Final chapter in saga of traveling church

Norwegians who saved Illinois’s stave church travel to Chicago for plaque dedication

Project Heimatt

Photo: Arne Asphjell
Arne Asphjell and Lars Sølberg, leaders of Project Heimatt, traveled from Orkdal, Norway, to attend the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the building they rebuilt in Norway.

Jon Satrum
Trønderlag of America

Norwegians from Orkdal, Norway, traveled to Chicago for the dedication of an Illinois State Historical Society commemorative plaque placed at the original 1893 location of a replica medieval wooden Christian church building. The plaque describes the building’s role at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the building’s journey there from Norway in 1893, and its return to Norway in 2016. At the exposition it was referred to as “The Norway Building.”

“It’s been a long journey for the church building,” said Arne Asphjell, tour director, and one of the leaders of Project Heimatt, which brought the church back to Norway. “The replica church was built in Orkdal, Norway, transported to Chicago and erected for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. After the exposition, the church building was in more than one location including ‘Little Norway’ in Blue Mounds, Wis. In 2016, preservationists came from Norway to disassemble and transport the building back to Orkdal, its original home. After 10,000 hours of labor, it was reassembled and dedicated in 2017. Now we return again to honor the church’s original American location.”

Attending and greeting the group were representatives of local Norwegian-American organizations, including the Honorary Norwegian Consulate of Chicago, the Norwegian National League of Chicago, Trønderlag of America, Sons of Norway lodges, Leikaringen Heimhug, and the Norsk Museum in Norway, Ill. Representatives of the Illinois State Historical Society attended, and greetings were from sent the office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Russell Lewis, chief historian at the Chicago History Museum and Executive Committee and Governing Board member of the Illinois State Historical Society, spoke to the group about the importance of preserving history and the importance of historical markers, and thanked the group for its efforts in preserving part of Illinois history.

About the stavkirke (wooden church)

A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building. The name comes from the construction of the building with load-bearing posts of the church (stav in modern Norwegian) made of cured pine wood. Most stave churches were built between 1150 and 1350. Once there were more than 1,000 stave churches in Norway, but today there are only 28. They are a great source of pride for the Norwegian people.

Learn more

Those wishing to learn more about the dedication and view selected photos should visit To learn more about the church and its journey, multiple news organizations have written about the return of the Norway Building to Orkdal, Norway, with stories, pictures and videos and can be found with Internet search patterns such as “columbian exposition 1893 stave church.”

The Norwegian American’s coverage includes “Project Heimatt: The Norway Building returns home,” published on Jan. 15, 2016 ( and “Little Norway back in big Norway,” published on Dec. 1, 2017 (

This article originally appeared in the September 7, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.