The oldest recorded mention of the name "Larvik" dates back to 1512, when Dutch sailors mentioned the bay by the name Laghervik. The area began to be settled in c. 1620. Initially it was a small local community of approximately 200 persons. Industrial development and the existence of a rich middle class caused a port to be opened in Larvik in 1665. At that time it is estimated that Larvik had 600-700 residents.
In 1671 the county of Larvik was established with Ulrik Fredrik Gyldenløve, the Norwegian viceroy and son of the king, at its head. The town was governed by the count's officials and had no established city rights. It became more prominent in 1750 due to the establishment of a navy base - Fredriksvern.
As early as in the Middle Ages, an important trade route passed through the area that was to become Larvik. The town developed on a steep hill located near a bay dotted with narrow straits. Langestrand (in the West) was the site of an ironworks and workmen's houses, while Torstrand (in the East) was occupied by the other social classes.
Larvik harbor. Photo from: Larvik Museum – Vestfoldmuseene
The architecture of Larvik, similarly to other places across Norway, was dominated by wooden houses. In the 17th and 18th centuries the shoreline was dotted with wooden boathouses, and behind them were the largest and most impressive houses located on the main street. Two-story houses dominated throughout the main town streets; they had large rooms and windows in wooden frames. Outside of the main areas there were smaller houses, erected on hillsides. The streets were covered in sand. The houses were built from wooden bales, usually unpainted and not weatherboarded.
Maps and panoramas of Larvik (courtesy of Larvik Museum)