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Wander Minnesota: The Hjemkomst Center

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The Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, Minn. (credit: Amy Rea)

The Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, Minn. (credit: Amy Rea)

Amy Rea Amy Rea
Amy Rea is a freelance writer and author of Minnesota, Land of 10,000...
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Besides taking in mashed potato wrestling while in the west central part of the state recently, I also visited a much less tongue-in-cheek point in Minnesota history: the Hjemkomst Center.

The Hjemkomst is a Viking-style (as in historic Vikings, not the football team!) sailing ship that was built by Moorhead resident Robert Asp. Hjemkomst, which means “homecoming” in Norwegian, was the foundation of Asp’s dream to not only build the ship himself, but to sail it from Lake Superior all the way to Norway.

In 1974 he rented out an old potato warehouse and began building in earnest. It seemed like the dream wouldn’t be realized when he was diagnosed with leukemia, but he continued his work, determined to get it as far as he could in his lifetime.

In 1980, he finished the ship and was able to travel to Duluth to see the Hjemkomst launched. Asp died later that year, but friends and family rallied together to carry his plans all the way through. In the summer of 1982, a carefully chosen crew and a Norwegian captain set off from Duluth, traveling over 6000 miles to Bergen, Norway, where they arrived 72 days later.

The trip was not always a pleasure cruise. Storms threatened the integrity of the ship—at one point, the hull sustained a 14-foot crack that nearly required the crew to turn back to New York. But they were able to repair the ship well enough to continue.

Today, the Hjemkomst is on display at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, and it’s a wonderful sight. But if you go, be sure to watch the short video that goes over the ship’s history. We’ve reached a point where recent history can now be documented with audio and video recordings, so unlike other historical sites that might have “re-enactments,” the Hjemkomst Center benefits from having footage of Asp himself, his family, the crew of the ship, and even footage from the voyage, including some of the worst of the storms.

While you’re there, take a tour of the Hopperstad Stave Church Replica.

The Stave Church was built by Guy Paulson, whose long-time interest in carving lead him to tackling the highly detailed and ornate stave styling. It’s a full-scale replica at 72 feet in height, and is constructed of cedar, redwood, and pine. Oh, and it’s beautiful, just like the Hjemkomst.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.

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