A hand in Norwegian-American history

Aslak Olsen Lie and his wife Marit (far right) in front of their Wisconsin home in 1874. Photo courtesy of Folklore Village.

Aslak Olsen Lie and his wife Marit (far right) in front of their Wisconsin home in 1874. Photo courtesy of Folklore Village.

Folklore Village’s restoration of Aslak Olsen Lie House in southern Wisconsin preserves Norwegian-American heritage

Special Release for the Norwegian American Weekly

Folklore Village

Folklore Village near Dodgeville, Wis., is a nationally recognized folk arts and culture center dedicated to enriching lives through time-honored traditions. Since its establishment in 1968, Folklore Village has built special connections with Norway and Norwegian traditional arts. Folklore Village has been the host site for the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America’s annual gathering for over a decade, and they also present their own Norwegian music and dance events each year.

Currently, Folklore Village is preserving an important piece of Norwegian-American heritage in Wisconsin: The Aslak Olsen Lie

House Restoration and Education project. Aslak Olsen Lie was born in Reinli in Valdres, Norway, in 1798. In 1848, he and his family immigrated to Wisconsin. Lie was a master craftsman, cabinetmaker and blacksmith in Valdres and then in the U.S. Lie is one of the few country immigrant craftsmen in the U.S. whose work has been documented, traced and exhibited on both sides of the Atlantic.

In addition to the significance of his artistry, Lie played an important role in aiding and encouraging immigration from Valdres

to Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest. He wrote articles for Norwegian newspapers, provided assistance to families when they

arrived in Wisconsin and directed them to other individuals and resources they would need to begin their new lives in Wisconsin

and the Upper Midwest.

The Aslak Olsen Lie House was built in southern Wisconsin in 1848 – 49, and is one of the oldest and most venerated Norwegian-American structures in Wisconsin. Since the mid-1960s, the Lie House has sat empty, untended and inaccessible to the public. By 2002, this 34-foot x 17-foot two-story log and timber frame home was in desperate need of relocation and extensive repairs if it was to survive.

The Aslak Lie house prior to dismantling for preservation. The damaged roof is covered with a protective white tarp. Photo courtesy of Folklore Village.

The Aslak Lie house prior to dismantling for preservation. The damaged roof is covered with a protective white tarp. Photo courtesy of Folklore Village.

To preserve and honor this unique piece of Norwegian-American and early-Wisconsin history, its owners donated this treasure

to Folklore Village in 2003. The Aslak Olsen Lie House has since been painstakingly documented, labeled, dismantled and all materials placed in protective storage. Expert craftsmen have now begun the painstaking process of cleaning and restoring each individual log and board. When the restoration is completed and the house is relocated to Folklore Village near Dodgeville,

Wis., Lie’s house will be visited by hundreds of people each year. The house will host exhibits, tours and workshops on

Norwegian culture and history.

At every step of the way, this project has been enthusiastically supported and encouraged by state, regional and national historians. They have been joined in their support by their counterparts in Norway. All agree that this is a one-of-a-kind building with a rich and multi-faceted story. It is also agreed that Lie’s Wisconsin home deserves the effort and expense it will take to restore and bring it back to life.

A thoroughly researched historical, architectural analysis, and restoration plan for the Lie House was researched and completed

in early 2009, thanks to a grant from the Jeffris Family Endowed Preservation Fund through the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Work is now underway and will continue as contributions are received. The cost of reconstructing and restoring the house is $146,000. Over $30,000 has been raised by private donors so far, and Folklore Village was recently approved for a $42,000 challenge grant. Folklore Village is reaching out to the Norwegian and Norwegian-American communities to help raise the remaining matching funds. For more information, visit www.folklorevillage.org/t2/liehouse or call (608) 924-4000.

What is your favorite place in North America that reminds you of Norway? We want to hear from you! Send us your article or story suggestion to: Norwegian American Weekly, 7301 5th Ave. NE, Ste. A, Seattle, WA 98115, or email naw@norway.com. Questions? Call us at (800) 305-0217.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 11, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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