Replica Viking ship from World’s Fair transferred to non-profit
BY LISA DONOVAN and Linda Girardi Sun-Times Media August 12, 2012 4:28PM
Viking ship that was in Lincoln Park for many years
at Viking Ship
GENEVA — History buffs will have a chance to take the next best thing to a voyage on an endangered artifact next weekend.
The public is invited to an Open House of the Viking Ship from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Good Templar Park, 528 East Side Drive in Geneva.
Friends of the Viking Ship will host a “Viking Visitor’s Day” describing the ship’s amazing voyage from Bergen, Norway, to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and its subsequent adventures.
Visitors will see the stabilization work that has been done and be able to walk up the ramp to view the inside of the ship.
The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for visitors 13-19, and $1 for children 5-12.
The nonprofit organization will accept donations to benefit the urgent rivet repair program. Visit www.vikingship.us.
Updated: September 14, 2012 6:05AM
While ownership of the historic replica Viking ship now docked at a Geneva park is changing hands, it is not known yet if the ship will be changing destinations.
The Chicago Park District this month approved the transfer of a replica Viking ship displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair to the nonprofit Friends of the Viking Ship — organized for the sole purpose of restoring the vessel.
The Chicago Park District has owned the ship since the 1920s, although it was moved to Good Templar Park in Geneva in the 1990s.
“The CPD is now seeking to transfer the Viking ship to the Friends of the Viking Ship because this group will be better able to repair, maintain and display it in a manner celebrating both the Columbian Exposition and the contribution of Norwegians to American life,” said Raffi Sarrafian, the park’s director of purchasing.
The transfer from the park district — the trustee for 92 years — to its new owners – still requires court approval in Cook County Circuit Court.
In June, the park district filed a petition to transfer ownership, noting that the effort to restore and educate the public about the ship should be carried out by a charity like Friends of the Viking Ship.
The ship was built a year before the fair and is a replica of the 1,000-year-old Viking ship known as Gokstad, according to court records.
Perry L. Gulbransen, a retired judge who is part of the nonprofit group’s efforts to restore the vessel, said although the organization has not yet made a decision on whether to leave Geneva, there will come a time when plans will be made for a final home for the Viking ship.
“It is unknown whether the ship will be moved out of Geneva — we have a good relationship with Good Templar Park — all this is yet in the future. Geneva has been a wonderful host,” he said.
A naval survey will be conducted to determine whether the ship can be moved, he said.
“We have been told it can perhaps withstand one move. So we are going to be very judicious and careful as to where this boat lands, so to speak,” he said.
Gulbransen said the ship is part of his and other Norwegian American’s “heritage” and “DNA.”
“Stabilization and preservation of the ship are foremost — the ship deserves to be in a climate-controlled environment,” said Gulbransen, who serves as an honorary member of the Friends of the Viking Ship.
Once the ownership officially changes hands, Gulbransen said, “It will then be our job to do the things necessary to restore and preserve the ship that its history suggests it deserves.”
Gulbransen said it is more feasible for a nonprofit organization to raise the substantial amount of funds required for the project.
“To raise money, you have to have a proprietary interest,” the retired judge said.
He explained that 11 men and a captain sailed the replica ship — measuring 79 feet long by 16.5 feet wide — across the Atlantic in 1892 to display it at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Court records note that the route into the United States included the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes.
“Twenty-six days on the Atlantic which can be sometimes angry,” Gulbransen said.
The ship was donated to the Chicago Park District in the 1920s, according to city officials.
Little more than a decade later, park officials began trying to find a home for it. For many years, it sat at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
In the 1990s, the ship was donated to a nonprofit group that moved it to Geneva. The group disbanded, but the ship remains at Good Templar Park — covered and protected.