Project Heimatt: The Norway Building returns home

Photo: Arne Asphjell The “takrytter,” or “roof rider,” coming down.

Photo: Arne Asphjell
The “takrytter,” or “roof rider,” coming down.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

Over 122 years after its construction, the Norway Building has returned to its birthplace in Orkdal, Norway.

The residents of the Orkdal municipality initiated this homecoming on November 10, 2014, when they established Project Heimatt with the intention of bringing the stave church from Little Norway in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, back to the city of Orkanger.

Photo: Arne Asphjell The Kings are ready to be shipped to Norway. But a crucial question remains: Who were the models for these heads? The team suspects the woodworker used “orkdalinger” as inspiration for this type of art, so perhaps they’ll find living likenesses in Norway.

Photo: Arne Asphjell
The Kings are ready to be shipped to Norway. But a crucial question remains: Who were the models for these heads? The team suspects the woodworker used “orkdalinger” as inspiration for this type of art, so perhaps they’ll find living likenesses in Norway.

In the following months, the Project Heimatt team reached out to Little Norway owner Scott Winner, experienced a strong emotional connection when they visited the building, and returned home to present their proposal to their community. On July 23, the ownership officially transferred from Scott and Jennifer Winner to the Orkdal kommune, and the hard work began.

The experience was bittersweet for the Winners as they said their goodbyes to the building that their family had preserved for eight decades, but they were happy to know that it would be returning home. “If it can’t be here, what a wonderful thing to have it go back to Norway,” said Winner.

Photo: Arne Asphjell Friendships across the Atlantic: Oddmund Stenset, Scott Winner, and Ansgar Selstoe celebrate successfully packing up the building. It’s a bittersweet moment for the Americans, but all are pleased that the church will have a loving new home.

Photo: Arne Asphjell
Friendships across the Atlantic: Oddmund Stenset, Scott Winner, and Ansgar Selstoe celebrate successfully packing up the building. It’s a bittersweet moment for the Americans, but all are pleased that the church will have a loving new home.

On Sept. 6, they hosted an emotional farewell party for the Norway Building. The following day, deconstruction began for the fourth time in the building’s history.

The dismantling started with the shingles and wall elements, and the iconic tower came down on Sept. 15. “By taking away the tower, the building in a sense lost its pride. But be comforted, the building will be back in full bloom soon, on another continent, in Norway, in Orkdal,” they wrote on their Facebook page.

Extra care was taken with the portal, one of the final sections to be removed. This intricate arch is so significant because it was carved by Peder Hvaale, the grandfather of two of the Norwegians involved in the project, Olav Sigurd Kvaale and Sigrid Stenset, and one of the major motivations for Project Heimatt.

Photo: Arne Asphjell Sigrid Stenset and Olav Sigurd Kvaale are touched by the fact that they are now bringing their grandfather’s woodcarvings back to Orkdal.

Photo: Arne Asphjell
Sigrid Stenset and Olav Sigurd Kvaale are touched by the fact that they are now bringing their grandfather’s woodcarvings back to Orkdal.

“When I found out that Scott had struck an agreement with you guys to come and take the building back home, that seemed like a really good idea, because I figured there’s no other place in the world better qualified to do it,” said local Paul Underwood, who helped with the deconstruction, in a video clip titled “Paul in the Portal.” “Take good care of it. Put it back up again, where it belongs, and let it have another life.”

Once all of the pieces were packed up in three 40-foot containers, they were sent to Chicago for fumigation and then departed for Norway. Greeted by champagne, Norwegian flags, and Orkdal mayor Oddbjørn Bang, the dismantled stave church arrived safely at Orkanger Harbor on Nov. 3. Ten days later, the containers were emptied and stored safely in a storage facility.

Photo: Arne Asphjell The Little Norway roadside sign had to be cut apart to fit in the container. An older Little Norway sign also went along with the building to Norway.

Photo: Arne Asphjell
The Little Norway roadside sign had to be cut apart to fit in the container. An older Little Norway sign also went along with the building to Norway.

After some festive celebration at the Knyken Ski Arena, the Project Heimatt team got back to work, this time raising money for the reconstruction.

During the last weekend of November, they raised 130,000 kroner at the local fair, Orkdalsmessa, through the sale of artworks by well-known Trøndelag artists, roof tiles from the building, and centennial booklets for “The People’s Million” that include a share in the building. They also had a bit of fun searching for lookalikes of the king’s and queen’s heads, which they suspect were modeled off of Orkdal locals back when it is was built.

The Project Heimatt team will continue to raise money, with the goal of having the Norway Building reconstructed in time for the June 2017 Orkanger Days.

To follow Project Heimatt’s progress, visit www.projectheimatt.org or their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/projectheimatt.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 15, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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