Chicago Park District says bon voyage to Viking ship

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A relic from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 is sailing into the hands of new owners.

This week, the Chicago Park District approved the transfer of a replica Viking ship displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair to a local Norwgian-American nonprofit — organized for the sole purpose of restoring the vessel. It was donated to the park district in 1920.

This isn’t some toy ship, it was the real deal at 79 feet long by 16.5 feet wide.

Eleven men and a captain sailed the replica ship from Norway across the Atlantic in 1892 to display it at the fair. Court records note that the route into the United States included the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes, the story goes.

Before park board commissioners approved the transfer to the non-profit “Friends of the Viking Ship” retired Judge Perry L. Gulbransen told them that caring for the ship was part of his and other Norwegian Americans’ “heritage” and “DNA.”

But a group of activist Norwegian-Americans created a non-profit called “Friends of the Viking Ship” and decided they’d the ship – now covered up and stored in Geneva — to restore it.

The park district, according to documents filed in Cook County Circuit Court to transfer ownership, admitted it simply wasn’t able to maintain the ship or the mission to educate people about it and that was better to put it in the hands of a charity.

Gulbransen vows it will remain in the Chicago area.

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