Leif Erikson in your backyard
In honor of Oct. 9, Leif Erikson day, go visit a monument near you!
When evidence of Leif Erikson’s achievement as the first European to reach the shores of North America was discovered in the mid-1800s, memorials, statues and busts were established across North America, and here are our favorites!
Los Angeles, California
This tribute to the Norse explorer at Griffith Park features a larger-than-life bronze bust of a young looking Leif Erikson mounted on a granite column about seven feet in height. It was presented to the city in October 1936 as a gift of the Nordic Civic League, one of the many Scandinavian organizations active in Southern California at the time.
Humboldt Park’s Leif Erikson statue was established by the Norwegian community of Chicago’s Northwest side in 1901. Nicolay Grevstad explained in Skandinaven of Chicago that the Columbian Exposition of 1892-1893 had inspired the idea of the monument. In fact, a committee was formed for the purpose at that time. Sculpted by Sigvald Asbjornsen (Oslo 1897 – Skokie, Ill., 1954), a Norwegian-born American artist.
The bronze statue by Ann Whitney of Leif Erikson on Commonwealth Ave. is “a man of physical beauty and vigor, in the costume of the ancient Scandinavian warrior,” on a large marble pedestal, with on the sides two bronze relief. The statue was made in 1886 and unveiled Oct. 29, 1887.
The tower at Norumbega Rd. on the banks of Charles River has a huge tablet that tells Horsford’s theory of Norumbega. Prof. Eben Norton Horsford, amateur archeologist, was convinced that in 1000, Leif Erikson sailed up the Charles and built his house in what is now Cambridge, Mass. Horsford did a little digging (literally) and found some buried artifacts that he claimed were Norse. On the spot he built the memorial. A few miles upstream, at the mouth of Stony Brook (which separates the towns of Waltham and Weston), he had this tower built marking the supposed location of a Viking fort and city.His work received little support from mainstream historians and archeologists at the time, and even less today.
The monument in Duluth was made by John Karl Daniels in 1956, and sponsored by the Norwegian League in 1956. The statue is located at Leif Erikson Park, 12th Ave. E and London Rd.
St. Paul, Minnesota
The 13-foot bronze figure outside of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. depicts Leif Erikson, who many consider to be the first European to reach North America back in 1000. The statue was dedicated on Leif Erikson Day, Oct. 9, 1949.
New Rochelle, New York
At the entrance of Hudson Park (located at Hudson Park Rd. and Pelham Rd.) next to a statue of Christopher Columbus, a large boulder with a bronze plaque reads: “In honor of Leif Eiricsson, the Norwegian Viking who discovered American in the year 1000. Erected by the Midnattsolen Lodge #263 Sons and Daughters of Norway, Oct. 9, 1932.”
Brooklyn, New York
Leif Ericson Park and Square in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, N.Y. is a 16-acre public park that is a popular gathering place for the Nordic-American community in New York.It is located between 66th and 67th Streets stretching from Fourth Ave. to Fort Hamilton Parkway. A playground named for the explorer opened in 1936 on an adjacent parcel of land. “Leif Ericson Drive” was renamed in 1969 by the City Council to acknowledge the large Scandinavian population in Bay Ridge.
Minot, North Dakota
On US-83 south of town, Minot’s newest attraction, Scandinavian Heritage Park, features a 230-year-old house from Sigdal, Norway; a Danish windmill; a statue and eternal flame honoring famous Scandinavian skiers like Casper Oimoen and Sondre Norheim; and a statue of that famous Viking wanderer, Leif Erikson.
The head-only bronze casting was made by the Riverdog Foundry in Seattle, Wash., based on the world-famous statue by sculptor August Werner in 2001. “We wanted someplace on the water that would represent the entire lifestyle of Viking explorers who braved incredible conditions in unbelievable boats,” said Emilie Knud-Hansen, organizer of the Leif Ericson Millennium Committee of America’s North Coast.
Newport News, Virginia
The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Va. features a Leif Erikson statue, designed by Alexander Stirling Calder (American sculptor, 1870-1945) circa 1938.
In 1962, a 16-foot Leif Erikson statue by August Werner was erected at Shilshole Bay in Ballard, Seattle, Wash. The statue was moved to a new base in 2007, and surrounded by rune stones bearing the names of Scandinavian immigrants.
The statue at Juneau Park in Milwaukee is identical to the statue by Ann Whitney, made in 1887. The statue, which has stood at the lakefront for 114 years, was an effort of the Sons of Norway Fosselyngen Lodge and the city of Milwaukee.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 7, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.