the June 26, 2008 article by Chicago Tribune reporter Gerry Smith
Built in Norway in 1892, the ship was modeled after a vessel called the Gokstad that had been excavated from a Viking warrior’s grave two years earlier and was estimated to have been built around 890. The replica, made of black oak, left Norway in April 1893 and made stops in Newfoundland and New York before arriving in Chicago in mid-July. Although it attracted much fanfare at the exhibition, the boat moored in Jackson Park Lagoon later fell into disrepair.
In 1920, the Chicago Park District took possession of the ship from a women’s group that raised $20,000 to repair it and move it to Lincoln Park Zoo, where it sat for decades in an open-sided shed, attracting few visitors and becoming layered with pigeon droppings.
This week, under a white tent in Geneva’s Good Templar Park, a crew of craftsmen tried to erase years of neglect to the ship, which last year was named one of the state’s 10 most endangered historic objects by Landmarks Illinois, a non-profit historic preservation group.
“You can see where things have gone south dramatically,” said Bob Fink, a maritime restorer who oversaw the work.
The boat’s wooden planks have started to rot and splinter after rain and snow leaked through holes in the protective tarp. In addition, the hull is sagging, the result of inadequate supports, said Fink, 51, of Queenstown, Md.
While Fink and another carpenter added support frames to strengthen the boat’s interior, a pair of workers from Chicago-based Methods and Materials cut steel beams to brace the ship from underneath.
Finally, Fink began installing a system of cables to pull the ship’s sagging frame back to its original form. “Once the cables are in place, she’ll be good to go for another couple decades,” Fink said.
In 1994, the Park District sold co-ownership rights for $1 to another group, the American-Scandinavian Council, which promised to restore the vessel and find a suitable home but made little progress. The ship was later moved to a warehouse in West Chicago. Then, the International Order of Good Templars, a temperance group that started in Sweden, offered to house the ship in its park in Geneva.