From Iceland — GUESTS OR GHOSTS?


Published June 25, 2004


Several people owned and lived in Höfði over the next 50 years, among them one of Iceland’s most revered poets and entrepreneurs, Einar Benediktsson. From 1938 to 1951 it housed the British Embassy which was moved, reportedly because the ambassador couldn’t live with The White Lady, the ghost of Höfði.

Reykjavík City then bought the house and it was restored in the 60s. Since 1968 it has served as the official reception facility for the city council.

A Ten-Day’s Notice That Shook the World

Höfði’s fame soared beyond Iceland in October 1986 when, with only 10 day’s notice, it became the site of an international political event that reshaped the world.

When US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev held their summit in Höfði in 1986, nothing much happened… or so we thought. However, it’s generally acknowledged that this meeting was the beginning of the end of The Cold War and the collapse of Communism in Europe.

Höfði has been and is closed to the public but I was curious to know whether it would be of interest to foreign visitors. My experience as a tourist guide has taught me that this house is much better known than we realise and it’s been rumoured that a wealthy Japanese businessman was so taken with it that he built an exact replica of Höfði in his homeland.

We managed to be let into Höfði and with us were four American guests on a short visit to Iceland.
The interior of the house is absolutely beautiful. The designers in charge of renovation and preservation have done a marvellous job. Tasteful colours, the old and new intermingling effortlessly and fantastic artwork by Icelandic artists of all generations adorn the walls and windowsills, enhancing the spirit of this old, historic house.

Having walked through the house from the basement to the top floor we all felt privileged for having been there and breathed in a rare chapter of history.
But what do the Americans think?

I asked the Mertz family from New Jersey, USA: Would Höfði House be of interest to visitors?
BARRY: Could be one of the most popular sites in Reykjavik.
FAYE: Providing everything is left intact, definitely.
SCOTT: No comment. (He might have a future in politics!)
MICHELLE: This house signifies peace and as such it’s of great interest to everyone.

Ronald Reagan has passed away now and although we could neither see his ghost, The White Lady, nor other resident phantoms on this bright summer day, we most certainly felt the peaceful spirit, the great soul and the undeniable historical significance of Höfði.

The question remains if the city will open the doors to guests or if the ghosts will continue to live peacefully in this beautiful White House in Reykjavík.
I like the idea of combining the two.

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