Viking Ship at Jackson Park

Viking moored in the Jackson Park Lagoon photo: Vesterheim Museum, Decorah, IA

From The Book of the Fair

“The Viking ship, which divides the naval honors with the Spanish caravels, is constructed on the model of that discovered in the “Kingsmound” at Gokstad, near Sandefjord, Norway, by a sailor in 1880, and built by popular subscription for the World’s Fair. Unlike the caravels, this vessel made the voyage to America on her own resources, and with a degree of comfort and speed that proved at least the possibility of Leif Ericsson’s famous exploit. She is of oak, clinker built, caulked with cow’s hair spun into a sort of cord, seventy five feet over all in length, sixty feet on the keel, a beam of fifteen and a half feet, and a draught of three and a half. At the prow rises high in the air a great carved dragon’s head, and the tail of the beast appears at the stern, both richly gilded and the splendor of the vessel is further increased by the row of shields along each bulwark, in yellow and black, and, when in commission, by the red and white striped roofing. At the stern is a massive “high seat” for the chief or “Jarl,” covered with carved Runic inscriptions; there are no decks excepting two small ones, fore and aft, and the rigging consists of one mast that can be taken down, and one yard carrying a great square sail. The oars are sixteen on each side, each seventeen feet long, and the ship is steered by an oar on the starboard side, near the stern, after the old sea-king fashion.”

Paul V. Gavin Library Digital History Collection

The “Viking” arrived in Chicago at the World’s Columbian Exposition and throughout the “Fair” was moored beside the Manufacturers building.  Jackson Park was originally designed in the 1870s, but was little improved until 1890 when Frederick Law Olmsted laid out the World’s Columbian Exposition on the site.  Read more…