Two weeks ago, I described my quest to discover the origin of the Norwegian dragons lining some of the roofs in my new home town of Mount Horeb, WI. My quest led me to a secluded valley outside town where I found Little Norway. Immediately I knew I’d come to the right place: note the dragons along the top of the visitors’ center:
These aren’t the original dragons, though, that inspired their kin in Mount Horeb. Those are found guarding Little Norway’s crown jewel, the Norway Building:
The Norway Building was constructed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. It was designed and built in Norway, then disassembled, shipped to Chicago and reassembled. After this it was moved to an estate near Lake Geneva, WI before being purchased by Isak Dahle and moved in 1935, for the final time, to its permanent home outside Mount Horeb.
(The history of this extraordinary building is covered in great detail in The Norway Building of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.)
And the dragons?
In 1992 the building went through a major restoration and refurbishment. For this first time since it resided at Lake Geneva, dragon ornaments graced all three roof levels. These dragons were crafted and installed by Scott Winner, Little Norway’s current owner:
“Dragons were put on buildings and vessels to ward off evil spirits,” Winner told me. “The dragons originally on the Norway building had rotted due to old age, and were replaced with identical new carvings treated to make them more durable. This included six coats of Lucite paint.”
And the dragons in Mount Horeb? They were created using templates Winner provided to the industrial arts department at Mount Horeb High School.
So my quest had ended. I knew the origin of these enigmatic guardians. But this knowledge made them no less impressive, and not one bit less magical. How could they be anything else?