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Bigler, Brian J.; Mudrey, Lynn Martinson / The Norway Building of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair : a building's journey from Norway to America : an architectural legacy

Preface,   pp. 4-5 PDF (671.4 KB)

Page 4

Little Norway has always been a part of my consciousness, it seems.
My parents took me there when I was a boy and the impression I came
away with was that it was an enchanted place. I can recall so many details
from that first visit, the secluded valley, the cozy cottages, the bed in which
Ole Bull slept, the meandering stream, the cold water of the spring, and,
of course, the Norway Building with all its treasure boxes and carved faces
of the Norwegian kings. Dad took slides of the visit, which no doubt rein-
forced my memory, and I was permitted to buy a souvenir in the gift shop
which thereafter stood on our knicknack shelf at home.
Now after some forty years and many visits later, Little Norway still
captures my imagination and I marvel at the beauty of Nissedahle (Little
Norway) and the lovely Norway pavilion in its perfect setting. I wonder
at the elegance of the concept which created this magical kingdom.
As an adult I have learned to appreciate more fully the buildings with
their furnishings as part of the material culture of the Norwegian-Ameri-
cans and am impressed, naturally, at its being the largest Norwegian-Amer-
ican collection in private hands. The lovely objects clearly were gathered
with appreciation for their history and intrinsic beauty. What fun Isak
Dahle must have had in recognizing the worth of these things and buying
them for his dream home. What pleasure he must have felt when he
acquired the Norway Pavilion as the jewel of Nissedahle.
Several years ago the Chicago History Committee of the Norwegian-
American Historical Association was formed to collect material about the
Norwegian Colony in Chicago. Through my work as chairman I quickly
learned that the members of the Chicago Colony took pride in Little
Norway and especially the Norway Building from the 1893 Columbian
Exposition. They were immensely satisfied that the "Norwegian stave
church" from the Chicago Fair was being preserved at Mt. Horeb. Soon I
found that Little Norway's founder, Isak Dahle, had been a member of the
Chicago Norske Klub, and he had used his contacts in Chicago to enrich
the collections at Little Norway. For example, the work of some of
Chicago's best-known Norwegian artists, Christian Abrahamsen, Emil
Bjorn, and Ben Blessum, found their way into his collection. Abrahamsen
was commissioned to do a portrait of Isak's mother Anne; a set of charm-
ing watercolors of elves (nisse) by Bjorn came to hang in the Norway
4      PREFACE

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