A stroll along Storgatan (the main street in Vimmerby) is the best way of getting to know the older parts of Vimmerby. Only it is not just the heart of historical Vimmerby but also the main artery of modern Vimmerby. A lively street with people, and for people, the houses having been piously restored, painted in blue, red, green, yellow and terracotta. The shops have sloping floors, asymmetrical walls and low ceilings, but with the varied selection of any modern shop. The distinctive character of Storgatan has been preserved. But at the same time it has escaped becoming a dull museum. Lately it has instead become an increasingly vivid part of the town, through private as well as local initiatives. Storgatan – with its position unchanged since the Middle Ages – is an enlightening example of how preservation and renewal can be combined to complement each other.
The history of Vimmerby goes back a long time. Ancient finds tell us that people have lived in this area since the early Stone Age and Bronze Age, and the vast grave-field from the Iron Age already shows us that before Christianity there was a populous village in the same place where Vimmerby is today. Even though we do not know its exact age, we do know that Vimmerby is one of the oldest towns in Sweden. In the year 1192 the Danes burned down the town for the third time and in the middle of the 13th century, when the land of the Swedes was ruled by Birger Jarl, the service in the church of Vimmerby was held by Reverend Henricus Erici. During the late Middle Ages – before 1350 – Vimmerby prospered, but later the town’s misfortunes increased. They dearly had to pay for the fact that their town happened to be situated on the gravel ridge in Stångådalen (the valley of the Stångå River) where some of the most important roads in the country met and thus became a junction. At Skillingarum’s Inn, just south of Vimmerby, kings and their armies, priests and monks have spent the night. Nils Dacke and his men also travelled on these roads.
Also in time of peace, severe fires devastated Vimmerby. In 1683 the main part of the settlement was destroyed, the mansions around the town square and along Storgatan were affected the worst. But the villagers in Vimmerby were of a hardy race and lively rebuilding followed the fire. The bourgeois of the city attempted to outdo each other and the new mansions that were built were even bigger and more costly. The oldest parts of the Grankvistgården (the Grankvist Mansion) and the Tenngjutaregården (the Pewterer’s Mansion) are from that period of time and also in other buildings along Storgatan there are significant parts of buildings from the time around the year 1700. The last great fire in Vimmerby took place in 1821, when a third of the town was reduced to ashes. All the mansions around the square and its neighbourhood were destroyed, amongst them the town hall that had been reconstructed after the fire in 1683. A greater part of the building along Storgatan, however, was spared, luckily enough, for future generations.