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4.5
138 votes

Washington Island Stavkirke

1763 Townline Road, Wisconsin 54246 USA

  • Independent
  • Wheelchair
    Accessible
  • Outdoor
    Seating
  • No Wifi
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“Points of Interest in WI”

Washington Island harbors a real, almost hidden historical treasure: the Stavkirke (Church of Staves) based on drawings of one built in Borgund, Norway in 1150 AD. This was a home-grown project, another testament to ‘life in a small town,’ community effort, where skilled local craftsmen, under the direction of head carpenters, John Herschberger, Dale Bjarnarson, and a half-dozen volunteers, came together whenever time permitted, mostly in summer. John began laying the foundation of mortared beach stone and cement in 1992, then covered it all with a shed, which made it possible for the men to work on the building a few mornings each week, even in winter. The original project of the Stavkirke is attributed to the Reverend James Reiff .a pastor on the Island in the early 1980’s who felt such a structure would reflect the immigrant influence on the Island. Sister Bay architect, Pat Mangan offered a personal interest of stav history to the project, made the drawings based on the Borgund stavkirke and the list of necessary materials. David Ranney carved the dragon heads, based on the style of the old Stavkirke. Washington Island ferry captain and author, Richard Purinton did the carved roof boards while Gary Hendrickson carved the panels in the altar, and his wife painted the faux marble supports on the altar. The beautiful model of the Mackinac schooner that hangs from the knave was built by head carpenter, John Herschberger. The project was completed and dedicated the summer of 1995. Landscaping and the bell tower followed in time. Seven years later, by 1999, everything was in place. The attraction to the Stavkirke was immediate. There was a period of time during its construction that almost any mention of the Island was followed by the question “Have you seen the Stavkirke?” Be it history, old world beauty, spirit, there is something about this structure so compelling “You just have to see it.” A ‘prayer path’ leads you through the woods. Great architecture commands reverence. The past is present. 5,000 or more people visit the Stavkirke annually. There are Wednesday evening services in summer at 7 p.m. Both baptisms and weddings are held there, upon request. The Trinity Lutheran Church, just across the road, is the owner and manager of the property. -Norbert Blei

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Reviewed by
Nancy Sewell

  • 1,228 Reviews
  • 314 Helpful
February 02, 2017

Washington Island, harbors a real, almost hidden historical treasure: the Stavkirke (Church of Staves) based on drawings of one built in Borgund, Norway in 1150 AD. This was a home-grown project where skilled local craftsmen, under the direction of head carpenters, John Herschberger, Dale Bjarnarson, and a half-dozen volunteers, came together whenever time permitted, mostly in summer. John began laying the foundation of mortared beach stone and cement in 1992, then covered it all with a shed, which made it possible for the men to work on the building a few mornings each week, even in winter. David Ranney carved the dragon heads, based on the style of the old Stavkirke.

Washington Island ferry captain and author, Richard Purinton did the carved roof boards while Gary Hendrickson carved the panels in the altar, and his wife painted the faux marble supports on the altar. The beautiful model of the Mackinac schooner that hangs from the knave was built by head carpenter, John Herschberger.

The project was completed and dedicated the summer of 1995. Landscaping and the bell tower followed in time. Seven years later, by 1999, everything was in place.

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Washington Island Stavkirke

1763 Townline Road
Wisconsin
54246 USA

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  • Parking
  • Pets Allowed
  • Restrooms
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Outdoor Seating
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