Stories From the Nordic Museum in Ballard, Seattle

In a quiet spot in Seattle, a place called Ballard is a new Nordic Museum. Immigrants from the Nordic countries flocked to that place at the beginning of the twenties century. I felt at home walking in the streets and visiting a Danish ex-pat family.

Excerpt from Wikipedia on Ballard:

Historically Ballard is the traditional center of Seattle’s ethnically Scandinavian seafaring community, who were drawn to the area because of the salmon fishing opportunities. The neighborhood’s unofficial slogan, “Uff da”, comes from an Almost Live! sketch that made fun of its Scandinavian culture. In recent years the proportion of Scandinavian residents has decreased but the neighborhood is still proud of its heritage. Ballard is home to the Nordic Museum, which celebrates both the community of Ballard and the local Scandinavian history. Scandinavians unite in organizations such as the Sons of Norway Leif Ericson Lodge and the Norwegian Ladies Chorus of Seattle. Each year the community celebrates the Ballard SeafoodFest and Norwegian Constitution Day (also called Syttende Mai) on May 17 to commemorate the signing of the Norwegian Constitution.

Locals once nicknamed the neighborhood “Snoose Junction,” a reference to the Scandinavian settlers’ practice of using snus.

The museum is built in the typical modern Danish minimalistic architect style. Instead of fine flowerbeds outside, there are rough, wild plants similar to those you find at our coasts. The idea, I think, is that there is hardly any maintenance on them.

The Scandinavian countries are Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Linguistically our languages are coming from the same root.  The Nordic countries are those plus Iceland, The Faroe Islands and Greenland and Finland.

The history of the Nordic countries is explained

The history of the Nordic countries is explained, which is unusual for us who come from these countries.


In the 19th century, all the Nordic countries experienced mass emigrations. They were coping with severe challenges that let to social unrest and scarce opportunity. From the 1820s and over the next hundred years, millions of people left home and came to America.

A chart on the numbers of immigrants from the Nordic countries

A chart on the numbers of immigrants from the Nordic countries

You can read about the number of immigrants who came from our part of the world to the United States and go into detail about their individual stories.

The story of a Swedish immigrant who came in 1914

The story of a Swedish immigrant who came in 1914

The Finnish people are known for their resilience. They fought the invasion of the  Red Army during WWII. A teenage boy fled the Russian army on this bicycle together with his mother and sister. They managed to come to the United States some years later. Their country was devastated after the war. For many years they lived in the shadows of the Soviet Union.

Danish journalist Jacob Riis didn’t go to Seattle, but his work was displayed at the museum. He lived to try to improve the conditions for poor immigrants and worked himself to death in his effort. I wrote about him in one of my first blogposts.

I was lucky to go to Seattle last summer before hell broke out. I wanted to find traces of life from my father’s uncle Valdemar who left everything behind in 1911 and lived for the rest of his life in Seattle. Likewise, my husband and I wanted to see the beautiful buildings that our blogger friend Paulas’ father, who as a young man from Denmark, made a prominent career as a builder.


  1. I’ve read the book, “The Testimony of the Spade” by Bibbly – Life in Northern Europe from 15,000 B.C. to the time of the Vikings and archaeology. May I ask why Finland is not considered part of Sandinavia? What did I miss?


    • Finland is one of the Nordic countries. Their language comes from somewhere else and is similar to the Estonian and Hungarian language. On the other hand, there is a minority of the Finnish people who speak Swedish. So they have these two languages. The Swedish population were the intellectual one’s who created their Nation-State and wrote the history. The most famous is their National composer Sibelius

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