Saving a piece of history, a labor of LOV

Third District Sons of Norway fights to save their beloved retreat, Land of the Vikings

Photo courtesy of Mary Andersen The crown jewel of Land of the Vikings is the impressive Viking Ship Bar, crafted by Bjarne Livolden based on the famous Oseberg viking ship in Oslo.

Photo courtesy of Mary Andersen
The crown jewel of Land of the Vikings is the impressive Viking Ship Bar, crafted by Bjarne Livolden based on the famous Oseberg viking ship in Oslo.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

LOV, aka Land of the Vikings, is a country retreat near Sherman, Penn., and Deposit, N.Y. It was purchased by Third District Sons of Norway members in 1978. It is a wonderful place in all seasons. In summer it offers a camp for children, with Nordic traditions and a bucolic place to get away from it all. In winter snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are offered, and it has also served as a Ski for Light retreat. LOV also has the most stunning bar, a hand-carved Viking ship. It has served Sons of Norway members and locals well for almost 35 years.

However, by 2013 time had taken its toll and LOV was out of money. Teetering on the brink of closure, huge debates ensued about whether or not to sell it. But enough tenacious Norwegians rallied to save this beloved place and their wishes won the day. The decision was made to try to return LOV to its former luster.

One couple that has been the driving force behind SAVE LOV is Barbara Berntsen and her husband, Roy Berntsen, who serves as LOV’s Board Chair. I asked Barbara why it was important to save LOV. Her response: “This is a place that is very Nordic. We hold Youth Camp for two weeks during the summer where the campers, aged eight to 15, every morning take Norwegian language lessons, learn to do woodcarving or woodcrafting, bake lefse, canoe, learn archery, hike, and all sorts of other things.

The place has a homey atmosphere. It is decorated with rosemaled valences, as well as many paintings and needlework pieces from Norway. All were donated. It is one of the most relaxing places nestled at the end of a road. We have a family atmosphere, a place where you can bring your children and not worry about locking any doors. It becomes a gathering place where you can meet many people across the district (from Maine to Florida); many become friends you keep forever.”

Photo courtesy of Mary Andersen Another view of the Viking Ship Bar.

Photo courtesy of Mary Andersen
Another view of the Viking Ship Bar.

After a resolution was passed to keep LOV going, the hard work began. An appeal letter was sent. Approximately $26,500 was raised between lodges and individuals, which covered existing expenses plus. They also leased land to a gas company, which allowed them to pay off a lot of back taxes, insurance, and other expenses, as well as purchase new water heaters. But, no good deed goes unpunished.

A decision was made to shut down the LOV building while they tried to stabilize its finances. Precautions were taken to protect the pipes, however they still burst due to the extreme cold weather conditions. So it was decided to replace the plumbing system, which will make it much more effective, but also more costly.

How to raise these badly needed additional funds? Host a Chinese Auction. This past April, that is what the Zone One Sons of Norway did. It was a great success in terms of the number of participants who came to support LOV and the funds raised. The latter were earmarked to get LOV up and running in time for this summer’s Youth Camp.

Bob Carlsen who has a long connection to LOV, chairing weekend parties for over a decade, is “extremely ecstatic” about the decision to keep LOV open. “With all the rumors that I heard, I wasn’t sure if it was going to exist. So, I was very glad to hear that due to SON members and some of the lodges donating finances, time, and effort that LOV will continue.”

And now for a public service announcement, a plug for LOV from Barbara Berntsen: “Land of the Vikings is 152 acres of beautiful landscape with a pond and wildlife. It is surrounded by a Pennsylvania State forest. We are on the border of Pennsylvania and New York and host both weeks of hunting. It is known as the best trout fishing area on the east coast. We have 28 rooms for our guests, all with a Nordic flair. We have hosted weddings, anniversaries, a family getaway, camp, New Year’s Eve parties, lodge gatherings, and many more activities. We offer five meals for our guests from Friday night dinner to Sunday morning brunch, with snacks and coffee all day.

“Before the closure we hosted the East Coast Ski for Light weeks. These are weeks where a visually impaired person pairs with a sighted person and they learn to cross-country ski. In the summer it is Sports for Health, where an impaired person pairs with another person and they learn to tandem bike ride, canoe, take nature walks, and all sorts of sports activities. We are the end of the snowmobile trail and a quick five minutes’ drive to the Delaware River for trout fishing. You can warm up as you sit by the round fireplace. Our shining glory is the Viking Ship Bar made by a member, Bjarne Livolden, who designed the ship and carved the head and tail of the dragon. The ship is made to the specs of a real Viking ship and those who sit on the rosemaled chairs are in awe of the creation while they enjoy a beverage of their choice.”

How can you help? Support the Save Our LOV Drive at And of course visit and share LOV with your children and grandchildren. There is much to enjoy.

This article originally appeared in the June 5, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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