Many of the pictures you
may remember from Saab, Seiko, Kosta Boda and Coca Cola ads are his creations.
The spectacular photo of the Statue of Liberty draped in a Swedish flag
(on the cover) that heralded the New Sweden 1988 celebration was another
Lönninge production, this one requiring considerable creativity to produce
“I don’t take pictures I make them,” says Lars Lönninge in his slightly
southern Swedish accent. In his enormous loft near Union Square he can
create elaborate and controlled studio shots. His philo-sophy is to build
pictures rather than to capture something already existing. He uses his
camera to create the image he has in his mind. This is a quality that
clients like Pepsi Cola, Absolut Vodka and Citibank appreciate and Lönninge
often ends up with a heavy work load. Even then he finds time for his
own experimentaion often going back to early methods and photographic
Lars Lönninge became interested in photography in his late teens and
took a year off from school to work as a photo assistant in his hometown
of Malmö. After graduation he travelled the world with his Nikon before
enrolling in the three-year program in photography at the prestigious
Brook Institute in California. He started a studio in Copenhagen but often
found himself working in New York where he now lives with his family and
where he runs the Lars Lönninge Studio Inc.
THE NEW YORK SKYLINE
would not be what it is if it hadn’t been for David Lindquist. Working
for the Otis elevator company, the Swedish-trained engineer developed
the gearless-traction elevator that became the standard in all high-rises.
Lindquist later introduced an automatic system of self-levelling and the
automatic signal control system that made buildings like the Empire State
Building possible. Called the “father of the New York skyline”, Lindquist
remained modest about his 64 revolutionary patents.
Donald Trump (left) has never remained modest, but for a boy whose grandfather
came from Sweden with two empty hands he has taken Manhattan in a way
few can ever dream of. His grandfather did eventually own a moderately
successful restaurant, but he was also a hard drinker, and he died when
Donald’s father was only eleven years old. The father made a fortune building
rent-controlled housing in Queens and Brooklyn.
is the best way to see New York and its five boroughs. The familiar red,
white and green boats circle the entire island of Manhattan in three breeze-filled
hours complete with amusing running commentary by young guides who are
often part-time actors and broadcast announcers (Circle Line Plaza, west
end of 42nd Street, 212-563-3200). Few Swedish tourists know that this
New York institution is owned by Karl Andrén who also owns the luxury
World Yachts (212-630-8100 for brunch, lunch and dinner/ dance to a band
that always plays a patriotic medley when you pass under the Statue of
Liberty, left). Karl, who emigrated to the United States in 1962, also
pioneered specialty liquid transportation and started Windstar Sail Cruises
continues to draw visitors. One of the first was Prime Minister Göran
Persson who came not only with condolences, but also a gift consisting
of a scientific examination and charting of the ground under the streets
surrounding the disaster area. The Swedish Malå Geo Science Ground Penetrating
Radar is locating the exact position of subterranean electrical cables,
telecommunication cables, water pipes, sewer pipes etc and charting how
they have been damaged by the falling World Trade Center buildings in
clear three-dimensional pictures without the need for excavations.
This is not the first time Swedes have come to the aid of the USA. In
nearby Battery Park (close to a Swedish lime or lind tree planted there
to commemorate Jenny Lind’s performance here in 1850) there is a statue
of Swedish inventor John Ericsson.
It was Ericsson’s Monitor that saved the Union during the Civil War
when it emerged victorious from the first battle ever fought between iron-clad
warships. The Monitor had the first revolving gun turret, used on all
subsequent warships. Many of Ericsson’s inventions transcended the technology
of his time and are now in standard use. His was the first practical steam
fireengine, the first practical screw propeller used in two small ships.
In 1844 John Ericsson (right) built Princeton, the first metal-hulled,
screw-propelled warship that had engines below the waterline for protection.
He did extensive work on the use of torpedoes in later years and studied
the development of a sun-powered engine and the possible use of tidal
energy as a source of power. John Ericsson lived in Manhattan from 1839
until his death 50 years later. His birthday is commemorated next to the
statue each year by the local John Ericsson Society (ph. 212-980-9655).
HENNES & MAURITZ
is a retail success in one of the toughest markets in the world. There
are already three H&M stores in Manhattan with one to go (above),
a block away from Bloomingdales. If you are looking for more avant-garde
Swedish fashion design go to Älskling (228 Columbus Ave, 212-787-7066)
which is Swedish for “Darling” The store sells the designs of Marika Mäkk,
Agneta Eckemyr and owner Vivianne Tvilling. Agneta is the ex-model turned
film star turned designer who lives a block away in a penthouse overlooking
Central Park. Next door to Älskling is the Face Stockholm (224 Columbus
Ave 212-769-1420) natural cosmetics store run by model Martina Arfwidson,
and one of the Ordning & Reda (253 Columbus Ave 212-799-0828) stores
with environmentally friendly, quality stationary products.
When IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad opened his Stockholm store he based
it on the unique architecture of the Guggenheim Museum. In both structures
you wind your-self effortlessly down past the exhibits. For a while IKEA
ran a catalogue store in Manhattan, but nowadays you have to hop on an
IKEA weekend bus on Lexington or drive out yourself to the IKEA Elizabeth
(1000 Center Drive, 201-352-0843) New Jersey store. The famous DUX range
of furniture and mattresses are available in Manhattan (305 E 63rd St,
212-752-3897). You will find exquisite Swedish crystal at Galleri Orrefors
Kosta Boda (58 E 57th St 800-351-9842). If you are looking for romantic
Swedish furniture, check out White on White (888 Lexington Ave 212-288-0909)
and go to H55 (17 West 12th St.) and Clearly First (980 Madison Avenue,
212-988-8242, see also page 23) for good Scandinavian Modern design.
is the new 8-floor home of the American Scandinavian Foundation (58 Park
Ave 212-879-9779). You dutifully check in at the door and then proceed
to access varying exhibitions, the Aquavit-run cafe and the small gift
store with books and Scandinavian design. In the evenings there are often
film screenings and throughout the year there are concerts, seminars and
The American Scandinavian Foundation promotes the exchange of people
and ideas between the United States and Scandina-via. The idea for such
an exchange came from Danish emigrant Niels Poulson who founded the organization
in 1910. The exchange programme got a boost in 1964 from a bequest from
The Thord Gray Memorial Fund (approx 4.5 million) to be used for scholarship
exchange between Sweden and the U.S. (General Ivar Thord-Gray, 1878-1964,
originally with the surname Hallström, was a fascinating Swede who jumped
ship in South Africa when he was 18 and joined the British Army after
a spell as a farm-hand. He fought with varying armies in Africa, the Philippines,
Indochina, China, Siberia, the Far East and Mexico. Also a farmer and
a businessman, he wrote the only known dictionary for the language of
the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, with whom he fought in the Mexican Revolution.
(Friends of the Pea Soup) get together almost once a month The Roger Smith
Hotel to feast on herring and aquavit, pea soup and punsch, and thin Swedish
pancakes to top it off. Ärtans Vänner take a break during summer but you
can join them for crayfish September 26 (details at www.artans-vanner.com).
The all-male Swedish-speaking members come armed with a funny story to
share and there is much singing of traditional songs. The Roger Smith
(501 Lexington Avenue, 212-755-1400 www.rogersmith.com) with hotel manager
Joachim Ohlin and a nice bar is the unofficial “Swedish” hotel and frequent
networking place for Swedes in town. The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce
New York chapter (599 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10022, 212-838-5530)
have a monthly “tisdagsklubb” besides arranging crayfish parties and Lucia
celebrations with high-powered guest speakers. Sweden was the first country
to sign a trade agreement with the United States in 1783 and SACC is an
information must for Swedish executives based around New York. There are
many other social organizations in New York like SWEA, Swedish Folkdancers
and others. The Swedish Ski Club is still going strong 85 years after
its start. Founded by the famous ski jumper Siegfried Steinwall, the Club
constructed its second jump at the Bear Mountain State Park where it still
sponsored tournaments as late as in 1990. The Club has a lodge in Vermont
that it calls Skibo. When Harry Wallin arrived from Lappland in the 20s,
an active membership in the ski club allowed him to do what he loved most.
This love of skiing also translated into three large ski equipment stores.
Today it is his son Bo who runs the large Scandinavian Ski & Sportshop
(40 W 57th St., 212-757-8524).
gets its name from Swedish captain Jonas Jonasson Bronck who arrived in
New Amsterdam (now New York) in 1639. That was just a year after the founding
of the first settlement across the river in Wilmington, Delaware (then
called New Sweden). Bronck built a homestead of considerable size in the
borough named after him. There are still a lot of Swedes living in the
Bronx and you can find a few of them at the Manhem Club (685 Clarence
Ave., 212-308-2523) where there is food, drinks and sometimes dancing.
600 PARK AVENUE
is a beautiful three-story building and the residence of Swedish Consul
General Olle Wästberg and his wife Inger Claesson-Wästberg. Built in Italian
neo-renaissance style in 1910 for a wealthy merchant, the building was
purchased directly after World War II when there was a shortage of rental
space in New York. Eventually the four smaller buildings next to it were
also purchased so that the Swedish state now owns 21 apartments with very
tony addresses for its New York employees. Almost sold or redeveloped
in the 60s, the landmark buildings have now undergone extensive renovations
making the Consul General’s residence one of the most prestigious in the
When the Wästbergs arrived they felt that the interiors needed updating
and managed, through contacts with up-and-coming Swedish designers and
through a much-acclaimed Josef Frank exhibition, to refurbish the Residence
and transform it into a showplace for modern Swedish design. Josef Frank
was an Austrian architect who settled in Sweden but spent the war years
in New York.
New York is the Wästbergs’ favourite city so Olle was delighted when
he was asked to take on the job of Consul General. The couple left prestigious
jobs (Olle was Chairman of the Board of Sveriges Radio and Inger was Director
General of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Dis-abled) for their new
careers, visibly raising the profile of the Consulate General with a trendy
quarterly newsletter, the www. swedenny.com site, seminars, networking
and a much bigger flow-through at the Residence. To help them with the
practical aspects they brought with them chef Janne Wikström and butler
Anders Odelius who ran a catering firm in Stockholm. So whether it’s a
lunch for Queen Silvia, a fashion show or a five-course gourmet dinner
kick-off for a Swedish Culinary week, the Wästbergs manage their dream
jobs well and can take pride in the praise their events receive in the
New York media.
in Central Park has just been renovated by Skanska to its 1876 glory.
The timbered Swedish-made schoolhouse was part of the Swedish exhibit
at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and was later sold (for fifteen
hundred dollars) and moved to the park where you can now see a performance
of the popular marionette theater housed there.
is the poetical name of a beautiful old building on Staten Island, which
became the “Swedish Home for the Aged”. Built originally as a wedding
gift for the daughter of Commodore Vanderbilt, the house was still “out
in the country” when the United Swedish Societies of New York purchased
it in 1912. Today the idyllic location still seems miles away from the
bustling metropolis, even though it is just a short ferry ride away. The
original house has seen two major additions and the land around it has
also been extended through purchases and gifts. There are 40 residents,
a majority of them Swedish, in this well-managed resthome. The dining
room and many of the social rooms are intact from the Vanderbilt era.
There is also a “Swede Shop” and a large assembly room that is often used
by visiting Swedish performers and local organizations. You could not
find a nicer place to retire in. (The Swedish Home for the Aged Inc.,
20 Bristol Ave., Staten Island, N.Y. 10301-4199, 718-442-1096).
THE SWEDISH CHURCH
is an all-Swedish oasis right in the center of Manhattan (10-21 Sunday-Friday,
11-21 Thursdays and 12-18 Saturdays at 5 East 48th St., 212-832-8443).
The large lounge complete with Swedish dailies, coffee and homemade goodies
have become a living room for New York’s 15 000 Swedes and the city’s
many Swedish visitors. The church service in the beautiful upstairs chapel
is held in Swedish at 11am every Sunday. There are at least nine other
churches (like the Gustavus Adolphus at 155 E 22nd St. and the Swedish
Salvation Army at 221 E 52nd St.) from the time when New York was the
largest Swedish American urban center next to Chicago. There are another
seven churches with Swedish ancestry in nearby Jamestown, but little Swedish
has been used there during the last thirty years.
(above) is the wife of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and one of the
most talked about Swedes in town. The ex-judge, sculptor and niece of
Raoul Wallenberg can sometimes be seen at the UN building that has so
many Swedish links. The Economic and Social Council Chamber was designed
by architect Sven Markelius and features a Swedish marble floor and burgundy
curtains from Märta Måås-Fjetterström’s studio. The large iron ore slab
and the abstract painting by Bo Beskow in the Meditation Room are Swedish
gifts. The room was the idea of Swedish Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld
and he, and Folke Bernadotte, are honoured with plaques outside. Now there
is also a sculpture of Raoul Wallenberg in the compounds of the UN building.
Outside (above) you can also see Carl-Fredrik Reuterswärd’s anti-violence
sculpture and Barbara Hepworth’s abstract bronze sculpture and a bust
by Carina Ari erected in the memory of Dag Hammarskjöld. Nearby there
is also the Dag Hammarskjöld Library and Plaza complex where the Swedish
UN delegation, Consulate General (212-751-5900) and Information Service
are located on the 45th floor.
got a break-through at the New York World Exposition when restaurants
like Gripsholm, Three Crowns, Villa Sweden and Greta Garbo, that served
a smörgås-bord, became all the rage. Long after all of them (except for
Nyborg & Nelson, which also gave up a few years ago), Håkan Swahn
opened the Aquavit Restaurant at 13 West 54th St (212-307-7311) in 1987
that put Swedish cuisine squarely back on the New York map. Chef and co-owner
Marcus Samuelsson who gave Aquavit three-star status in New York Times
has himself become a superstar who is a frequent guest on Good Morning
America, and often written up in Gourmet and Food & Wine magazines.
Orphaned at age three in Ethiopia, Marcus was adopted by a Swedish couple
and learned to cook as a kid from his Swedish grandmother. Aquavit, that
occupies two levels of a townhouse once owned and lived in by John D Rockefeller
Jr, has a soberly sophisticated Scandinavian modern design and is the
place to go for inventive gourmet variations on Swedish cuisine.
If you crave more basic Swedish fare in a cozier “Swedish” setting, Ulrika’s
(115 East 60th St, 212-355-7069) close to the Bloomingdales department
store is your choice. Here you can sample Ulrika Bengtsson’s version of
traditional dishes like meatballs and Beef Rydberg, but also Salmon a
la Rydberg and Cod Tournedo, because Ulrika loves fish and once worked
at the legendary Johanna in Göteborg. For several years Ulrika was the
executive chef of Consul General Dag Sebastian Ahlander before she branched
out into catering and eventually her own restaurant together with Swedish
chef Mimi Claps. Last May you could see Ulrika in the popular Food Network
show “My Country My Kitchen”. For the real thing order her A Journey through
Sweden tasting menu.
When Stockholm-born Fanny Farkas settled down to married life in a beautiful
brownstone on 36th Street, she initially kept herself busy with entertaining
and charity work. Eventually she started a cooking school and this led
her via catering to a restaurant called Market Cafe (496 Ninth Ave 212-967-8900)
that she runs with her partner chef Robin Mailey. You can enjoy well-priced
classics here in a French bistro-type setting. There are also some exciting
variations like an excellent Grilled Gravlax.
In Chinatown Annika Sandvik’s Good World Bar & Grill (3 Orchard
St, 212-925-9975) in what used to be the Good World Hairdressing Salon,
has become a very popular night spot that now is also open for lunch or
brunch. With some 75 different brands of beer and about 20 tapas-sized
dishes, there is something for every taste. Much of the food, including
Toast Skagen and Smoked Salmon rolls, has an “exotic” Swedish taste that
reviewers have raved about.
The most recent arrival on the Swedish restaurant scene in New York
is Tja Restaurant and Lounge (301 Church St, 212-226-8900) that has already
had great write-ups in Where New York, Traveller and even Marie Claire
Japan. The youngish Tja stays open late and was a very popular hang-out
in the small hours when Sweden was playing in the world soccer championships.
Another famous Swedish chef is Christer Larsson who worked at Aquavit
until he opened his own Christer’s (145 W 55th St 212-974-7224) that quickly
became famous for the unique fish dishes. Christer has now left the “fishing
cabin in the Airdondacks”-inspired restaurant to his partner, also letting
go of the gourmet hot dog and Christer’s fish and chips stands in the
Grand Central Station, to pursue his new small Christer Larsson’s Alta
Restaurant (365 Greenwich Ave, 203-622-5138) in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Here he can pick the herbs in his own garden and perfect the fish dishes
he has become so famous for among old fans who happily travel from the
city for a fix.
Any time Swedes get together in New York, Jeanne Widman is almost sure
to be there. If it is a celebration of some kind, you can count on her
wearing her folk dress and carrying her accordion and somewhere close
by you will find her guitar-playing husband Randi.
Jeanne is the daughter of legendary accordionist Walter Erickson the
undisputed “King of the Scandinavian Music” who died in 1993. The SkandJam
festival that Jeanne founded in honour of her father, and inspired by
the Ransäter Accordion festival in Sweden, is now in its tenth year. It
features everything from gammeldans to dansbandsmusik, folk music, folk
dancing, a little bit of country, a bit of rock n roll and Emcee Jeanne
Widman’s corny accordion jokes. From time to time, Jeanne has also run
her father’s “Scandinavian Echoes” radio program, written a column in
the Swedish “Dragspels Nytt”, played the accordion in the Scandinavian
Accordion Club of New York and been a director and dance leader for the
Vasa Folkdancers of New York. And she has done all this with a broad,
happy smile on her face, always thoroughly enjoying herself.
(right) was undoubtedly the most famous Swede living in New York. You
could sometimes spot the elusive film star near her eastside apartment.
Today you have to make do with visiting her perfumer (Caswell-Massey on
518 Lexington Ave.) for a whiff of Valentina’s My Own, the vanilla-sweet
scent that Greta Garbo always wore. In the same blocks where the paparazzi
used to lurk around for a glimpse of Greta, you can now sometimes spot
model turned film-star Isabella Rosselini. Ever since Eileen Ford started
scouting for models in Sweden there has been an abundance of Swedish models
in New York (where models are better paid than in Paris and Milan and
are allowed to keep more professional 9-5 working hours). Even super model
Paulina Porizkova has a Swedish past. Her parents fled Czechoslovakia
in 1967 without Paulina. It took them eight years of hunger strikes and
a dramatic air rescue to bring Paulina to Lund in southern Sweden, where
an agent discovered her when she was fifteen.
© Swedish Press from the September 2002 issue