Watercolour painting by Viggo Dahl in 1925
Bakkerhuset is located in Frederiksberg, which is an independent municipality within Copenhagen. Frederiksberg has, in recent times, become integrated with the capital Copenhagen, but in the first part of the 19th century, Frederiksberg was still a rural place with fields and meadows.
Bakkehuset is considered to be Frederiksberg's oldest building and the name (house on the hill) refers to the building’s location on Valby Hill, which is the highest hill in Copenhagen. Originally Bakkehuset was part of a large farm that supplied agricultural produce to Copenhagen Castle, but in 1674 it became an inn. For many years the house stood alone, with a farmyard amid substantial land.
From the middle of the 18th century the house was no longer used as an inn. Instead Bakkehuset was rented out to holiday guests. As a summer guest, the young writer Knud Lyne Rahbek moved into the house, and from 1787 he lived there as fixed tenant in summer and winter. In 1798 Knud Lyne Rahbek married Kamma Heger, and in 1802, he bought the entire Bakkehuset. They moved into the larger ground floor apartment in the main wing, which today serves as the permanent exhibition. Kamma Rahbek had an English landscape garden created round the house, and the couple lived there until their deaths in 1829 and 1830 respectively. At that time the house was still a quadrangular farm, and it was only in the latter part of the 19th century that two of the original wings of the quadrangle were removed leaving the two remaining wings.
Water colour painting of Bakkehuset and its view, painted by Heinrich Buntzen around 1826
After the deaths of the couple, other well-known writers came to live in Bakkehuset. The Danish historian Troels Troels-Lund lived there in the 1840s as well as the Danish hymn-writer N.F.S. Grundtvig. The author Johan Ludvig Heiberg lived with his wife, actress Johanne Luise Heiberg, and his mother, also an author, Thomasine Christine Gyllembourg-Ehrensvärd, in the house in 1842. In 1855 Bakkehuset was converted into an asylum for mentally ill children and adults. The asylum built the large neighbouring building, 21, Rahbeks Allé, where Bakkehuset’s garden had previously been.
Around 1900 the asylum moved from Bakkehuset, and in 1925 it was decided to open the Museum in the old building and call it "The Rahbeks' Memorial Rooms". The Museum's current interiors are a reconstruction of the matrimonial home, and the couple’s furniture, wall colour and curtains provide an authentic and evocative impression of how life was at Bakkehuset at the beginning of the 19th century.
Kamma and Knud Lyne Rahbek in their famous living room, drawing by Christian Hetsch in 1883