Fact Sheet About Giants of the Earth Heritage Center
By Karen Gray, President, GEHC
The mission of GIANTS of the EARTH HERITAGE CENTER (GEHC) is to preserve the history and culture of the people of Norwegian Ridge, to assist in discovering genealogy, and to educate succeeding generations in the language and culture of former days. In addition, we document current history as it unfolds.
GEHC, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was founded in 2008 and incorporated in 2009 by a small group of volunteers. It began as a vision to preserve oral histories and bring them into a continuing body of high-quality recordings and print media that serve as research material for scholars and as documentation for succeeding generations of immigrant forebears. In an effort to find a physical location in Spring Grove, the first Norwegian settlement in Minnesota, GEHC acquired an 1893 wood-frame building on Main Street in 2010 that could become a permanent gathering space in the community.
Major Renovation Accomplishments 2008-2019
- Acquired historic building on Main Street
- Chinked the entire building’s limestone foundation
- Began renovation of second and third floors
- Totally restored the windows on the first floor
- Reclaimed the original wood floors on the first floor
- Replaced all the rotten exterior siding
- Replaced and restored the original porch
- Upgraded the electrical to code
- Installed an HVAC system
- Installed a security system
- Commissioned Sigmund Årseth and Sallie DeReus to decorate the walls of Immigrant Hall and the Visitor Center
- Built two decks
- Installed the Enger Garden
- Painted murals on exterior walls
- Commissioned a life-size bronze of Sigmund Årseth (dec.) for the Enger Garden
- Immediately began programming to interpret our mission
- Established an Endowment Fund that grew to nearly $100,000.
- Established ongoing events that celebrate our heritage and introduces it to younger generations
- Created four exhibitions in spaces on the second floor
- Authored and finished our first Interpretive Plan
- Submitted successful grant proposals resulting in $35,000 in grant awards
- Established the ongoing Sixth Grade Academy in area schools
- Designed and initiated Barnetoget each Syttende Mai and Juletrefest in December
- Supported the work of an in-house DNA expert who can interpret results
- Provided a venue for reunions and celebrations
- Served as fiscal agent for the Norwegian Ridge Birding and Nature Trail
- Continued to offer traditional genealogy assistance
- Applied for and were named to the National Historic Register
- Provided handicap accessibility to the Main Floor
- Created a Gift Shop
- Held three Gala Fundraising auctions
- Founded Norwegian Ridge Language and Culture Camp
- Participated in or added new community events
- Hosted travel/historic research groups
- Created a second Interpretive Plan
- Hosted an International Film Festival
Major REnovation Accomplishments 2020 and beyond
When we had to be closed due to COVID, we embarked on renovation and restoration of all four floors of the building. Learn more about our latest renovations.
- Walls were made plumb and square
- Joists were sistered
- New beams were created and installed
- The electrical system was increased to meet the demands of new equipment
- HVAC was expanded
- Floors on all four levels were replaced and/or restored
- An elevator to all levels was installed
- A new restroom was added
- Preservation Studio was created
- The entire facility is now ADA compliant
- Plans are to open again beginning April 1, 2022.
Dear Land Documentary
Filming continues for the “Dear Land” documentary of the lives and culture of families who farm on Norwegian Ridge. B roll still needs to be shot for it, and research continues as well. Learn More about the Dear Land Documentary
The Milestone Project
The Milestone Project records and preserves oral stories of folks who are celebrating birthdays of eight or more decades.
Reminiscing with Dr. Gray
“Reminiscing with Dr. Gray” continues with a variety of topics.
Norwegian Ridge Language and Culture Camp
Norwegian Ridge Language and Culture Camp in person is June 13-17, 2022, for students aged five through grandparents. Folk Art Classes will resume as well. Learn More about NRLC
Folk Art Clases
More on our classes coming soon. Follow us on Facebook. Sign up for our newsletter.
Genealogy, Traditional, and DNA
We offer in-person sessions with Georgia Rosendahl, our resident historian and traditional genealogist by appointment, as well as assistance in using DNA testing kits and interpretation of results, also by appointment. Join Giants Genetic Ancestry Group.
The SAC program is an after-school enrichment activity for K-5 grade students.
Sixth Grade Academy
The Sixth Grade Academy in two or more school districts teaches students how to research their genealogy and present the findings visually on table-top tri-fold display panels for the public at our building. Students stand next to their displays and answer questions raised by visitors. The academy is taught by GEHC volunteers.
Passports to Other Cultures
“Passports to Other Cultures,” a twelve-month program funded in part by a grant from SMIF, brings experts to GEHC to introduce the food, music, lifestyles of people living in other countries. Presentations include using a 14’ retractable screen in Immigrant Hall and an exhibit in the Welcome Center each month.
Julekalender & Juletrefest
Each December, Rachel Storlie, Community Outreach Coordinator, discovers and records experts who teach a new skill daily online or in-person as the GEHC Julekalender on the website giantsoftheearth.org. Juletrefest occurs each December at GEHC, usually the second Saturday. GEHC volunteers teach crafts and how to make traditional foods that people eat while still warm. Finally, there is singing and dancing around the tree that participants have just decorated, and then the Julenisse appears to tell stories and give bags of treats to all. Learn More About Julekalender
Each Syttende Mai, 17th-of-May, GEHC hosts Barnetoget for grades 1-6. MN State 44 is closed for this children’s parade from the school to Viking Memorial Park. Kindergarten students ride in the Viking Ship, a 32’ long and eight-foot-wide wood replica designed and built by Ivan Dahle in 1971-72 that is pulled by a truck. They wave Norwegian flags and sing songs to celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day. They play games at the park, eat hot dogs rolled in lefse, and drink Spring Grove Soda. The oldest students weave a Maypole, made and transported annually to the park by Dr. Gray. Visit Syttende Mai
GEHC staff record people recounting life stories in Preservation Studio by appointment, community events and festivals as they occur, and events within the building and in the garden.
Monday through Saturday 10:00-5:00, and other times by appointment.
Address: 163 GEHC West Main Street, Spring Grove, MN 55974
There are seven exhibit spaces on the second and third floors. Current exhibits include Area Churches, Folk Art made on 1:8 Scale of Farm Animals and Equipment, Founding Family Myrah Memories, Country Schools, Fladager, Founder of Spring Grove; Settling Spring Grove, and Peter, Ola and Per. There are pop-up exhibits lining the hallways of the second and third floors from time to time.
The Peter J. Rosendahl room celebrates his life and works.
Here are some facts about him: Peter was a cartoonist, a self-taught architect via correspondence courses, and his father fought in both the Civil War and the Indian War.
The Settling of Spring Grove room features the story of immigration to the Spring Grove Area.
Although Spring Grove was first founded by an Englishman it quickly grew into becoming the first Norwegian settlement in Minnesota!
Enter through Enger Garden or ADA access through the front door. Nordic imports and local creations, clothing including socks, souvenirs, books, etc., are available—parking and access also from Southwest Alley. Visit the Kinneberg Gift Shop at Giants. Visit our online GIFT SHOP
Rental space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please inquire about availability.