According to the Minnesota State Demographic Center, 810,300 Minnesotan residents claim Norwegian ancestry. Other sources claim more than a million. Whatever the true number, there is no denying that Minnesota is a hotbed of Scandinavian heritage.
In the second of a series examining Norwegian American communities, the executive director of Minnesota-based Norway House talks about the importance of a national Norwegian center to retain Minnesota’s links with Norway.
Norway’s Constitution Day is celebrated every May 17 in Norwegian American communities across … [+]
“Descendants of Norwegians who came to the United States are very proud of their heritage. They desperately want to stay connected with the rich culture of their ancestors,” explains Norway House’s Christina Carleton. She took over the executive director role in 2017 having spent almost ten years at the Norwegian Consulate.
Formed as a non-profit in 2004, Norway House has aimed to build home for the more than one thousand Norwegian American community organizations in the state.
But it’s only now that its ambitious vision can truly become a reality. A major expansion of the facility will create a campus that will be home to the Norwegian Consulate, Concordia Language Villages, Sons of Norway lodges, the local chapter of the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce and many more organizations.
“When members and visitors step into our building they should feel a sense of what Norway looks and feels like, but so much more than that they should feel at home,” says Carleton.
With so many community organizations, it’s impossible to cover them all in just one article. One of the more intriguing is the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota that promotes the study and performance of Grieg and other Nordic composers, past and present.
Located on the same block as Norway House, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (Mindekirken) will celebrate its centenary next year. Meanwhile, a mainstay of Minneapolis commerce, the Nordic marketplace Ingebretsen’s has stood in the same East Lake location for 96 years.
Norwegian migrants took their time arriving in Minnesota, initially settling in eastern parts of the midwest. As more Norwegians arrived, the settlements moved west onto more plentiful, affordable land such as the Red River Valley in northwestern Minnesota.
King Harald & Queen Sonja of Norway have visited the Norwegian American communities of Duluth, … [+]
While the Twin Cities are home to the most Norwegian Americans today, Duluth was the capital of Scandinavian immigration for many decades. By 1900, approximately 7,500 Norwegian immigrants and their children called Duluth their home.
In recognition of Duluth’s history, Norway’s King Harald and Queen Sonja visited the city in 2011. “My sense of pride in the achievements of the Norwegian immigrants and their descendants has been reinforced. You have made and are continuously making great contributions to all aspects of American society,” said the King at the time.
In percentage terms, it is the smaller, more rural Minnesotan communities that are home to the most Norwegian Americans. Many communities such as Fertile, Spring Grove and Twin Valley retain a visible Norwegian presence. Spring Grove’s Viking Park plays host to may public events in what was said to be the first Norwegian community in Minnesota.
The expanded Norway House campus will be a meeting place for all Norwegian American groups and interests. Carleton says the building will be a true “labor of love” with input from many organisations beyond the team of architects, designers and builders.
The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, Bygdelagenes Fellesraad genealogy organization, Concordia Language Villages, the Norwegian Lutheran Colleges, the Honorary Norwegian Consulate in Minneapolis, the State of Minnesota and the Norwegian Government have all played a role.
Carleton says that despite delays caused by Covid-19, plans to break ground later this year are still on track.
I was born in the U.K. but moved to Norway in 2011 and haven’t looked back. I run a website and podcast about Norway, authored the Moon Norway travel guidebook, and spend