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An open house for the Garden Home center is set for June 27 and 28



TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Greg Smith, executive director of the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation, shows off the great hall room of the new facility in Garden Home.  After almost a year under construction, the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation is putting the finishing touches on its long anticipated masterpiece — the Nordia House.

The 10,000-square-foot building at 8800 S.W. Oleson Road is dedicated to all things Nordic with an emphasis on the culture and heritage of the people who generally came from the Nordic nations of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

“The project has been in people’s minds for over 20 years,” said Greg Smith, executive director of the new complex, which will host an open house the weekend of June 27-28.

Construction of the $4 million Nordia House, which sits on 2 ½ acres off Olesen Road near the intersection of Hall Boulevard, began in September.

“We were very lucky with the weather this year,” said Smith, adding that the favorable conditions meant that Andersen Construction finished the project just seven days off the completed construction schedule.

Smith said he’s pleased with the way the Nordia House turned out.TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Greg Smith stands by one of the custom-made 9-foot wooden doors at the entrance of the Scandinavian Heritage Foundations Nordia House.

“I see it as a place you can celebrate and learn about the contributions of Nordic countries and Nordic America to the world at large,” said Smith, noting that sometimes the contributions to Nordic spirit and exploration are forgotten. “This is unique in that it’s celebrating all the Nordic countries.”

What visitors will find at the Nordia House is traditional Scandinavian architecture with a nod to wood — lots of wood — in an effort to use natural materials.

"There were many facets that went into the construction of this unique building and we are very pleased with the results,” said Tony Carlson, a project manager with Andersen Construction.

Carlson said that the façade types includes board-formed concrete on the front building face, a floor-to-ceiling storefront overlooking the existing wetlands as well as tight-knot and clear cedar siding throughout to create “a very welcoming cultural center that compliments the surrounding natural environment.”

Smith said estimates show that 10 percent of Oregon's citizens shares some type of Nordic roots with Nordic immigrants, many of them attracted to Oregon’s climate, natural settings and similar industries.

What strikes anyone approaching the building, which was designed by Diloreto Architecture of Portland, are the elaborate 9-foot-tall front doors created by Leroy Setziol, who is often referred to as the “father of woodcarving in Oregon.” Unfortunately, Setziol — whose work is evident at both Salishan Lodge and Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood — died before the second of the two doors was completed, but his daughter, Monica Setziol-Phillips, stepped in to complete it, said Smith. The doors contain nods to Norse history, complete with ships and runestone (traditional raised inscriptions that date to Viking times).

The roof of the building was designed to be eco-friendly complete with several inches of dirt on it along with sedum (a leaf succulent that has water-storing leaves in a design that will minimize the roof’s rain runoff) serving as insulation as well, said Smith. In fact, the roof at the entrance is designed to spill over its eaves, creating a natural waterfall that drains into a rock garden.

Inside, you’ll find:

• Floor-to-ceiling windows that run the entire length of the building.

• A main exhibit hall where art and historic artifacts can be displayed. The space might also be used for holding small receptions in the future. Slat roof ceilings run throughout the building.

• A café that can seat 30 to 35 people and opens to an outdoor patio, one of three on site. Smith said they plan to serve food consistent with Nordic cuisine including pickled herring (“We couldn’t be a Nordic café without pickled herring,” Smith pointed out) and Swedish meatballs, but perhaps not lutefisk.

“Chances are we won’t be serving lutefisk. At least not on our daily menu,” said Smith, referring to the traditional, gelatinous fish entrée still revered by many Nordic peoples. Still, he promises the café will try to be adventurous with a kitchen that can be used to prepare food for up to 300 people.

• A 4,000-square-foot Great Hall featuring a ceiling that rises with laminated beams and a floor made of hardwoods.

“This will be the site of concerts, films and some of our bigger events,” said Smith, who noted that the Nordia House will be emblematic of how they build structures in the Nordic countries.

• A conference area for board meetings. This room will also serve as the new home for Messiah Lutheran Church, a small Finnish church that is moving from its current location in the St. John’s area. The room will be accented with furnishings from Sweden.

Meanwhile, visitors to the Nordia House will notice that the familiar yellow house which served as an office for the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation for the last 10 years has been removed. Smith said the new cultural center will include a Steiner Cabin along with two acres of property donated by Ross Fogelquist as part of a life trust. Fogelquist will live in the house as long as he wants, and may eventually become a museum.

“This has been a dream of his for a long time,” said Smith.

Smith said 75 percent of the $4 million cost of the building has been raised through fundraising efforts.

“And we’ll continue with the fundraising to finish that off,” he said. “I think it’s the goal of all good Nordics to be debt free.”

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