Illinois is the possibly the last place one might think to find a full-sized viking sailing ship, but thanks to a relic from the 1893 world’s fair Nordic history is still alive in one of the state’s public parks.
Built to resemble a viking ship known as the Gokstad, the unimaginatively named Viking was the jewel of the World’s Columbian Exhibition which took place in Chicago in 1893. The modern historical ship was constructed in Norway using traditional methods including using iron rivets to hold the ship together. The boat was 78 feet long from stem to stern and just 17 feet wide, just the like the sleek ships of the original viking invaders. The decorative dragon’s head and tail were also added to either end of the vessel, bringing its fearsome profile to life. Once completed, the ship was actually sailed from its Scandinavian shipyard, to the Hudson River, connecting to the Great Lakes, and eventually Chicago.
The ship was a hit at the fair and after traveling down to New Orleans in a final voyage, the Viking was returned to Chicago, where it would remain to the present day. While the ship was beloved, funding to maintain a replica viking boat was hard to come by. Across the years local Scandinavian groups volunteered to maintain the boat in dry dock, but even their efforts struggled to maintain the wooden vessel. Eventually the Viking was moved to its permanent home in Good Templar Park in Geneva, Illinois.
The elaborate head and tail piece have been moved to a nearby museum, but the boat itself is now stored under a protective canopy for tour groups to visit. While preservation efforts still flag the Viking has been declared a historic site and will now likely survive for a whole new generation of pillagers to marvel at.
Know Before You Go
You will want to check out the website as the tours are once a month.