Seattle Norwegians open time capsule of historical treasures

Norwegians open a time capsule buried almost 60 years ago in the former Mountaineers lodge

By Nancy Bartley – Seattle Times 

The capsule included many newspapers, including The Seattle Daily Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Washington Posten, a Norwegian newspaper. PHOTO: COURTNEY BLETHEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

The capsule included many newspapers, including The Seattle Daily Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Washington Posten, a Norwegian newspaper.

Nearly 60 years ago, Seattle Norwegians tucked treasures in a steel box, welded it shut and buried it behind the cornerstone of what would become the Norway Center and later the headquarters of The Mountaineers club.

Sunday, that box was opened, revealing a plethora of newspapers and historic documents.

As Doug Dixon, a member of the Sons of Norway, Leif Erikson Lodge, with good-natured groans hammered at the box with a chisel, the lid gave way revealing Dec. 29, 1950, copies of what was then known as The Seattle Daily Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Washington Posten Norwegian newspaper; newsletters from Valkyrien Lodge Daughters of Norway; and documents related to the founding of the Leif Erikson Lodge, the Norwegian Men’s Chorus and others.

“It’s fabulous,” says Luci Baker Johnson, a Leif Erikson member and historian. “This kind of historical documentation you just don’t get very often. Original documents, put together in a group. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Trygve Bjorndal, 78, thought the time capsule might have contained another treasured item: a bottle of Aquavit, a Scandinavian liquor.

The time capsule was recently found when the former Mountaineers building at Third Avenue West was demolished. The capsule was given to the Leif Erikson Lodge. Members waited until Sunday, June 7 — the day Norway declared its independence from Sweden — for the opening.

Norway Center was the replacement for Norway Hall, a building on Boren Avenue that is now designated as a historic landmark and houses the Cornish College of the Arts. Norway Hall had become too small to house all the Norwegian activities of the thriving community. “I came here in 1954, and they still referred to it as the new Norway Center,” says Kari Knudsen, 82. “People came to dance, to waltz.”

Many met their future husbands or wives there and took comfort in being among other immigrants who shared the common language and culture.

And while the hall is now gone, the time capsule unleashed the memories of Norwegian actors and actresses and even King Olav. All once were part of life detailed in the pages of the newspapers, the rosters, the documents carefully tucked away for the future.

You may also like...