Chicago’s Viking Dragon: Geneva, Illinois Hosts Epic Exhibition Debut of ‘Freya’ 


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Geneva, Ill. – Prepare to embark on an extraordinary journey through time! 

On Tuesday, September 12, at 12 PM, Third Coast Conservation is set to unveil the restoration of Freya, the century-old Viking Ship’s dragon head and tail.

The story of Freya traces back to 1880 when the Gokstad, an ancient Viking ship, was excavated, missing its iconic figureheads. Shipbuilder Christen Christenson stepped in, meticulously crafting a dragon head and tail, and thus, history was reborn.

Christen Christenson’s role was crucial in recreating these iconic figureheads, which played a significant part in the ship’s visual appeal and historical significance. The restored Gokstad ship, Freya, complete with the dragon figureheads, eventually set sail with them in 1893.

The Viking ship would go on to become one of the most revered attractions at the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago and the decades, undergo extensive transformations. From 1920 to 1978, it saw multiple coats of paint in various striking colors: gold, black, white, yellow, and red. Each layer a testament to changing times and tastes.

In 1979, a significant moment in Freya’s history arrived when the head and tail underwent a meticulous restoration in Sugar Grove, receiving vibrant red, gold, and green hues that recaptured their former glory. For more than half a century, they slumbered in storage at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), waiting for their moment to shine once more.

Thanks to the relentless efforts of the Friends of the Viking Ship, that moment has come. Freya proudly stands on display at the Geneva History Museum, taking center stage in the “Viking’s Voyage” exhibition. Visitors to the exhibition will have the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in over a century of Geneva’s maritime history and witness the breathtaking rebirth of the dragon that once graced the seas. 

The Geneva History Museum is the first to display Freya, which will be featured as the centerpiece of the current “Viking’s Voyage” Feature Exhibition, running through December 23. 


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