Notodden is a city and a municipality in Telemark in Vestfold and
Telemark county, 120 km southwest of Oslo. The municipality is
located by Heddalsvannet and at the eastern channel of the Telemark
Canal. The municipality borders Seljord and Hjartdal in the west,
Tinn in the north, Flesberg and Kongsberg in the east, and Sauherad
and Bø in the south. The highest point is Tverrgrønut, 1,306 masl.
The neighboring towns are Rjukan and Kongsberg.
The name Notodden originally comes from the homestead Notodden (which belonged to Tinne farm) at the mouth of the Tinnelva by Heddalsvatnet. A person from Notodden is called a notodding.
Notodden was separated from Heddal as a separate city in 1913 and celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2013. Its current municipal boundaries were given to the city in 1964 when the municipalities of Heddal and Gransherad (except Jondalen) and part of Hovin became part of Notodden municipality.
The municipality is the most densely populated in Aust-Telemark and is the headquarters of the Aust-Telemark District Court, which is under the Agder district. Notodden police station is under the Telemark police district and the municipality is also part of the Kongsberg region.
Notodden city, which is the municipality's administrative center, has 9,055 inhabitants as of 1 January 2020. Notodden is on the UNESCO World Heritage List through Rjukan – Notodden industrial heritage.
The town of Notodden itself is located at the mouth of the Tinnelva in Heddalsvatnet, which in turn is part of the Skiensvassdraget. The urban development is located in plateaus from the water and upwards. In the southeast, the eastern course of the Telemark Canal lies down towards Norsjø. In the other direction is the original Heddal, and the valley itself stretches approx. 10 kilometers to the west. To the south is the mountain range Lifjell, which is divided between Notodden and the neighboring municipalities Bø, Seljord and Hjartdal. To the northwest is Tinnsjå and the area bordering Tinn municipality is dominated by forests.
Notodden has a temperate climate with relatively cold winters and relatively hot summers.
Since the statistics for temperature measurement started in 1878, Notodden has been the warmest place in the country for three years. It happened in 1929, 2005 and 2007.
Before the industry
As recently as 1865, only approx. 350 people in what is today Notodden city. The area was then part of the agricultural village Heddal, but on the site Notodden itself there were only a dozen large farms with many smallholdings under them.
Eventually it turned out that the place's strategic location - at the top of the Skiens watercourse and with a short distance to Kongsberg in the east - meant that Notodden developed into a communication center for Aust-Telemark. Important events were the new road to Kongsberg in 1839 and the opening of the Norsjø – Skien Canal in 1861. At this time, steamships were already crossing Heddalsvannet and Norsjø, but with the canal there was also a connection to Grenland and the sea. In 1871, train operations began between Kongsberg and Oslo, and thus the road from Notodden to the capital was not long.
Notodden also noticed the burgeoning tourist traffic in the second half of the 19th century. Rjukanfossen was a magnet for many travelers, and Notodden became an intermediate station - with a short journey to both Oslo and Skien.
The development of communications was a condition for the growth of industry. The large waterfalls with potential hydropower along the Tinnelva combined with a massive supply of forest led to increased interest from business leaders in the Grenland area. Tinfos grinding mill was founded in 1873, and in the following years cardboard and paper production was also started. After a couple of decades of varying financial success, Tinfos was taken over by Ole.H. Holta, a timber trader from the neighboring municipality of Sauherad. With this acquisition, Holta established a group (Tinfos) that exists to this day.
The industrial city of Notodden
By the year 1900, Notodden had become the natural center of Heddal, and with the help of industry, trade and communication, the population approached 1,000 inhabitants in the municipality.
Engineer and entrepreneur Sam Eyde had for some time acquired several waterfall rights, and now he was looking for new methods to utilize his hydropower. A chance meeting with Professor Kristian Birkeland led to a patent on the use of an electric flame for the production of nitrogen compounds. In short, Birkeland had invented a method for making fertilizer (the Birkeland-Eyde process) and with the help of Eyde, Eyde's French bank connections and the Swedish major investor Marcus Wallenberg, Norsk Hydro-Elektrisk Kvælstofaktieselskab was formed in 1905.
An important employee for Sam Eyde in the development of waterfalls and industry was engineer Sigurd Kloumann.
Notodden will be its own town
With Norsk Hydro and Tinfos as locomotives, a large-scale industrial development started in Notodde and at a very high pace. The city's population went from approx. 1000 to approx. 5,000 inhabitants in ten years, and it quickly became clear that the infrastructure in the city center failed to keep up with developments. The shortage of houses was precarious, and the cries for modern facilities for water, sewage and fire brigade became louder.
During these years, a desire arose from the townspeople that Notodden should become a separate town and thus be separated from Heddal municipality. The parties, on the other hand, could not agree on how the boundaries should be drawn, so the matter had to be decided by the Storting in the end. It was decided that Notodden would receive city status from 1 January 1913.
Fall and growth
In the years after the first industrial development and almost up to World War II, the city experienced an economic stagnation and gradually decline. Much of the production was now moved either closer to the large waterfalls (Rjukan) or closer to the market. (Grenland and Herøya). In addition, new methods within fertilizers (the less energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process) took over from the Birkeland-Eyde process.
After the war, the situation improved, much because there were better times on the world markets and because Norsk Hydro found other uses for its building stock. Among other things, a separate sack factory was started, which provided many jobs in the municipality. In the peak year of 1960, workers from Tinfos and Norsk Hydro supported 38 percent of Notodden's population.
After the industry
After 77 years of operation, the cornerstone company Tinfos Jernverk was closed down in 1987. By then, Norsk Hydro had already rationalized away or moved jobs from the city for a couple of decades. This meant the end of Notodden as a traditional industrial city.
The city has since established itself as a trade and service city for Aust-Telemark and the surrounding areas. In recent years, however, a number of new industrial companies have been established, especially in high technology, offshore and the defense industry.