Furuviksparken was founded in 1900 by Oscar Jakobsson and officially opened by count Olle Cronstedt.
In 1938 the zoo was bought by Gösta Nygren, who managed the zoo for 45 years. The Furuvik Park lies close to the Swedish city Gävle. Gävle has sometimes been called for the Swedish capital of the circus art. There is no doubt that the activities in Furuvik Park contributed to preserving the city’s circus traditions. Already in the summer of 1936 – Furuvik Park’s first season – the Circus Engelhardt performed as an attraction. In a screened open-air ring, a circus program was offered with the elephant Taku as an attraction.
In the development of the Furuvik Park, Gösta Nygren planned to build a large gathering room. It would not only be used for circus and theater performances. There you could also have concerts, congresses, gymnastics shows, wrestling competitions …
The plans were realized in autumn 1940. The direct reason for the construction was the failed circus visit to Stockholm of the Circus Jean Houcke.
In early August 1940, Jean Houcke’s Musical Circus Show had a premiere in Djurgård Circus in Stockholm. Jean Houcke was born in Kristiania (Oslo) in 1878 but was a Swedish citizen. In his youth, he worked as a rider at various circus companies in Sweden. Later he sought out in Europe. He stayed long in France where he came to have his own circus. In the summer of 1939 Jean Houcke gave performances in Copenhagen’s circus building with his company. The war then made him use his Swedish citizenship and get to our country with his circus. The month in the Stockholm circus building was a financial disaster for Houcke. The Houcke family and a couple of artists lived in a villa on Djurgården. They stayed on after the shows had ended. The horses remained in the stables of the circus building. Jean Houcke was afraid that they might be taken as payment for unpaid debts. He was considering smuggling the horses some night with bags wrapped around their legs to prevent any sound.
Furuvik park manager Gösta Nygren had seen Jean Houcke’s performance and become fond of it. When he was told about his difficult situation, he decided to hand a helping hand. He simply brought the Houcke family as well as the horses to Furuvik. The Houcke family was housed in a villa near the Furuvik Park and the horses were placed in the park’s stables. In the meanwhile, Gösta Nygren decided to build a circus building. It was a quick decision without any formal board meetings. The building, which was also equipped with a stage, was build in the record time of a few autumn weeks.
The gala opening performance took place on Sunday the 17th of November 1940. Nadja Houcke performed as an Indian rider, Sascha Houcke blasted into the ring on horseback, Jean Houcke presented his liberty act as well as riding the horse Mélåoly in a high school act. Gilbert Houcke presented a roman riding act. The family would also play in the building in 1941 but left after that year. The circus shows would be rehearsed and trained with local children. But during the war many circus artist would came and stay in the Furuvik park.
The animal trainer Franz Adamsky came there winter 1943-44 with three brown bears and four elephants belonging to the German Circus Busch. Jean Houcke’s son Gilbert, who performed when the Theater Circus was inaugurated, returned with Busch’s tiger group. The trainer Sobbot, who worked with trained pigs, came for a while to stay in the park with his animals in anticipation of new engagement. In the Theater Circus, the trainers exercised their animals and practiced new tricks.
The building was used for many more other things than just circus. It was also used as an exhibition hall. There were cat shows, exhibitions of old timer cars … During a few summers in the late 70’s, the Natural History Museum organized exhibitions such as “Wetlands” and “Wanted in our time”. Artists such as the world famous dancer and singer Josephine Baker and also the singer Mel Tormé used the circus building as a rehearsal hall prior to their appearances at Furuvik Park’s grand stage.
On June 23rd 1982 the Svenson’s Theater Circus premiered in the building.Carl-Axel Svensson and his wife, Anna-Greta, were both ex. Furuvik children. They had their artistic education in Furuvik and its circus building. They left Furuvik in the late 40’s and traveled to Europe to make a successful career with a rider number. During a couple of winters in the late 70’s, Carl-Axel Svensson had presented the winter circus in some major sports halls in our country and had some success with this.
In 1983 there was a circus summer organized in Gävle with exhibitions but the main event was the arrival of a troupe of the Soviet State Circus to perform in Furuvik. The show premiered on the 16th of July and was planned to close three weeks later. However an additional week was added because all the shows were sold-out. After the last show on August the 14th more than 20.000 spectators had seen the circus.
On the Midsummer Day 1984 the French National Circus Alexis Gruss premiered in the Furuvik building. Despite the quality of the show and the succes of the Soviets a year before the circus didn’t draw large crowds and it wasn’t a financial succes.
Before the 1985 season, the circus building was restored. It was painted about and equipped with a new entrance which was ready on the Midsummer Day because the Soviets were back with a new show and they triumphed again. Hence yet another brand-new Soviet show of top quality would be back in 1986.
After that the Children’s Circus of Furuvik would be playing the building. Many professional artists would have started their career in the ring of the Furuvik building. On the night to Sunday, March 27, 1994, the circus building in Furuvik was completely destroyed by a fire. Only charcoal and ash remained. The circus building’s restoration and building for almost fourteen million kronor was in its final stages when the fire occurred and burned everything. However the building was rebuild in pretty much the way it was.
Gävle Municipality took over the park 1983, sold it to Tom Widorson in 2004, who in 2010 sold it to the present owner, Parks & Resorts Scandinavia. 2009 would be the last year of the Children’s Circus in the park. Nowadays the circus building’s former stables are used as a green room for the park employees. The ring is used for staff trainings and special events.
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