Minot’s Scandinavian Heritage Center is an outdoor museum situated at the Visitor Center in Minot, North Dakota.
Open year-round, the Heritage Center celebrates Minot’s Scandinavian past. The second lower level is home to the Sons of Norway’s Minot Thor Lodge, which is a meeting place and reference center. The first lower level houses the year-round offices of the Norsk Høstfest.
Norsk Høstfest, North America’s largest Scandinavian Festival, celebrates its 30th year in Minot, starting the evening of October 9th and running until October 13th, 2007. Attended by tens of thousands annually, the Høstfest allows visitors to celebrate and partake in the Scandinavian culture and entertainment.
The windmill, one of the most recognized pieces of artistry brought to North America by the Scandinavians, looks out on South Broadway in downtown Minot.. This restored Danish windmill, housed in the Heritage Center, was once used to supply water and grind wheat by Carl Olson at Powers Lake. Originally built in 1928, it was dedicated, along with the Flag Display at the Heritage Center in October, 1992. It sits on a new concrete and rock base in its present location.
A full-size replica of the Gol Stave Church, originally built in 1250 and currently housed in Oslo, rises above the manicured lawns and manmade waterfall on the Scandinavian Heritage Center grounds. With a base of 60 feet by 45 feet, and about 600 feet high, this impressive Stave church is even more interesting on the inside than the outside.
Stave churches were built in Norway between the 10th and 12th century by Christian missionaries. The intricately carved interior doors of this replica church feature wood carvings by Philip Odden and Elsa Bigton of Barronet, Wisconsin.
The inside of Minot’s Gol Stave Church Museum is completely carved of wood, and glows a golden yellow with the light. With a ceiling that narrows, while it rises, the church interior posts, beams, and carvings draw visitors’ eyes to the realms above, which no doubt was the intent of the Christian missionaries who first imagined the design more than ten centuries ago.
The palisade constrution of logs split in half and rammed into the ground provided a sturdy, enduring construction, so the churches became focal points across Norway. Archeologists suspect that close to 2000 of these churches were built here, as well as some in Sweden and the United Kingdom. Decoration of stave churches featured an intriguing combination of Christian designs intermixed with what is often assumed to be pre-Christian Viking motifs, such as the interwoven dragon motifs.
The Dala horse is another Swedish icon at the Scandinavian Cultural Center. Like the Stave Church, the Dala horse is entirely made of wood. The tradition originated in the 1700s as a winter pastime that pleased both carvers and the children who received the little horses. As time passed the horses were painted red, likely due to the ready availability of the color from copper mines. The use of the kurbit, or gourd, as decorative motifs for the harness and saddle come from the bible story of the plant which grew up around Jonah as he sat outside the city of Ninevah, and protected him from the sun’s devastating rays.
Whether you’re taking the highway through Minot, or stopping to visit in North Dakota, spending some time at the Scandinavian Heritage Center will be worth your visit!
If you go:
Visit Minot, North Dakota — www.minotnorthdakota.com/
Norsk Høstfest — www.hostfest.com/
Visit North Dakota — www.ndtourism.com/
Copyright 2007, Linda Aksomitis (Pub date – June 25, 2007). All Rights Reserved.