Sad End for Chicago's Viking Ship?
Posted on: 2007-04-15 14:57:48
Far from Valhalla, fading Viking ship needs a rich berserker
By Burt Constable
Daily Herald Editorial Columnist
If this were 793 A.D., a band of plundering berserkers would storm into suburbia, reclaim their deteriorating Viking ship and restore it to award-winning seaworthiness in less time than a valkyrie takes to escort a fallen warrior to Valhalla for a boar-and-mead feast with Odin.
(For all you readers not versed in Old Norse mythology, that’s pretty speedy.)
But in our 21st-century world, the suburbs’ lone Viking longboat has the dubious distinction of being stuck on a preservation group’s list of most-endangered landmarks in Illinois.
“We’re hoping that brings some attention,” says Lorraine Straw, president of the Norwegian National League, a volunteer group that has been working to find a worthy museum home for the ship. “Over the last 35 years or so, there have been attempts to preserve it. But nobody seems to want it. It’s an abandoned child.”
Since 1996, the historic ship has been sitting on a trailer under a canopy in Geneva’s Good Templar Park.
Built in 1892 at Framnes Shipyard in Sandefjord, Norway, the boat is a replica of the Gokstad — an ancient Viking longboat excavated in 1880 beneath a burial mound in Norway. Under the command of Capt. Magnus Andersen, the Gokstad replica sailed from Norway to Chicago for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, where it was quite the hit.
Nicknamed simply the “Viking,” the ship became the property of Chicago’s Norwegian Women’s Club and then the Chicago Park District. It bounced around a bit, was on display at Lincoln Park Zoo for years, and then got pushed to a temporary home in Geneva.