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Wisconsin

Cultural Heritage: Scandinavian Heritage

Immigrants from Norway and other Scandinavian countries came to Wisconsin in the mid- to late-1800s and left a legacy almost as prevalent as that of the Germans. In fact, traces of Scandinavian heritage, including the Norwegian tradition of lutefisk dinners, are ubiquitous across Wisconsin.

Two of the most prominent examples of Scandinavian heritage can be found in the Dane County villages of Mount Horeb and Blue Mound. Located west of Madison, Mount Horeb is distinguished by the many life-sized troll carvings that stand along its main street. Nearby, Blue Mound features Little Norway (608/437-8211), a restored immigrant homestead that now houses a collection of Norse antiques, troll carvings and the "Norway Building" that was part of the Chicago Columbian exposition of 1893. Southeast of Madison, the town of Stoughton hosts a Syttende Mai (Norwegian Independence) celebration that has been held every spring since 1868. Syttende Mai festivals are also celebrated in several other Wisconsin communities with significant Norwegian populations, including the village of Westby, located in Vernon County near the state's western border. Also nearby is Coon Valley, home to the Norskedalen homestead and historical complex, Thrune Visitor Center and the Skumsrud Heritage Farm.

In the far northern Wisconsin town of Hurley, visitors find a memorial to the Finnish immigrants who came to work the mines of the Penokee Range. The National Finnish American Cultural Center, known as "Little Finland," features unique Finnish "fish tail" construction. Visitors can also see Harma House, a traditional Finnish homestead. In Door County, Scandinavian structures include the Bjorklunden chapel near Bailey's Harbor; Rock Island's Thordarson Boat House, which was constructed using island limestone and houses a great Viking Hall; and Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, a log structure that often sports goats on its grass roof.

Door County's popular "fish boils" are another Scandinavian legacy. Prepared in large kettles over an open fire, fish-boil dinners consisting of whitefish, potatoes and onions are offered at restaurants throughout the county.

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Document Information
Source: WI Dep. of Tourism
Last modified: 20070516
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