The History of Hardanger Hotel


In 1881 Jakob O. Jordal built Jordals Hotel and ran the business until he sold it to Odda Handelsforening in 1899. In 1907, Odda Handelsforening sold the hotel to Sjur Birkeland. Brothers Ole and Karl Melkeraaen bought Jordals Hotel from Sjur Birkeland on April 1st, 1917, and changed the name to Hardanger Hotel. The brothers initially came from Salhus, located outside of Bergen. Coming from an impoverished family, Ole had to move from the farm Sørgard in Salhus when he was quite young. As a young man, he established a butcher shop in Tysse. When the plant in Tysse closed, the market disappeared, and Ole decided to move to Odda. In Odda he established a new butcher shop. His brother soon moves to Odda soon after him.
In 1917, they buy Jordals Hotel, and run it together until the Second World War. In 1953, four of Ole's children take over the hotel business. The brothers and sisters Borghild, Gunnar, Johan, and Martin run the hotel together until the mid seventies. Due to new fire regulations, they had to tear down the hotel, a fate the hotel and may other wooden buildings in Odda must face. After the demolition in 1962, the family has the opportunity to build a new and modern hotel. The new hotel in funkis style, was designed by architect Ulf Haslev and opens on June 13th, 1963.
As the leading hotel in the district, Hardanger Hotel blossoms in the 60's into the mid 70's. During this period, Hardanger Hotel was the hot spot in Odda where guests experienced fine dining and famous international entertainment.
Of the siblings running the business, Martin and Johan were the most involved owners and managers. Working together, Martin handled the administrative work, while his youngest brother Johan managed the hotel. In 1974, they decide to expand the hotel with 16 new double rooms. This expansion was necessary to accommodate the growing tourism in Odda.
Unfortunately Johan never gets to see the renovations as he passed away in February 1977 while on the job at the hotel. His death influenced a change in the way the family ran the hotel. From 1977 - 1986, Hardanger Hotel was run as a bed & breakfast hotel. During this period the old part of the hotel is refurbished. Abandoning the bed and breakfast model and without their brother Johan to manage the hotel, the family decides to have a company to run the hotel for them in 1986. Sadly this decision lead to a very troubling time for the hotel as it faced bankruptcy and struggled with lack of maintenance.
In 1997, the company Odda Hotellene takes over the business and the Melkeraaen family decides to sell the hotel. Johan’s oldest twin son, Ole, is willing to buy. On April 1st, 1998 (exactly 81 years after Ole and Karl started in the hotel business) Ole’s grandchild buys the hotel through his company Hardanger Hotel Company AS. Odda Hotellene runs the hotel until September 1st, 2002 and Ole's company Hardanger Hotel AS takes over the management and runs the hotel until July 29th, 2005. During the period 1998 - 2005 the hotel faces a complete renovation, and now the hotel is ready to meet new demands from the market.
Today the hotel is owned by Geminix AS and run by hotel manager Ole Melkeraaen.