In the good old days
Grøtøya trading post was officially established in 1698, but people have of course lived here and used these protected waters and rich fishing grounds for much longer. In its time the trading post was the largest in Nordland. Strategically placed, in the middle of the Grøtøy strait, Manshausen was an important part of the trading post. Up to one thousand people could gather at Grøtøya and Manshausen at the same time during the main fish season in early spring. The first bank and post office in Steigen was established on Grøtøya, and there were a lot more buildings and activity than there are today.
The main reason for establishing the trading post was the location. This is one of the last safe havens before the infamous Vestfjord and fishermen who came from the south lay here waiting for good weather before sailing over to the fishing grounds. They bought their equipment here and sold their catch here. It was all about fishing, processing and transportation of fish and this was the basis for hundreds of years of continuous operation for Grøtøya as trading post.
Largely due to the protected harbor, the 55-acre island Manshausen was used as storage and export port for fish. In the late 1800’s substantial resources was used building stone quays and houses on Manshausen. Workers were busy with drying or salting fish for further transport to the continent. The main house, which still stands today, was called “bødtkerboligen” because it was here barrelmaker lived. This is now the oldest surviving building on Manshausen.
The very name Manshausen presumably comes from a variation of the word “man head” (a mans head). Possibly there was a rock formation on the island that resembled of a head and that gave rise to the name. Later this formation could have been cut away out to make stone blocks needed to build the large stone piers,
Nordland’s biggest wooden building “the Manshausen pier” was erected where the sea cabins are now. With its three floors, plus hoisting-towers, and more than 80 meters in length, this building was a mighty sight.
But in the early 1900’s things changed, the royal privileges that prevented ordinary people to set up shops and trading posts) disappeared. The era of the sailships also came to an end, freighters became bigger and better, and ports like Grøtøy was too shallow for the biggest boats. Fishing boats got engine and could choose for themselves where they should deliver the fish. Competition intensified and in 1924 Grøtøya trading post went bancrupt.
Manshausen has since the bankruptcy had several owners. Until late 70’s there were fish processing and small shop for building materials on Manshausen. Then the island was used as a private residence and resort until Børge Ousland bought it in 2010.
Grøtøy and neighboring Naustholmen is also divided into private properties. At present there are no permanent residents on any of these islands, but the buildings are well maintained. The great old main house on Grøtøya is like a living museum from the early twentieth century, while Villa Haugen, the director’s residence, was rebuilt from old drawings in 2001. Both these buildings, and also the old stone piers on Manshausen, is a living memory of this historical era.