Before the customs site was set up in 1784, foreign shipping did not have permission to sail to Northern Norway. When free trade was established, both trading and customs sites were planned and built to handle the new international trading, and it is in this context that the establishment of the customs house in Tromsø island sound should be perceived.

When Tromsø was awarded the status of a town in 1794, there were two public sites in existence – that of the church, dating from the Middle Ages, and the customs house, which had recently been set up on the fortification dating from the Middle Ages.