Experience the magic of Little Norway near Blue Mounds, Wis.
By Christy Olsen Field
In the search for a piece of Norway in America, Little Norway of Blue Mounds, Wis., offers visitors a peek into the old world. Located just 20 miles west of Madison, Wis., Little Norway is on the National Register of Historic Places, and over 2 million people have visited the place in its 75 years of existence.
On April 20, owner Scott Winner announced that the 2012 will be the final season for Little Norway.
“It’s been a labor of love for our family, and we feel extremely lucky to keep it going,” said Winner.
Little Norway was founded by Isak J. Dahle in 1927. As a prominent Chicago business man, Dahle purchased the property near Blue Mounds, Wis., to use as a gathering place for his family. After furnishing the buildings with Norwegian antiques, Dahle decided to open it up to the public in 1937. Little Norway is now in its fourth generation of family ownership.
Today, Scott Winner, grand-nephew of Dahle, owns and operates Little Norway with his wife Jennifer and their children Haley and Asher.
“Over the past few years, we have fixed the buildings and put out a lot of advertising to market Little Norway,” said Winner. “I have been here for 30 years, and it looks as good as I have ever seen it.”
Little Norway features eight authentic and lovingly restored Norwegian homestead buildings on the grounds. The most noteworthy is the Norway Building, which is modeled after a 12th century stavkirke (wooden stave church). It was originally built in Trondheim, Norway, and transported to the U.S. for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Ill., in 1893. It was relocated to Wisconsin in 1935, and holds a treasure trove of Norwegian artifacts, including the original manuscript of a composition by legendary Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. In addition to the Norway Building, Little Norway has a stabbur (food storehouse), sod-roofed cabin, a stue (family home) and more. Each building is tastefully decorated with Norwegian antiques – the largest private collection outside of Norway.
Little Norway has been a Scandinavian attraction in the Midwest, and the historical place has hosted several prominent visitors from Norway. His Majesty King Harald visited Little Norway in 1965 when he was the Crown Prince, and two Prime Ministers have visited Little Norway. Winner has visited Norway several times for tours of some of Norway’s best museums. The strong connection of Little Norway to Norway and the Norwegian-American community has brought visitors from all over North America and the world to see the special collection of Norwegian artifacts.
“I’m proud that we’ve been able to keep it in the family,” says Winner. “From my great-uncle to my grandparents to my parents, Little Norway has been a labor of love for us for more than 80 years.”
Winner’s decision to close Little Norway was supported by his family, but came as a shock to the local community.
“People assumed Little Norway is protected because it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s not,” said Winner. “It’s privately owned by our family, not a foundation or non-profit. The cost of upkeep is expensive.”
Starting out with mowing lawns and now the owner, Winner has invested 30 years of time, energy and money to keep Little Norway open to the public. The impending closure has inspired Winner and the employees to celebrate Little Norway’s rich history and significance in its final season.
Little Norway is now open for the season, and will close Oct. 29.
“I want people to realize that we hope this isn’t the last chapter for Little Norway,” said Winner. “We have such a wonderful collection and fabulous history, and we want to see Little Norway start its next chapter.”
Little Norway is located in Blue Mounds, Wis., about 20 miles west of Madison. Opening hours are as follows:
May – June: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
July – August: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
September – October: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
For more information, call (608) 437-8211, email email@example.com, or visit www.littlenorway.com. Tickets can be purchased through the website.
This article originally appeared in the May 4, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.