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A Brief History of Hvidøre

 

 

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Hvidøre is a stately country mansion which for 50 years was used as the Novo diabetes hospital. It is now a training and conference centre owned by Novo Nordisk A/S who work in partnership with the Study Group.

The name "Hvidøre" originally meant "a white gravelly beach", and refers to the sandy spit of land at the foot of the cliff on which the house now stands, overlooking the blue waters of the Øresund dividing Denmark from southern Sweden.

At the beginning of the 16th century, King Hans built a royal seat at Hvidøre, chosen as a site commanding the only landing place to the north of Copenhagen. Christian II kept his mistress and her mother there after his marriage to Princess Elisabeth of Hapsburg in 1515.

The royal castle changed hands many times over the centuries, and was eventually bought and demolished in 1871 by Counsellor Frederik Bruun, who built a magnificent mansion in its place for use as a summer residence for his family. From then on, the name Hvidøre denoted the house rather than the place. The architect of the house was Johan Schrøder. In the house, he blended features from the English and Italian Renaissance, with details taken from classical Greek architecture.

Counsellor Bruun died in 1887, but his widow kept Hvidøre until 1906, when she put it up for sale. The house was bought by Alexandra, Queen of England, and Maria Feodorovna Dagmar, Empress of Russia, two of the daughters of Christian IX who had recently died. They made many improvements, both inside and outside the house, and furnished it luxuriously. They lived in it from September to November every year until the outbreak of World War I, and Dagmar was exiled there in 1919.

Finally, in 1937, it was bought by Harald and Thorvald Pedersen, joint owners and founders of Novo Therapeutic Laboratory, for conversion to a sanatorium for the treatment of diabetes. The idea was that people with diabetes would stay there while learning how to live with their disease and about its treatment with insulin - in other words, self-care. The sanatorium had room for 25 patients, including children, and was run with a substantial grant from Novo.

In 1949, Hvidøre Diabetes Sanatorium was renamed Hvidøre Hospital, but it continued to do the same work, which included testing new forms of therapy. By its golden jubilee in 1988, the hospital employed 14 doctors, three dieticians, and 25 nurses. The basis of its diabetes management remained education, control, and individualised treatment.

In 1989, Novo's Hvidøre Hospital was amalgamated with Nordisk Gentofte's Steno Memorial Hospital, with the latter being deemed more suitable for future use as a hospital. The last patients left Hvidøre in 1991, and the researchers finally left in 1992. Hvidøre remains in Novo Nordisk's ownership and has been converted into a training and conference centre, home in recent years to the annual meetings of the Hvidøre Study Group.