The Nordic American Churches Database is a project of Partners for Sacred Places. It is work in progress. Many records are incomplete, either because we lack information or because we have not yet completed data entry. We continue to update and to add new records. Do you have a correction or a church to add? Click here to let us know.
This database represents the first survey of historic Nordic American churches that includes five ethnic groups (Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish), rather than focusing on a single ethnicity. It is also the first to document folk and other decorative arts—wood carving, metalwork, painting, stained glass, textiles, brickwork, and masonry. In addition to artistic heritage, we sought information on the ways these churches continue ethnic celebrations and food events.
There are many examples of historic Nordic American churches throughout the United States. Our geographic focus includes only the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (a region determined by our funder).
The database includes the following informational fields: photos (posted with permission), church name, location, construction and founding dates, ethnicity, denomination, current use, architectural style, architects and builders, artists and artisans, building additions and renovations, associated structures and landscape features, historic designation (such as listing on the National Register of Historic Places), bibliography, credits, and a “Notes-History-Features-Customs” section that includes information on church history, architecture, decorative and folk arts, and cultural traditions, as available. Additional documents (such as National Register nomination forms, state historic preservation office survey forms, church histories, or other data) are attached to the church record if available.
By creating and sharing this database, Partners for Sacred Places hopes to demonstrate the variety of historic Nordic American churches found in these six Midwest states and to make it easier for scholars, practitioners, and members of the public to find them, visit them, support them, and preserve them.
Data used in the Preserving Nordic American Churches Project Database comes primarily from state historic preservation offices. Many states conducted historic sites surveys beginning in the 1970s and 1980s. Survey content varies from state to state and has not necessarily been updated due to budget constraints and changing priorities. As a result, information included in the Preserving Nordic American Churches Project Database may be outdated, and churches included may no longer exist.
Other sources of information include the National Register of Historic Places; denominational and ethnic archives; publications; informational websites; our project advisory group and other subject specialists; and church websites and Facebook pages.
Some churches, such as those listed on the National Register of Historic Places, have a great deal of associated information; others have very little. We have only included churches for which we have at least an exterior photo and basic information such as name, address, denomination, ethnicity of founding members, and architectural style.
A Word About Searching by Architectural Style Terms
Our style descriptions come from various sources that don’t necessarily use the same terms. For this reason, our search page provides a drop-down menu with terms that are most commonly used by state historic preservation offices (our primary data source for architectural style).
In the database search page under “Architectural Style, “Gothic” applies to all nineteenth- and twentieth-century style terms that include the word “Gothic”—for example, Gothic Revival, High Victorian Gothic, Carpenter Gothic, Collegiate Gothic, etc.
Similarly, “Romanesque” applies to all nineteenth- and twentieth-century style terms that include the word “Romanesque”—for example, Neo-Romanesque, Romanesque Revival, Richardsonian Romanesque, etc.
“Modern” is a catch-all term for twentieth-century architectural styles, circa 1930-1970, not otherwise included in the drop-down list. This includes styles such as Brutalism, International, Mid-Century Modern, Wrightian, etc.
Photos and documents found in the Preserving Nordic Heritage Churches database are used with permission or licensed through the Creative Commons.