The Historic Swedo House at the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden and Cottages, Ltd. was the original hunting lodge/farm house which was built around 1906 to 1908. It is located approximately a half mile from the Karen Blixen (Bogani House) museum, and is 15 minutes from downtown Nairobi. When the house was built, it was surrounded by indigenous forest (bush and grasslands), most which was cleared for use as agriculture, particularly coffee in the first quarter of the 20th century.
In 1904 Ewart Scott Grogan Grogan returned to Kenya. His first home was a tent on site which is now the Chiromo complex where he built the Grogan palace and Grogan Lodge (now moved from Riverside Drive to the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden as the Grogan/MacMillan Manor House. The historic Grogan/MacMillan Manor House was moved brick by brick from downtown Nairobi to the Coffee Garden in 2008 to save it from destruction.
Click here for the history of the Grogan MacMillan Manor House
Aake Sorgren, who was the Swedish Consul in British East Africa until 1913 formed the Swedo-African Coffee Company. Sorgren and Sir Northrup MacMillan formed the Swedo African Coffee Company from this house and later commissioned Bogani House in 1912 (the house featured in the movie “Our of Africa” (now known as the Karen Blixen Museum).
Bror Blixen bought the Coffee Company in 1913 for his wife Karen. The Swedo House played a central role in the Coffee Company and served as the farm manager’s house. Karen Blixen (known by her pen name Isak Dinesen) spent a great deal of time at the Swedo House and her brother, Thomas Dinesen resided in this house for several years.
While the Bogani House represents the second generation of colonial residential architecture, the Swedo House represents the first generation of houses. These houses were constructed of wooden structures on raised stilts. This typical example of architecture of the pioneering days of Kenya was raised on stilts and had corrugated iron walls which were lined with wood inside and had railed verandahs with arched roof supports. Later the outside walls were modified by removing the corrugated iron and replacing it with cement plastered over chicken wire. The colored window panes still present in the front sitting room were installed early in the history of the house and exist in the present day form. The Swedo house is now available for breakfast, lunch or afternoon teas and for “Out of Africa” style candlelight dining by the old stone fireplace.