Shilshole’s Leif Erikson statue turns 50

On Sunday, June 17, the statue of Leif Erikson will have its 50th anniversary of being in Seattle. Fifty years ago, Seattle received the statue during Norway Day at the Seattle World’s Fair. And, in 2007, the statue was placed at Shilshole Marina, where it stands today.

The reception will be at the statue from 12 to 3 p.m. Kristine Leander, president of the Leif Erikson International Foundation (LEIF), says they will be asking attendees to sign pieces of paper, which they will then compile into a book. A similar book of comments from the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1903 will also be on display, where you can see who signed in at the Swedish Building 103 years ago. They’ll ask for comments about the statue, or comments about people whose names are on the plaques.

The Nordic Heritage Museum will also be there to videotape people who want to talk about their experiences. They’ll also have music from accordion players at the reception. Click here to watch a video of the statue unveiled on July 17, 1962 at the Seattle World’s Fair.

In addition to the statue anniversary, LEIF is installing a new stone in front of the statue. They are asking for more names to add to the plaque; they have about 80 of 400 names needed before displaying it. In order to be eligible, the person has to be a Scandinavian immigrant, and donate $120 to the foundation.

Plaques dedicated at Leif Erikson Plaza

A large crowd gathered in the shadow of Leif Erikson Sunday afternoon to celebrate the addition of nearly 1,700 names etched in the plaques on the plaza.

“This statue surrounded by runestones tells a story of those immigrants who left their homeland in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Gael Tarleton. “The legend of Leif Erikson did not start here, but his legacy of sailing the seas does live on here.”

The names were etched in plaques on 13 basalt stones shaped in the footprint of a ship. Each stone depicts a Viking-inspired motif.

Families searched the plaques for names of their relatives, snapping photos. Leif Erikson Plaza as designed by Seattle artist Jay Haavik.

The Norwegian Ladies Chorus of Seattle and the Seattle’s Icelandic Men’s Chorus entertained the crowd at the dedication.

Families paid $125 to add a Scandinavian ancestor’s name to the plaques, with part of the money going to the new Nordic Heritage Museum, which will be built along Market St. between 26th and 28th Avenues. Kristine Leander, president of the Leif Erikson International Foundation, presented a $10,000 check to Eric Nelson, CEO of the museum. “We’re in the midst of fundraising,” said Nelson. “Hopefully if all goes well, we’ll be breaking ground sometime around the middle to end of 2012, and opening up for 2014.”

Here’s a two minute video of the festivities. By the way, the Leif Erikson International Foundation is accepting memberships to help provide a replica of the statue in Vinland, the Viking settlement in Newfoundland, where Leif Erikson camped more than 1,000 years ago.