The Hjemkomst, meaning homecoming in Norwegian, is a handmade replica of a burial Viking ship called the Gokstad that was discovered in Norway in 1880. The Gokstad had been unearthed from a burial mound near Sandefjord, Norway and was dated back to 800 AD. It served as the inspiration to Robert Asp, a guidance counselor at Moorhead Junior High School. He was gifted a few books about Vikings and after reading them, decided to build a ship of his own that he dreamed of sailing to Olso, Norway on in honor of his Nordic heritage. He began work on Hjemkomst in 1974 at the Leslie Welter Potato Warehouse in Hawley, Minnesota – which is coincidentally today’s stop. The Potato Warehouse became the Hawley Shipyard. Asp was diagnosed with leukemia, and later died from it before it was completed, but chose to continue to work on his dream. In July of 1980, the ship was sent to Duluth to begin its journey.
After much work and preparation, in May 1982, Asp’s three sons and daughter along with eight crew members decided to set sail. They arrived in Bergen, Norway in July and were given a heroes welcome. The ship stayed in Oslo for a year and was taken back to Minnesota and is now permanently housed in the center of the museum. The Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center, commonly known as the Hjemkomst Center, was first opened in 1985 and was donated to the City of Moorhead and placed on display.
My story-telling ability isn’t doing this justice. It is hard to describe the presence, what it represents to the people that saw this unattainable dream come true. It is nothing short of amazing.
The Hjemkomst Center also has another handmade piece of history on display. In the backyard, The Hopperstad Stave Church Replica, a replica of a Norwegian stave church, was built in 1998 by Guy Paulson and was constructed of cedar, redwood, and pine. It is a full-scale replica of the 12th Century Hopperstad Stave Church in Vik, Norway.
In 2009, the Clay County Historical Society (which was founded in 1932) and the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center merged to form the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County.
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