William Chalmers built the house in 1805-1807. After having served as a director (supercargoer) of the Swedish East India Company for 10 years in Canton and Macao, Chalmers returned to Gothenburg in 1793. He bought Holtermanska huset, a two-storey wood building at Södra Hamngatan 11. The building was destroyed by a devastating fire in 1802, which ravaged the entire area between Vallgraven to Hamnkanalen. Chalmers decided to build a stone house on the burnt out plot and commissioned Carl Wilhelm Carlberg, the city architect of Gothenburg, to draw the blueprints. Carlberg, who boasted of a sterling reputation, had designed Gunnebo Castle, a highly esteemed and widely discussed private building that was completed in 1796. The House of William Chalmers was designed in the same neoclassical style as Gunnebo Castle, and was furnished in a similar spirit.
The building was completed in 1807 but Chalmers didn’t have long to enjoy it. He died in 1811 at the age of 63. Shortly before his death, he willed half of his fortune to the Sahlgrenska Hospital and half to the “future establishment of a certain Industrial School for poor children, who has learned to read and write” – the basis for Chalmers University of Technology.
His two brothers lived off the money before it could be used for that purpose. Unfortunately they had no interest in the building and sold it and all of its contents to Bernt Santesson, a division chief at the National Board of Trade. Chalmers had devoted much of his time and energy to Trollhätte Canal, and Santesson was one of the instigators for construction of Göta Canal. As a member of Swedens Parliament for 25 years, he spent most of his time in Stockholm and rented the building to others. He sold it in 1839 to David Carnegie, who ran a sugar mill in Gothenburg.
David Carnegie & Company used the building for office and storage purposes, as well as a residence for some of the mill’s officials. When Carnegie moved to Scotland in 1841, Oscar Ekman took over management of the business. He moved into the house in 1849; members of the Ekman family subsequently lived there more or less continuously until 1930.
The bank, Skandinaviska Kredit-Aktiebolaget was founded on1th
of April 1864 by Oscar Ekman. Theodor Mannheimer, the managing director, rented two rooms in the House of William Chalmers from Oscar Ekman for the bank’s original office and Ekman was chairman for the first 32 years and made the marble lounge available for board meetings. As the business expanded, the bank extended its premises to adjacent properties. After Gustaf Ekman died in 1930, the residential suite in the House of William Chalmers became vacant and was first used for the bank’s trust department and lunch room. As the bank obtained access to additional space in the neighbourhood, the residence was not needed for office purposes; a decision was made to restore it to the condition that it had been in back in 1807. Ever since being restored in 1950 under the leadership of museum directors Göran Axel-Nilsson and Stig Roth, the second level has been used for reception and entertainment purposes.
Skandinaviska Kredit-Aktiebolaget changed its name in 1939 to Skandinaviska Banken, which merged with Stockholms Enskilda Bank in 1972 to form Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB). By the mid-1960s, the bank realised that further expansion in the historic Kommerserådet neighbourhood was out of the question. After experimenting with a number of different solutions, a decision was made to erect a commercial and office building in Östra Nordstan. The bank moved there in November 1973.
Even after moving to its new premises, SEB continued to use the House of William Chalmers – the first floor served as an office until 1994, followed by several years as a bank museum, while the second floor was reserved for reception and entertainment purposes.
In connection with its 150th anniversary, the bank decided to return the building to Chalmers University of Technology. The above photo shows SEB President and CEO Annika Falkengren and Chalmers President Karin Markides at the official hand-over ceremony on the 26th
of September 2006.