History

On April 29, 1927, twenty-four Norwegians gathered together in the South Hall of the Leopold Hotel in Bellingham, Washington, and organized a Sons of Norway lodge. They chose the name of Wergeland Lodge No. 21 in memory of Henrik Wergeland. Henrik was born in 1808 and died of tuberculosis in 1845 at the age of 37 years. He was a famous writer and poet, considered one of Norway’s greatest poets. He won the admiration of the Norwegian people by his many poems and articles about the welfare of the Norwegian people. He was able to remove from the Norwegian constitution the clause barring Jews from settling in Norway. He was one of Grieg’s prime sources of inspiration.

The twenty-four charter members were as follows: Kasper Aagaard, Odd Andersen, Peter Andersen, Borghild Asplund, Magnus Asplund, Carl Bjorklie, Christine Bjorklie, T. Grinstad, Otto Hansen, Einar Haugland, Arthur Hilard, Andrew Hillerud, Edward Johnson, Emilie Knudsen, A. Loknes, Mrs. E. Nelson, John Olsen, Magnus Olsen, Ranga Olsen, Gunder Olsen, J. C. Rykken, Peter Sagmoen, Nils Strand, and A. Stenvig. They elected Nils Strand as the first president of Wergeland Lodge No. 21. All the charter members have passed away.

From 1927 to the mid-1940s, Wergeland Lodge prospered and grew. The lodge had an orchestra called the Wergelanders. Conrad Pedersen played the accordion; Sam Hjelvig, the clarinet; Gunder Olsen and Rena Pedersen, the violins; and Peggy Terry, the piano. Almost every Saturday night there was some type of activity at the lodge. Dances parties, anniversaries, etc., and the Wergelanders furnished the music.

In the mid-1940s, the lodge had to move from the Leopold Hotel. They moved to the Knights of Columbus Hall on Cornwall Avenue. The lodge met there until 1948. In 1947 the lodge purchased a lot at 1419 N. Forest Street in Bellingham. A building committee was appointed to plan for a new hall. Also at this time, the lodge formed a corporation, which was named Norway Hall Incorporated. The board of Norway Hall Incorporated consisted of twelve members elected from the lodge. The first board members elected were: Engberg Pedersen, Gunder Olson, Ragna Olson, Arthur Myrseth, Doris Lind, Conrad Pedersen, Eli Pedersen, Kasper Aagaard, Peter Andreasen, Elsie Andreasen, John Hogberg, and Bergit Gunderson.

In 1948 a decision was made by the building committee to clear the lot and build the basement. Arthur Myrseth was chosen to be the contractor to build the basement. Art received information that the City of Bellingham was looking for fill dirt. After contacting the proper people, he entered into an agreement with the City that they would dig the basement for the fill dirt. The city moved in their machinery and removed several hundred yards of fill dirt, and the lodge basement was dug for free. Concrete forms were built and the concrete was poured. With the help of many volunteer members of the lodge, the basement was roofed over. In 1948 Wergeland Lodge moved into its new quarters at 1419 N. Forest Street.

The cost of building the basement went over the estimate by several thousand dollars so the Board had to borrow money to pay the bills. Then the dances, dinners, wedding receptions, and parties started, as we had to make money to pay off the loan. Right here, I want to pay tribute to our Ladies Auxiliary. They were always ready to prepare, serve, and clean up after our dinners and parties. For our dinners and bake sales, they made thousands of cookies and lefse. At regular intervals, they held rummage sales. They purchased several of the appliances for our kitchen.

Conrad Pedersen agreed to be our hall manager, a job he held from 1948 to 1967 when his health failed and he had to quit. Clarence Johnson agreed to be hall manager for a couple of weeks until a permanent manager could be found. From 1967 to 1994, a permanent manager had not been found, so Clarence was still manager.

In the 1950s and 1960s we became so entrenched in our basement that it appeared we would not finish our hall. Finally, in 1969 after much discussion and haggling, a decision was made to finish Norway Hall. The Emil Olsen Construction Co. was the contractor and with the help of Arthur Myrseth and a host of Norwegian volunteers, the hall was completed. Jens Olaussen and his crew laid the concrete blocks. The large roof beams were lifted into place, and a work party of about 25 nailed the roof down in one day. Finally, the hall was completed. Norway Hall Inc. had sold building bonds to pay for the building, so once again the dances, dinners, club meetings, and hall rentals were promoted to pay off the building bonds and bills. The bonds were paid off and Norway Hall Inc. operated the hall debt-free for many years. In the 1960s the lot next to our hall became available and Norway Hall Inc. purchased the lot. The lot was cleared and blacktopped and made into a parking lot. The lot is rented during the week and has been a good source of revenue for our hall.

An interesting story from 1957 is when Wergeland Lodge No. 21 was awarded a plaque for the Lodge of the Year. The Supreme President of the Sons of Norway came to Bellingham and presented the award. Peter Lind was the lodge president at the time and conducted the meeting with the Supreme President present. Peter had just purchased a new pair of bifocal glasses, and he could read the ritual book without looking down. It appeared he was conducting the meeting from memory. The Supreme President congratulated Peter for conducting the meeting from memory and stated that he should be eligible for the President of the Year Award. Shortly thereafter Peter Lind received the award.

In April 2014 Wergeland Lodge sold Norway Hall, our home for 66 years.

Paragraphs taken from history submitted in 1994 by Dehardt M. Erickson.