Historical and old photos of Umeå, Västerbotten
Historiska och gamla bilder från Umeå, Västerbotten

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Historical and old photos of Umeå, Västerbotten

A small historical reference

Geography: Umeå is a city in northeast Sweden. It is the seat of Umeå Municipality and the capital of Västerbotten County.

Situated on the Ume River, Umeå is the largest locality in Norrland and the thirteenth largest in Sweden, with 84,761 inhabitants in 2016. The municipality had 123,382 inhabitants as of 2017. When Umeå University was established in 1965, growth sped up, and the amount of housing has doubled in the last 30 years. As of 2011, 700 to 800 new apartments are constructed each year.

Umeå is a university town and centre of education, technical and medical research in northern Sweden, with two universities and over enrolled 39,000 students. Umeå was the European Capital of Culture during 2014, along with Riga in Latvia.

Date of foundation: First mention - 1314, Founded - 1622


Population: 84 761


Umeå. Cathedral, 1905
Cathedral, 1905
Umeå. City Hall, 1906
City Hall, 1906
Umeå. City Hall and city park
City Hall and city park
Umeå. City Hall park, 1912
City Hall park, 1912
Umeå. City Hall in winter
City Hall in winter
Umeå. City taxicabs in front of Town hall, 1920s
City taxicabs in front of Town hall, 1920s
Umeå. Döbelns Monument, 1902
Döbelns Monument, 1902
Umeå. Grand Hotel
Grand Hotel
Umeå. Elementary school for flickor
Elementary school for flickor
Umeå. Elementary school for girls, built 1892, 1910
Elementary school for girls, built 1892, 1910
Umeå. Main street
Main street
Umeå. Moritz house, 1916
Moritz house, 1916
Umeå. Panorama of city, 1901
Panorama of city, 1901
Umeå. Panorama of city and river
Panorama of city and river
Umeå. Panorama of city street
Panorama of city street
Umeå. Panorama of street and city hall, 1949
Panorama of street and city hall, 1949
Umeå. Old fire station at Rådhusesplanaden, fire trucks, 1920s
Old fire station at Rådhusesplanaden, fire trucks, 1920s
Umeå. Railway station in winter
Railway station in winter
Umeå. Rooms for grammar school, Cafe, 1890s
Rooms for grammar school, Cafe, 1890s
Umeå. Ship 'Argentina' in harbour, 1962
Ship 'Argentina' in harbour, 1962
Umeå. Spectrum-houses
Umeå. Street and Post Office
Street and Post Office
Umeå. View from the Residence, 1905
View from the Residence, 1905
Umeå. Villa Aschan, 1916
Villa Aschan, 1916


The first written mention of Umeå is from the 14th century. The northern parts of Sweden, including the counties of Västerbotten and Norrbotten, were mostly settled by nomadic Sami people before this time but not necessarily forming any permanent settlement in the city's exact location. The name is believed to be derived from the Old Norse word Úma which means roaring. The name of the town would therefore mean "The Roaring River.

Therefore, the coast came to be permanently settled by Germanic peoples moving upwards on the Bothnian Bay by boat, hence the Germanic names of towns and villages on the Westrobothnian coast. Some Kven people had permanent settlements in northern Westrobothnia (Piteå and Luleå) but were gradually assimilated with the Germanic tribes although some Finnish names of lakes and villages survived. Southern Westrobothnia (Umeå and Skellefteå) has been a permanent Germanic settlement since at least the 14th century, but probably since the Viking ages or earlier.

Umeå in its first form was a parish with a wooden church and trade post located in the section of town now known as Backen (or Kyrkbacken). Its location near the coast and on a river was probably one of the reasons that people chose to settle there.

For the next couple of centuries, Umeå was a place consisting of scattered parishes, where merchandise originating with the Sami people was traded, and was the last inhabited place before the northern wilderness took over. However, no real city was built at the location selected by the king, and it lost its town privileges in the 1590s.

In 1622, a city was again founded by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. In 1638, it had about 40 houses. It suffered from Russian attacks in 1714 and in 1720 when it was burnt to the ground during the Russian Pillage of 1719-1721. At the close of the Finnish War in 1809 the Russian army under Barclay de Tolly took Umeå and held it from June to August.

In 1874 the town improved the plans for its structure after it became a government requirement. Umeå had already started making these changes when on 25 June 1888, a fire devastated the eastern parts of Umeå and at least 2,300 of the 3,000 inhabitants became homeless. In the restoration following the fire, silver birch trees were planted along wide avenues to prevent future fires from spreading. For this reason Umeå is sometimes known as "Björkarnas Stad", the "City of Birches". and the name of the Umeå ice-hockey team, Björklöven, means "The Birch Leaves".


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