Holmestrand is both a municipality and a town in the province of
Vestfold in Vestfold and Telemark county. The municipality borders
in the east to the Oslo Fjord, in the north to Drammen and Øvre
Eiker in the northwest to Kongsberg and in the south to Tønsberg and
Larvik. A person from Holmestrand is called holmestranding.
The town of Holmestrand has 7,576 inhabitants as of 1 January 2020. Other towns in the municipality include Gullhaug, Kleiverud which was in the former Holmestrand municipality, and Hof, Sundbyfoss and Eidsfoss which was in the former Hof municipality and Tettstedet Sande, Galleberg, Klevjerhagen and Selvik which was located in the former Sande municipality.
In connection with the municipal reform, Holmestrand and Hof municipalities were merged from 1 January 2018, and from 1 January 2020, Holmestrand merged with Sande in Vestfold.
The history of Holmestrand, «The city under the mountain», is particularly linked to the timber trade, sailing ships and the aluminum industry.
Holmestrand was a natural harbor by the Oslo Fjord where the Dutch collected timber as early as around 1550. In 1663 the export port became a customs post under Tønsberg and in 1713 a loading place. In 1852, Holmestrand received city privileges and became a market town.
In the spring of 1801, a battery of cannons was built on the headland Gaasetange to protect the city. The battery was rebuilt and strengthened in 1808 and 1814, but fell into disrepair after 1815.
In 1880, Holmestrand had 40 vessels with a total of 10,292 tonnes and a crew of 341 men, but after an economic downturn and more difficult times, the business community was weakened towards the end of the century. The city also experienced a devastating city fire in 1884 when the southern part was reduced to ashes. In 1905, the city's merchant fleet consisted of 15 vessels of 3431 gross tons, including three steamships of 1064 tons. In 1927, the fleet of five steamships totaled 672 gross tons. The city's population also fell slightly from 2535 inhabitants in 1900 to 2204 in 1920 and 2146 in 1928.
Holmestrand's location by the fjord and proximity to Oslo, as well as the city's lush gardens and views from the mountains, also provided summer tourism with holiday and bathing life. As the third city in Norway, Holmestrand got its first spa in 1840, and had both hot and cold sea baths into the 20th century.
In 1881, Holmestrand station was opened with a train connection to Drammen and Oslo over the Jarlsberg line, later called the Vestfold line. From 1902 to 1938, the station was also connected to the Holmestrand-Vittingfoss line (HVB) via a connecting track between Holmestrand station (HVB). The Holmestrand-Vittingfoss line, which, among other things, transported wood pulp from Hvittingsfoss for shipping in Holmestrand.
In 1899, Holmestrand Public School for the Deaf was completed. It originally started as a private speech school for the deaf in Oslo in 1881. The school was recently part of the Nedre Gausen competence center. In 1899, the city also received a teachers' seminar, Holmestrand seminar, which was moved from Asker. From before, the city had the venerable Latin school Den Tordenskioldske Borgerskole, established by Johan Henrik Tordenskiold (1757–1820), related to the naval hero Peter Wessel Tordenskjold who was in port and spent some time in the city. The Thunder School school later became a secondary school and gymnasium. It was closed down in 1971.
After World War II, the city again experienced growth, both in population and business. A factory for further processing of aluminum was built just south of the city as early as 1919. The company became part of Årdal and Sunndal Verk (ÅSV) in 1967, and was later acquired by Norsk Hydro in 1986. The factory made aluminum products, including under the well-known brand HØYANG, with aluminum from Høyanger. The raw material is today recycled material.
Today's municipality was formed in 2020 when Sande municipality and Holmestrand were merged. The municipality is a result of previous municipal changes from 1964 when Botne and Holmestrand were merged and from 2018 when Hof and Holmestrand were merged.