The White Mansion was designed by the renowned Copenhagen architect Peter Meyn. However, as he never visited Augustenborg, the execution of his plans was placed in the hands of the duke’s master builder Hans Petersen Bram, nicknamed “Bleshøy” after the area Blæsborg north of the town. He was Court Master Builder of Augustenborg and was succeeded by his son, who later built the House of the Court Officials (Kavalerbygningen) in Storegade.
The original drawing by Peter Meyn, which was later exhibited with the title ‘Et Lyststed’ (a place of joy), only showed the two main façades. Bleshøy designed the two gables, which he decorated with lesenes as on the palace. Bleshøy also changed the height of the building from one and a half to two storeys.
The building was commissioned by Duke Frederick Christian I, who wanted a stately home for his frail daughter, Princess Louise Christine Caroline. The duke chose Meyn’s drawing, but probably wanted a simpler and more functional building, which Bleshøy delivered.
Princess Louise had a severe physical disability – she was short and humpbacked – but was very intelligent, and the duke made sure that she received a good education.
The mansion, which was completed around 1790, is an example of the new style, neoclassicism, which had become popular in the second half of the 18th century. The style is also called classicism because it was inspired by the classical art and architecture of antiquity and the renaissance.
Particularly characteristic of this style period is the colonnade called the ‘stoa’ – the two free-standing ionic columns and corner pilasters in front of the entrance. The mansion was modern for its time and was deliberately conceived as a country house between the Forest and the fjord. Princess Louise probably appreciated the location as an extension of Prince Æmil’s ‘philosophical residence’ (the Red Mansion). She was very fond of Prince Æmil who was her uncle.
The interior of the mansion was laid out as a modern English residence. The large hall gave access to the other rooms as well as the garden room, which opened out onto the garden. The garden room was a meeting place for the study circle of the princess, called ‘The Stoa’, perhaps named after the colonnade at the entrance. Here, Princess Louise met with her lady-in-waiting, the Court Priest Jessen, and the Royal Physician Suadicani to read and discuss philosophy, art, politics, and astronomy. The author and philosopher Jens Baggesen often visited and eagerly participated in the discussions.
Princess Louise also had a keen interest in animals, including angora rabbits, and this led her to transform the temple island in the Forest into a ‘rabbit’ island. There was a large menagerie around the mansion which included aviaries housing rabbits and ornamental birds, such as pigeons, pheasants, and peacocks.
When Princess Louise died in 1815, the mansion was occupied by the widowed duchess, Princess Louise Augusta – the ‘love child’ of Royal Physician Johann Struensee and Queen Caroline Matilda.
Louise Augusta is said to have been a flamboyant and artistic person. Her colourful social life was full of culture, parties and romance and, until her death in 1843, was centred in the mansion. She too was fond of animals and amongst her pets had two monkeys, which sometimes roamed freely in the garden.
Since then, the mansion has been intermittently inhabited by local magistrates and other government officials. When the mansion was part of the psychiatric hospital (1932-2015), it was home to the chief physicians as well as being used for recreation by psychiatric patients. Today, the White Mansion is part of Augustiana Art Park & Art Gallery.