THE OPEN AIR MUSEUM

The open air museum illustrates the life led by Norwegian emigrants to the American Midwest at the turn of the 20th century.

The museum has chosen this particular time and place because this era saw the greatest number of emigrants leave Norway, and over 90% of them went to the American Midwest. Taken together the buildings represent the first “generation” of houses and barns put up by Norwegian emigrants in this area.

THE KINDRED HOUSE

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  • This house was built in 1873 or 1874 by the Norwegian-American community in Norman, Dakota Territory, for pastor Johannes Hellestvedt. Between 1873 and 1876, it served the community as a parsonage, church, schoolhouse, town hall, and post office. Later, the house was taken over by the Steingrim Perhus family from Hallingdal, Norway. Before being moved to The Emigrant Museum in 1955, the house had also served as a pioneer museum and Sons of Norway Lodge meeting house.

THE GUNDERSON CABIN

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  • Knut Gunderson emigrated to America in 1882. He married Maria Ramstad in 1888 and they moved into his small log cabin. They eventually had 11 children of whom 9 lived to adulthood. The family lived in this house until 1894. The cabin was then used as a granary until 1909 and after that as a summer kitchen until 1937.

THE LINDAHL “KORNKRYBBA”

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  • “Kornkrybba” is the Norwegian‑American word for a corncrib. This one comes from the Coon Valley area in Wisconsin. The “kornkrybba” was a common building on a Norwegian farm in America. It is however most unusual when compared to building traditions in the old country.

THE BJØRGO GRANARY

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  • The granary was built by Sjur L. Bjørgo in the 1870s. He emigrated to America with his wife Ingeborg in 1866. After some time in Wisconsin, he settled in Iowa where he farmed from 1873 until 1923.

THE SAQUITNE BARN

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  • The barn was built in Highlandville, Iowa, by Snåre Larsson Såkvitne, who left Granvin, Norway in 1856. The barn is of oak timber over a limestone cellar, with a framework addition. At various times it was used to keep hay, cows, pigs, and even chickens.

THE NORWEGIAN EMIGRATION MEMORIAL CHURCH (THE OAK RIDGE CHURCH)

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  • The Norwegian Emigration Memorial Church (The Oak Ridge Church) was built by the Norwegian Ole Haraldsen in 1896 on a ridge outside Houston, Minneso­ta, about 20 miles west of the Mississippi River and some 15 miles north of Iowa. The original congregation consisted of eight families. The church was in use from 1896 to 1967, and during its heyday in the 1920’s, had some 75 members. The congregation dissolved in 1967 but the graveyard is still maintained. The church was dismantled and shipped to Norway in 1994, and rebuilt at the museum between 1998 and 2002. It was re-dedicated as "The Norwegian Emigration Memorial church" on August 11, 2002.

THE BJØRGO-INGVALSON HOUSE

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  • The Bjørgo-Ingvalson house was build by Iver Takle in 1902 for the Ingvalson family. In 1916 the Bjørgo family moved in, first Elias Bjorgo, and thereafter his son Lloyd. The house was in use until 1977. It was donated to the museum and moved to Norway in 2002. Rebuilding began in 2016 and will be finished in 2019. Ingvalson's Cafe is located in the basement of this house, facing the Ottestad Walkway. 

THE LEET-CHRISTOPHER SCHOOL

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  • The Leet-Christopher school was built in 1883 by the community of Letcher, South Dakota. The building was used as a school until 1968, when an earlier pupil, Richard Christopher, moved it to his farm. Forty years later he donated it to the museum. It was rebuilt in 2014-2015.