Did you know about 38% of the North Dakota’s population is of Scandinavian descent?
Our team recently took a trip across the Red River to Moorhead, MN where we visited the Hjemkomst Center. We were in search of knowledge about North Dakota’s rich Scandinavian history. At the museum we toured the Hjemkomst Viking Ship and Hopperstad Stave Church, where we were blown away by what we saw.
Read on to learn about the famous Hjemkomst Viking Ship and Hopperstad Stave Church in Moorhead, MN!
Hjemkomst Viking Ship
In 1971, the Moorhead School Guidance Counselor by the name of Robert Asp, had a dream. That dream was to build a ship and sail it to Norway. But not just any kind of ship… a replica of the Gokstad Viking ship from circa 800 CE. Like many others in the State of North Dakota, Robert Asp had a Norwegian heritage. His interest and pride in his culture brought this dream to life.
The ship took 7 years to construct in an old potato warehouse that was renovated into the Hawley Shipyard. It needed over 100 trees and approximately 11,000 feet of lumber was sawn. It ended up weighing 16 tons and standing 60 ft high. Bob Asp named his ship the Hjemkomst to commemorate his Nordic immigrant ancestors. “Hjemkomst” means “homecoming” in Norwegian.
The Hjemkomst took her maiden voyage in the Duluth Harbor on August 9th, 1980. Although Bob died in December of 1980, his supportive family ensured the ship sailed to Norway.
The voyage from Duluth to Norway began in May 1982 with a crew of twelve people. This crew was composed of professional sailors, a long-distance truck driver, and college students. Even four of Robert Asp’s children were part of the crew. The trip did not go without storms but after approximately 3 months, the Hjemkomst made it to Oslo, Norway. The King of Norway made a royal visit to the see the mighty ship.
The Hjemkomst was brought home to Moorhead, MN and donated to the City of Moorhead to be placed on display at the Hjemkomst Center in Viking Ship Park.
The Moorhead Stave Church
In 1990, a South Dakota native named Gaylord “Guy” Paulson retired from work and decided he needed a new project. His idea for this new project became inspired by a replica stave church he saw in his home state. Paulson decided he would build a full-scale replica of the Hopperstad Stave Church located in Vik, Norway. This project allowed him to give back to the Fargo-Moorhead community while paying tribute to his Norwegian immigrants. With 20+ years of woodcarving experience and a strong Norwegian heritage, Paulson was the man for the job.
Stave churches were built in the Scandinavia region from the Viking age to the Early Modern Period. Their name stems from the support pillars called staves in the church interiors. These churches combine a Catholic, medieval, basilica-style church and a traditional Scandinavian log building. Images of dragons are featured next to religious art and crucifixes because they are pagan guards against evil. Christian stave churches blended old and new, pagan and Christian, to form a unique style.
As of 2017, only twenty-eight out of almost 1000 stave churches remain standing in Norway. The original Hopperstad Stave Church is one of the twenty-eight. Paulson and his supporters in his grand project even traveled to Norway to study the original building and blueprints.
The Moorhead Stave Church was built between 1996 and 2001. It represents the strong Norwegian culture in the Midwest and helps educate the community about the Scandinavian immigrants from the late 19th and 20th centuries. It stands 72 feet tall, has eighteen 27 pine stave columns, and 24,000 cedar shingles.
Did you know that the continent’s largest Scandinavian event, Norsk Høstfest, is celebrated in Minot, North Dakota?
After the Hjemkomst center, we traveled 4 hours West of Fargo to Minot, ND where we visited the Scandinavian Heritage Park. We met the incredible Norsk Høstfest staff and learned about this world-class event. We are excited to take what we learned into our partnership with EPIC Events and Norsk Høstfest. EPIC Events is an events and entertainment promoter that will help co-promote 2022 Norsk Høstfest.
“Norsk Høstfest is a not-for-profit organization that raises funds to preserve and share Scandinavian culture, heritage and educational programs. The festival features world-class entertainment, authentic Scandinavian cuisine, Scandinavian culture on display, handcrafted Norsk merchandise, plus a fine dining establishment lead by guest chefs.”