Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Vesterheim - Western Home

Erica here: Have you all recovered from the long weekend? Visits to cemeteries, honoring our military, spending time with family...check, check, check. :)

One of the things I got to do this past weekend was to visit Vesterheim in Decorah, IA. Vesterheim (which is Norwegian for Western Home) is the National Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage Center.

For the record, I am not of Norwegian heritage. I am Scots, English, and Native American. My husband has a tiny dash of Norwegian through one of his paternal great-grandmothers who was a Mickelson. 

I am, however, writing a story set in a Norwegian-American immigrant settlement in western Minnesota during the 1880's. Though this is a romance first and foremost, I wanted to sprinkle in authentic items and thoughts and words from the time period. So, since I'm blessed to live less than 75 miles from Vesterheim, I thought I'd take advantage of the chance to visit. I'm also blessed that my husband came along and took photos and kept me company.

Here are a few of the items we saw and some of the things we learned:

The front of the museum. The building began as a luxury hotel that closed fairly quickly after it was built due to the fact that the railroad came through but chose the opposite end of town for the depot. 

Amazing bird's eye on this chest. Bird's eye is a much sought after effect that happens to some white hard maple. When properly finished, it is really beautiful.

Typical Norwegian fireplace. Always in the corner, always wide open.

I couldn't help but think of all the little Norwegian babies to fall asleep in that crib.

Inside a rather affluent Norwegian home. Lots of space compared to a typical tenant farmer's home.

Beautiful detail on a sideboard.

A butter mold from 1801. The mold forms a square with a conical top (in the back of the photo) and when pressed, stamps the butter into a lovely block. 

My favorite piece of furniture. Made from butternut with mother-of-pearl inlays and china drawer pulls. The carving and color were exquisite.

Carved laundry mangles. Damp linen is rolled onto a cylinder, and the flat of the mangle is rubbed and rolled on the cylinder to flatten the creases. The carving was beautiful, and even more fun, I learned that the mangle was an acceptable courting gift from a young man to his sweetheart. 

Rosemaling. Such a beautiful art. The trunks were wedding gifts inscribed with the bride and groom's names and the year. This one is from 1839.

Rosemaling is so beautiful. I would love to learn to do this.

A bride's wedding crown. We saw one from the 1600s. but this one from the 1800s was my favorite.

Hardanger work. I would like to try this, too, but I don't know if I have the patience for it.

The Valdres House. This house was built in Norway in 1795, and was moved to Vesterheim from Norway in 1975. It boasts three rooms and a slate roof.

A stabbur, or storage shed. A stabbur was a status symbol. Used to store foodstuffs mostly, it showed that you were so wealthy, your cabin couldn't hold all your stuff. 

A Norwegian parochial school! So fascinating. I'll be blogging more about this in the future.

The Bethenia Lutheran Church originally located in rural Northwood, North Dakota. The church was moved to Vesterheim (on several large trucks and at great expense) in 1992. After two years of restoration, the church became part of the Open air Division of the museum in 1994.

The back altar, rail, and podium. 

A small grist mill from Norway. Inside are a pair of grinding stones brought from Norway by their owner because he had heard that there were no stones in America. 

1817 flat-top style trunk.

1821 rosemaled trunk. There were so many beautiful trunks! I wanted them all! 

Erica Vetsch:
Executive Assistant
Earl Grey Aficionado 
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