Dream weaver: Moorhead museum documents Minnesotan’s Norwegian sailing dream

Hjemkomst Center
Moorhead resident Robert Asp planned to sail the Hjemkomst to Norway.

You can take a trip to Norway simply by visiting Moorhead, Minnesota. The city is home to the Hjemkomst Center, which honors an American’s dream of traveling across the ocean to his homeland of Norway in a replica of a Viking ship.

Robert Asp dreamed of traveling aboard the Hjemkomst (pronounced Yem-komst), the name given to his replica of the Gokstad. The Gokstad was an old Viking ship whose remains were found in Norway in 1880. Asp’s fullsized ship is on display at the Hjemkomst Center. Hjemkomst means Homecoming in Norwegian.

Hjemkomst Center
Sculpture of Robert Asp.

Asp started building the ship in 1974 in a Hawley, Minnesota, warehouse. He was diagnosed with leukemia in 1974. The Moorhead resident persevered and completed the ship’s construction in 1980. The ship was transported to Duluth, to set sail on Lake Superior. Asp sailed the ship around Lake Superior until his death in December of that year.

A couple of years later, Asp’s three sons and daughter decided to fulfill their father’s dream and sail to Norway. Along with a crew of eight people, the Asp family departed New York on June 8, 1982. A documentary shown at the Hjemkomst Center shows the trials and issues the crew experienced as they crossed the ocean.

On July 19, the Hjemkomst crew was greeted by residents of Bergen, Norway. A month later (Aug. 19) the crew sailed into the harbor of Oslo, The Asp family had completed Robert’s dream. The Hjemkomst stayed in Norway for a time before being transported back to the United States.

Hjemkomst Center
The Hjemkomst is the centerpiece of the Hjemkomst Center.

Today, the ship is the centerpiece of the Moorhead museum. The Hjemkomst Center opened in 1985. Thousands of people visit it annually. The Hjemkomst Center is home to an annual Viking festival each June. The center also hosts temporary exhibits, such as a look at prohibition in Fargo-Moorhead.

Located in downtown Moorhead, the center is a short distance from the Red River.

The Hjemkomst Center is home to a Norwegian stave replica. Built in 1998, Hopperstad Stave is based on a church from the 12th century in Vik, Norway. A stave was the transition from the Norse gods to Christianity.

Hjemkomst Center
The Moorhead stave is based on a 12th century Norwegian church.

The Hopperstad Stave was built from a few types of wood – cedar, redwood and pine. It’s 72 feet tall. The interior woodwork is immaculate and detailed.

Hjemkomst Center
The woodwork was impressive.

The church includes a leper window. In the old days, people suffering from leprosy would line up outside the window to receive communion.

Hjemkomst Center
Leper window.

Staves had sculpted dragons on the roof. It was the Scandinavians’ attempt to maintain a connection with their Norse gods.

Hjemkomst Center
Dragons were added to staves as a throwback to Norse gods.

The Hjemkomst Center documents a man’s dream, while sharing information about his homeland. It’s an interesting place to visit. We recommend visiting the center when in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

For more information, please visit here.