A crafty, bottomless love of Norway

Thor A. Larsen
Fishkill, N.Y.

Photo: Thor A. Larsen Tore Heskestad’s home

Photo: Thor A. Larsen
Tore Heskestad’s home

I met Tore about 15 years ago when he was wearing a bunad and playing Norwegian music with his Hardanger fiddle at a historical building in Fishkill, N.Y. Tore’s musical skills and his beautiful bunad were an incredible surprise here in Upstate New York, not known for many Norwegian Americans.

When my daughter was getting married, we hired Tore to come and play his Hardanger Fiddle, and his presence and talent provided a rich reminder of our daughter’s heritage to her friends and our American friends. Recently I learned that Tore not only loves Norwegian fiddle music but has an intense love for everything Norwegian. One can only appreciate this intense love by visiting his home in Carmel, N.Y., which I did recently.

Photo courtesy of Tore Heskestad Tore in his bunad in front of his stabbur)

Photo courtesy of Tore Heskestad
Tore in his bunad in front of his stabbur)

His home is a 3,500-square-foot imported Norwegian log home with a basement and two floors that sits on the top of a hill surrounded by six acres of trees. In addition, right next to their house is a charming stabbur!

When you approach on the narrow uphill road, you think you are in Setesdalen or Telemark! Tore purchased the unassembled log home in 1986 from Sande-Hytter in the form of a kit. Tore hired help to put in the foundation, plumbing, and electricity. Sande-Hytter provided two carpenters for two months to help assemble the house. Tore did considerable work on the insulation and customization of some rooms, as well as building a room-length balcony in the living room utilizing a style consistent with the Norwegian log home. The log design is based on lafting, notches not unlike the children’s Lincoln Logs. The heating system is electric, supplemented with a Jøtul wood stove.

The stabbur was designed and built by Tore, using half-logs as walls. The building has storage on the first level and a very charming man cave upstairs.

In addition to being a very skilled carpenter and wood craftsman, Tore is quite skilled in rosemaling. Walking through the home one sees a number of rosemaling items, some purchased and some made by Tore. He also had made a magnificent, rosemaling-decorated, Norwegian-style Hope Chest, which looks like it came from a museum. The artistic skills of Tore’s family are evident with the many oil paintings by his father, which decorate the walls of the home.

Photo: Thor A. Larsen Tore displays his rosemaling and painting collection.

Photo: Thor A. Larsen
Tore displays his rosemaling and painting collection.

The home also has many Norwegian antiques to further enhance the Norwegian flavor. These antiques were mostly found by Tore over the years at the very large, periodic Stormville flea market near his home. One item was even found in an antique shop in Buenos Aires. A lovely set of acanthus-carved, Norwegian dining chairs (advertised in the Norway Times) came from a home in New Jersey. Many artifacts were also found in Norway; Fretex (run by the Salvation Army), being one of his favorite sources. One of his favorite activities while visiting his brother, Kenneth, in Vigeland, is going antiquing with him for Norwegian treasures.

In addition to his interest in Norwegian buildings, crafts, and antiques, Tore is an excellent fiddler, often performing at various Norwegian functions on the East Coast.

Tore came from Norway as a six-year-old from Tvedestrand with his brother, sister, and parents in 1949, via Stavangerfjord. They lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and then Rockland County, N.Y., where Tore went to high school. Tore went to several colleges, including a year at Oslo University. Before completing college, Tore spent two years with the U.S. Army, including a year in Vietnam as a photographer. With BS and MS degrees in science, Tore started a career as a fifth-grade science teacher, which he held for 40 years.

Photo: Thor A. Larsen Tore’s decorated his  Norwegian-style living room for the holidays.

Photo: Thor A. Larsen
Tore’s decorated his
Norwegian-style living room for the holidays.

The teacher schedules provided Tore with time to work on his hobbies, which are all Norwegian themed. To strengthen his bond to Norway, Tore would spend quality time with family in Tvedestrand, as well as extensive travel between Svalbard and Lindesness, where he gained insight and ideas in building his stabbur and rosemaling designs.

There is no limit where Tore will head next on Norwegian crafts, culture, structures, and music. For example, he just showed me an accordion he plans to master to play Norwegian music. He is investigating the possibilities of putting turf on the roof of the stabbur as in Telemark. As far as Norwegian history, he traveled to the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, and more this last summer, in order to visit sights and remains of the Viking settlers! Tore has been pursuing the “Viking Trail” between Newfoundland and Russia for years and has no plans of stopping. One of his favorite sayings is “Do it while you can.”

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 30, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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