A night in a Norwegian stabbur
Pennsylvania’s Inn at Solvang provides Americans a rare opportunity to stay in a stabbur
Christine Foster Meloni
Sleeping in a Norwegian stabbur was definitely not on my bucket list, but when I heard about one in central Pennsylvania where I could spend the night, I immediately decided it was something I had to do.
My friend Marie agreed that it would be a great adventure and so we set out together from Washington, D.C., on the morning of May 17 for Huntingdon, Penn.
Dr. J.J. Henry and his wife Jane are the current owners of Solvang, which consists of the Inn at Solvang with its five guest rooms, the shed (formerly a garage for a tractor) with its impressive collection of Norwegian artifacts, and the stabbur.
When we arrived, we were warmly greeted by Stephanie Fisher, the innkeeper, who immediately took us to the stabbur, which we would have completely to ourselves. We learned that the model for its design was a 17th-century stabbur from Telemark, now located in the Folk Museum at Bygdøy in Oslo. The wood for its construction was harvested from trees on Solvang’s own property.
Upon entering the stabbur, we saw at our feet a mat with the words “Velkommen til vårt hjem” (Welcome to our home). These welcoming words in Norwegian set the tone. We then stepped into a cozy room with polished blond log walls. There were two comfortable chairs, a table, and Norwegian-themed art on the walls. An unexpected element was a sauna. Another surprise was a Japanese toilet-bidet combination in the bathroom. Stabburs in Norway had neither saunas nor Japanese toilets, of course, but these were comfortable additions for guests.
We then went upstairs to the sleeping quarters. We found two beds that were actually alcoves in the wall, reminiscent of Old Norse architecture. These beds had curtains that could be drawn to offer guests more privacy and an even greater feeling of coziness. As is the custom in Norway, the beds did not have top sheets, only fitted bottom sheets. But with wonderfully warm duvets to cover you, who needs a chilly top sheet?
We spotted a small model of a stabbur that had been assembled from a kit purchased by Dr. Henry in Norway in the 1950s. Although it was not a model of the stabbur we were in, it was similar and we found it helpful to study its structure.
While visiting the famous Frogner Park in Oslo, Dr. Henry had been struck by the design of the park’s main gate that consisted of five individual gates forged of granite and wrought iron. He took many photos. Upon returning to the States, he sent one of them to a wrought iron craftsman based in Norge, Virginia, who created a similar work now found in one of the windows on this upper level.
An embroidery of the Norsk Våpen (Coat of Arms) was hanging on one of the walls. Several other lovely textiles were hanging above the stairwell, although they were not Norwegian.
After sleeping soundly in our Norwegian beds, we got up the next morning and went over to the main house for breakfast. When all of the rooms in the main house are occupied, guests in the stabbur are given the ingredients for making their own breakfast in the stabbur’s kitchenette. We had chosen a rainy weekday in the spring when there was space, so we were invited to have breakfast in the beautiful dining room of the main house.
We had a typical multi-course breakfast.If we had stayed an entire week, we would have been served an entirely different menu every day with different china each day.
Marie and I were content to spend all of our time at Solvang, but there are many possibilities for interesting outings in the area. Guests often tour the local Amish community, visit historical sites, enjoy the Raystown Lake activities (hiking, biking, boating, etc.), and tour Penn State or Juniata Colleges.
Sleeping in a stabbur in central Pennsylvania was indeed a unique experience. Marie and I enjoyed our stay very much and would definitely recommend it, especially to anyone with an interest in Norway. The kind hospitality of the owners and the innkeeper was exceptional. If you are interested in visiting Solvang, go to the website at www.solvang.com or call (888) 814-3035.
Dr. Henry is a very interesting man with a passion for Norway. An article will appear in a future issue of The Norwegian American that will focus on his ancestral connection to Norway and his incredible collection of Norwegian artifacts.
This article originally appeared in the June 17, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.