Located along Reykjavik’s scenic waterfront is a quaint whitewashed building known as Hofdi House. It was here in 1986 that a major world historical event took place when the presidents of Russia and the US, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, met to end the Cold War. There they effectively tried to take the first steps towards global disarmament.
The story of Hofdi
Completed in 1909, the building was originally designated for the French Consulate. Today is used for official city social functions. Although closed to the general public, the grounds make for an enjoyable stroll. Of note is the sculpture in front of the building which portrays pillars from the chieftain’s seat of the first Norwegian settler in Reykjavik.
In the 19th century and early in the 20th century French fishermen frequented the Icelandic fishing grounds. Hofdi’s origin is traced back to that time.
Mr. Brillouin, the French consul was sent to Reykjavik to assist them, he got the house imported from Norway and it was built in 1909 at its location. A lot of houses where imported and built in Iceland in the wooden catalog style in these days but Hofdi is without a doubt one of the most beautiful. Till this day there are still many signs of its original purpose to be found in the house, such as the letters RF (French Republic) above an inside door.
The 1986 summit in Hofdi – beginning of the end of the Cold war
Hofdi house has had many famous visitors throughout the years and the most famous visitor is probably Sir. Winston Churchill when he visited Iceland in 1941. Among other guests who have visited Hofdi is Marlene Dietrich who visited in the 2nd World War. In 1986 the meeting of President Ronald Regan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Hofdi house is thought to have marked the end of the Cold War.
The Reykjavik Summit ended with no agreement, despite getting unexpentely close to potential alimination of nuclea weapons. The two presidents sought to discuss different matters in the meeting. Reagan was eager to include discussions of human rights, emigration of Soviet Jews and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but Gorbachev wished to limit the talks to arms control.
Though the meeting did not end with an agreement it was in fact very fruitful. Both sides discovered what concessions the other side was willing to make and human rights became a subject in the discussions between these to super-powers for the first time. Despite it’s apparent failure, many believe that the Reykjavik Summit was a major breakthrough. It eventually facilitated the INF Treaty, signed at the Washington Summit in 1987.
During the meeting of the two presidents Hofdi became famous. A world known and a Japanese millionaire had an exact replica of the house built in his country.
Is Hofdi house haunted?
Some say that Hofdi is haunted and there have been many reports of strange sounds heard there in the night. The Icelandic Foreign Ministry has officially stated that they can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a ghost in Hofdi.
Hofdi is currently used for official receptions and meetings of the municipality. The house is owned by the city of Reykjavik and not open to casual visitors.
Where to find the Hofdi house?
Walking along the shoreline east from Harpa Concert Hall, after a few minutes you will see a prominent white building to your right, nestled in between a skyscraper (Ok, it’s a skyscraper in Iceland!) and a few office buildings.
GPS: 64.146539 N, -21.906414 W