The “Grotto” is consdered to be the first house built in Norway in the Alpine style. It was erected by the Romantic bard Henric Wergeland, who lived here from 17 May 1841 to 15 April 1845. He designed it personally, in cooperation with the architect of the royal palace, Hans Ditlev Fransicus von Linstow. The house is located in the north-eastern part of the Palace Park (Stlottsparken).
Since 1922, the “Grotto” has been owned by the state and been reserved for distinguished artists. The first to live here, after the building's renovation, was the composer Christian Sinding (from 1921 until his death, in 1941). As a token of gratitude to Arnulf Øverland, who, as president of the writers’ association, nominated him as the first tenant of the “Grotto”, Sinding composed a work to his poem "Et seil glir bort i kveldens blå" [A sail glides by in the blue…]. Øverland doubtless did not expect that in 1946 he would take the house over from Sinding. He lived there until his death, in 1968, survived by his wife, who lived in the house for ten more years. The house was later renovated and modernised, and in 1981 the honour of living in the “Grotto” was awarded to Arne Nordheim and his wife, Rannveig Getz, who – as an interior designer – made numerous alterations. The year after Nordheim's death (2010), the tenancy of the “Grotto” was given to the playwright Jon Fosse.
Nordheim composed music in his study on the first floor, and the couple continued the tradition from Wergeland's times of inviting artists and friends there on the national holiday of 17 May. The official opening of the renewed house also took place on 17 May, in 1982. For that occasion, Arne Nordheim performed Sinding's song to words by Øverland and composed, in Sindig’s spirit, a melody to Wergeland’s poem "Den første sommerfugl" [The first butterfly] for piano and harp (several years later, in 1991, he also wrote music for another work by Wergeland, "Sagvise" [The saw's song], for countertenor, two tenors, bass and tape. Many minor chamber pieces by Nordheim were played during house concerts at the “Grotto”.