Skip to main content

History of the Viking House

A Storied Past

How the Viking House came to be.

The house was donated to the campus by Owen and Elspeth Christianson in Fall 2017. Retiring to the east coast, the couple gifted the house to the UW-Green Bay campus, where it's used for educational hands-on learning for students and the public.

Student using a loomStudents help push the wall up to the Viking House.Students help label and remove nails of the Viking House wallsStudents participate in viking metalworks

About the Viking House

The Christiansons built this Norwegian timber-framed house (a grindbygning, pronounced "GRINNED-big-ning") in 2011 on their land near the village of Stratford, Wisconsin. The Christiansons, Viking reenactors since the 1970s, built the house based on careful research of Viking-Age building traditions in Norway. Their dream was to use the house for both reenactment and educational purposes.

Before the house was moved to our campus, students often had the chance to spend the weekend in it in Stratford, learning skills like cooking, weaving and blacksmithing.

Learn More

In 2017, members from Professor Heidi Sherman’s capstone class spent three days with the Christiansons, carefully disassembling and numbering each piece of the house. They then reconstructed it on our Green Bay campus. How It Was Built:

  • The house is a 14-by-28-foot replica of the trestle frame construction style called grindbyggning.
  • It’s constructed of authentic green slate shingles, timber painted with black tar and beams secured with wooden pegs.
  • Five “grinds” (each a separate post-and-beam trestle) reach to the ceiling and extend from the front door to the back of the house. These grinds give the building its name and symbolized the power and wealth of the owners.

Building the Viking House

Owen & Elspeth in front of the Viking House

Meet Owen & Elspeth

The trailblazers behind the Viking house.

Owen and Elspeth have studied Viking-age Scandinavia for over 40 years, and the Viking House represents their decades of knowledge. They both remain active in the reenactor community today – they often come to our Midwest Viking Festival to share their expertise and give tours of the Viking House.

More About the Christiansons

Owen Christianson works as consulting research scientist/engineer and specializes in superconductivity, cryogenics and thermal aspects of generator and motor design. Elspeth Christianson worked as a physician specializing in pediatric genetics.

In his article To Build a Grind Building, A Viking Age LONGhouse, Christianson wrote, “We, my wife and I, wanted to build a meeting place in the style of the Viking Age, and create a facility in which to more closely duplicate life during the Viking Age; and we wanted to share our re-creation of Viking Age life with others in a contemporary environment.” (Christianson, To Build a Grind Building, A Viking Age LONGhouse, Tournaments Illuminated, 2013, p 14).

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus is excited to further Owen and Elspeth’s dream for the house and continue to share the Christianson’s re-creation of Viking Age life with others. The campus is deeply grateful for their donation.

Professor Heidi Sherman

Want to Know More?

Meet Heidi Sherman, the director of the Viking House and the person who organizes our Midwest Viking Festival. If you have questions, just ask!

Contact Us