Friday, October 7, 2011

Little Norway's Stave Church

Borgund Stave Church, Norway, 1900s postcard

This is the Borgund Stave church in Lærdal, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. Using Bergen as a reference point the church is located in the county or fylke just north of Bergen. The original church was built between 1180 and 1250 AD and has had additions and restorations since that time. A new church was built in 1868 and the one shown here is no longer used as a church but was purchased for preservation as a Norwegian ancient monument. Borgund Stave church served as a model for the Stave church constructed by M. Thams & Co in 1892/1893 for The Columbian Exposition or World’s Fair held in Chicago, Illinois, 1893. It was made in Norway, taken apart and shipped to the United States where it was put back together as an exhibition. After the Fair it was dismantled and reconstructed for a private estate in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and still later it was taken apart one more time and rebuilt at what is now Little Norway near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. Another reconstructed Stave church in the United States patterned after the Borgund church can be found in Rapid City, South Dakota.

We were fortunate enough to visit Little Norway two or three different times when our older son was attending graduate school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Madison is only about 20 miles away from Mt. Horeb. When we were there we took a few pictures that I thought I would share. Little Norway today is much like the open-air museums in Norway. The docents or guides dress in tradition Norwegian costumes and the gift shop offers many handcrafted items made by local artists of Scandinavian descent.
Below is an example of one of the handcrafted items, a wooden plate with Rosemaling by local artist Patty Tofsland.

Rosemaling on wooden plate, 8" diameter

Little Norway was originally a real farm homesteaded by Osten and Birgit Haugen who arrived from Telemark, Norway in 1865. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places and worth the effort to visit should you find yourself in southwestern Wisconsin. Like many immigrants settling in the prairie states the Haugens first lived in a dug out cave in the hillside until they could build the house.

Small wooden building, possibly pump house at Little Norway, Wisconsin

This is one of several smaller structures at Little Norway. One is called the water pump house but I am not sure if this is that one. You can see the roof-lines of other buildings on both the left and right sides of the photo.

The Stave Church at Little Norway.

The replicated church building is not used as a church but is part of the open-air museum. There are a few artifacts displayed inside.

Close up of the carvings around the door of the church.

Close up of the front of the church.

Here is another view of the church at Little Norway as seen through the trees from a distance.

Informational marker about the Stave church at Little Norway, Wisconsin

For more information about Little Norway check out
Information about Stave churches in general can be found at and about Borgund Stave church at http://



When Little Norway in Wisconsin was closed, the Stave Church was dismantled in 2016 and shipped back to Norway where it was reassembled and can now be found in the community of Orkdal, Trondelag, Norway.  This was the fourth time the church was taken apart and put back together; first when it was shipped from Norway to Chicago for the World's Fair in 1893, then from Chicago to a private estate in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, then to Mt. Horeb's Little Norway in Wisconsin, and now back to Norway.

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