Today, the Norwegians are long gone. After selling the hall in the 1940s, the growing Sons and Daughters twice moved to new quarters, first to Lower Queen Anne and later to Ballard.
ONCE UPON A TIME dragons wagged their long tongues from open jaws on the roof of Norway Hall in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. The hall’s sponsors, the Daughters and Sons of Norway, respectively the Valkyrien and Leif Erikson lodges, dedicated their new hall in 1915, on May 17, Norwegian Independence Day.
Dennis Andersen, a Northwest architecture historian, and of Norwegian descent, notes that the hall’s architect, native Norwegian Englehart Sonnichsen, “knew the revival modes of his country very well.” Andersen continues: “In the 1880s and 1890s, as Norway was working toward independence from Sweden, art and architecture trends lifted up traditional folk-art forms — some of it rather fanciful. The dragon-shaped eaves of Sonnichsen’s Norway Hall recall this so-called ‘dragon style’ (dragestil). It was commonly used on resort hotels, pavilions and restaurants.” (And, Andersen notes, on the Andersen family silver.)
Here on an early photograph of the hall, an unnamed retouch artist has enhanced its surroundings with grass lawns in place of a clutter of other structures (aside from the roof of a modest home across Denny Way behind the trees on the far right). The national flags of Norway and the United States have been rendered to flutter artfully, lifted by a southeasterly breeze. The painted stones beside the sidewalk, far left, resemble stacks of Norwegian rye bread more than river rocks.
The architect’s brother, Yngvar, adorned the interior of Norway Hall with murals depicting several sagas of Norse history, including the discovery of Vinland — North America — by the lodge’s namesake, Leif Erikson, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus reached the Bahamas. The U.S. Postal System agreed, issuing a six-cent stamp in 1968, commemorating the Icelandic explorer’s Newfoundland (it is thought) landing.
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Today at 2015 Boren Ave., the Norwegians and their dragons are long gone. After selling their hall in the late 1940s, the growing Sons and Daughters twice moved to new quarters, first to Lower Queen Anne in 1951 and later in 1986 to Ballard, both times carrying their murals with them. In the early 1970s the old Norway Hall barely escaped being razed by a developer, who explained, “there is pressure for more parking in the area.” It was saved, however, and is now Raisbeck Performance Hall, the performing arts venue on Cornish College of the Arts’ main campus.