Norway House, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Exploring Norwegian Heritage in Minnesota!
As we move out of the pandemic closures and are free to once again explore the world beyond our doorsteps, I’d like to encourage us to take our first baby steps by discovering – or rediscovering – our local sites and landmarks. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, are chock full of wonderful places to visit.
While I’d love to travel to Norway (across the Atlantic Ocean), I instead explored Norwegian culture and heritage with a close friend as we visited the Norway House (across the Mississippi River) in Minneapolis, Minnesota! Not only was it a delightful experience, but a lot easier on my travel budget!
P.C. Michele H 11 May 2021
News Flash! Norway House Project Update: 19 September 2021
Red River Girl: The Thortvedt Family’s Journey to America
The exhibit, currently open by timed reservations, highlights the emigration of a family from Norway to Minnesota in the early 1900s. Since my heritage is Scandinavian (100% Swedish), the exhibit was particularly reminiscent of the stories of my ancestors settling in Minnesota during that same era. The exhibit is open through August 8th, 2021.
This exhibit tells the story of emigration from Norway to the United States through the eyes of the Thortvedt family in the mid-19th century, some of the earliest settlers in Clay County, Minnesota.
NOTE: For those not familiar with Minnesota geography, Clay Country is in Northwest Minnesota; the city of Moorhead is the county seat. It is along the Red River which borders the state with North Dakota – hence the title ” Red River Girl…”
The exhibit is in partnership with the Vest-Telemark Museum in Norway and the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, MN. (norwayhouse.org)
Though the exhibit and the building are not large, it was well worth the time and minimal entrance fee.
Unique to this story is Orabel, who, along with her father, Levi, become the first established historians in Clay County, Minnesota. Levi is the son of Olav Gunnarson and Tone Levisdotter Songedal who founded the Thortvedt family farm.
Orabel and Levi recorded the history of the community and the story of their family’s immigration to the United States through their own drawings, photographs, letters, and journals. Orabel’s sketches and paintings of also portray an illustrated history and are showcased in the exhibit. Her art is excellent and I’d love to see the original someday on a day trip to Cass County!
COVID-19 restrictions and the Minneapolis riots after the death of George Floyd in the area caused a major ripple effect on the planned exhibit. In the end, to protect the original art and documents from Cass County that were to be on display at the Norway House, they were replaced by mounted copies. The display was still very interesting and impressive, although not seeing the actual art was somewhat disappointing. The video introducing the exhibit and the family was exceptional and very informative. The staff was excited to see us and provided added information. We were treated to a great cup of coffee to top off our visit!
Norway House: What is it?
The Norway House is a nonprofit that aims to spread appreciation for that country.
Born out of the need for a centralized location in the Midwest Norwegian-American community, Norway House is a destination for contemporary Norwegian art and ideas and a hub for cultivating Norwegian and pan-Nordic government and business relationships.
Since opening in 2015, together with Mindekirken, (the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church next door), this block has become the epicenter for Norwegian activities in America. In 2017, the State of Minnesota invested in Norway House’s future through a $5 million challenge grant to expand the campus to span the entire block. In 2019, the King of Norway became a Royal Patron of Norway House, and the Norwegian government invested in the campaign. (norwayhouse.org)
“Norway House connects the United States and contemporary Norway through arts, business, and culture.”http://www.norwayhouse.org
Norway House: Where is it?
913 East Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55404. 612-871-2211. norwayhouse.org
Located just south of downtown Minneapolis, east of I-35W and south of I-94, it is easy to get to. On-site parking is available.
As of March 25, 2021, it is currently open by appointment only for limited admissions. The Kaffebar is closed at the time of this posting.
The area’s rich residential history is quite diverse. The neighborhood was home to many Nordic immigrants following the European mass migration to the United States at the turn of the 20th century. It has been a cultural home for immigrants from many backgrounds, most recently as the heart of the urban Native American communities in Minneapolis.
Norway House: the Church Next Door
The Norway House shares the block with the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, Mindekirken, a historic monument to Norwegian heritage in the Midwest. Even if we couldn’t get a peek inside, a walk around the block provided us a view of lovely stained glass windows and beautiful flowering trees.
Initially researching the Norway House, I was intrigued about the church next door. It seemed to be a big deal. It IS! It is one of two American churches still using Norwegian as a primary liturgical language, the other being Minnekirken in Chicago, Illinois.
In 1922, Norwegian immigrants wishing to worship in their own native language, founded Den Norske Lutherske Mindekirke – known by everyone today as Mindekirken (minde = memorial; kirken = church). It is still a home for Norwegians and all those interested in experiencing the rich cultural heritage Mindekirken has to offer! The church serves as a link between the Midwest and Norway, honored to have His Majesty King Harald V as their patron.
The mission of Mindekirken is called to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all people, empowering service to others, practicing its ministry through Norwegian traditions, culture and language. For a sample, click on the website and listen to a recent sermon in Norwegian! (mindekirken.net)
Norway House: the Education Center
Norway House education center is named for former Minnesota Governor, Al Quie. The project to create the Norway House Education Center combined the personal and professional for Al Quie: his Norwegian heritage and decades-long passion for education. Norway House also honored his late wife Gretchen Quie’s passion for art by staging an exhibition of her work.
Who is Albert H. Quie?
Albert Harold “Al” Quie (/kwiː/) has strong ties with Norway having three grandparents of Norwegian ancestry. Born into a strong Christian Lutheran family in rural Minnesota, he spent his life and career supporting the state. He served as the 35th governor of Minnesota from January 4, 1979, to January 3, 1983. He served in the Minnesota Senate and then the U.S. House of Representatives for 20 years.
Norway House: its Programs
Through Norway House programs, visitors can experience contemporary art, design and music as well as engage in discussion about important topics that share Norway and the global community. Regular updates are available on their website.
The annual Gingerbread House exhibit is a highlight of their year and I was encouraged to add it to my list of things to experience next Christmas!
Norway House Gift Boutique: Ingebretsen’s
Ingebretsen’s creates a cozy, Norwegian-centric gift boutique. It changes and evolves with the seasons and with the current exhibit in Norway House’s gallery. Handcrafts, books, clothing, cookware, children’s items, jewelry, and more are available at Ingebretsen’s Buttikk at Norway House. (norwayhouse.org)
The gift shop is is well stocked and currently open with lots of fun items in all price ranges!
Norway House: the Kaffebar
Coffee. As with all Scandinavian cultures, a key part of Norwegian life involves a good cup of coffee and face-to-face contact. Complementing the Nordic sweet and savory lunch menu, beverages also include wine, local beers and non-alcoholic drinks. (norwayhouse.org)
Unfortunately, we were unable to try out the treats at our visit. They did treat us to a great cup of coffee with our admission, so all was not lost!
At the time of this posting (5/11/21), the Kaffebar is closed until further notice due to the pandemic. Check their website for updates.
Norway House: their Platform
“We envision a future in which Norway House is recognized as the National Norwegian Center in the United States, embodying the contemporary Nordic values of community partnership, international influence, continuous learning, and compassionate and peaceful communication. We honor our history as a complement to our present and our actions today as a road-map for coming generations. The expanded campus provides notable access for new and diverse audiences, hails a strong network for Nordic enterprise, and unites Norwegian interests under a shared roof.” (norwayhouse.org)
News Flash! Norway House Project Update: 19 September 2021
I was excited to read an article in today’s Star Tribune Business section D3 announcing some big news on a Norway House Project! “The National Norwegian Center in America broke ground on Friday, September 17, 2021 on a $19.5 million expansion that will be home to the Norwegian Consulate, Concordia Language Villages, the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce and several other organizations.” Watch their website for progress and updates!
Photos from Google Images, norwayhouse.org and Cher B