Last modified: July 2, 2021
The Norwegian Lady Statue is located at 25th Street & The Boardwalk, Oceanfront
In 1891, a community that would later be called Virginia Beach, came together to fight a calamity off our shores, and the heartfelt gratitude as a result of that endeavor would be recognized on the other side of the world, even today.
On March 28, 1891 the Norwegian vessel Dictator, needing vital repairs and caught in a storm, ran aground on a sandbar 300 yards from the shore. This location is present day 37th street here in Virginia Beach. The two life boats on board were destroyed when the mast and rigging fell on the deck. Local residents, patrons from a nearby hotel and men from two nearby United States Lifesaving Services (now called the United States Coast Guard) braved the raging storm and tried to rescue the ship's valiant crew.
The crew aboard and local inhabitants worked together trying many different methods of rescue. They even used the breeches buoy system, but unfortunately, only 8 of the 17 were rescued. The casualties included Captain Jorgon's pregnant wife Johanne, his four year old son Carl and five members of his crew. The captain himself washed up on the beach in a semi-unconscious state and lived to return to his beloved Norway. Seven of his crew were buried in Norfolk at Elmwood Cemetery, while the remaining crew members, having washed ashore days later, were buried at a closer location near the Oceanfront.
A young boy walking along the beach found the female figurehead from the Dictator. Hearing the discovery, the manager of The Princess Anne Hotel went to secure the figurehead before the ocean would carry it away. As a testament to those who helped in the rescue, as well as those who perished, the manager had it vertically positioned on the
boardwalk. Over the years she became known as the Norwegian Lady. Local lore had the Captain returning to the Norwegian Lady in Virginia Beach for many years after his incredible loss, flowers in hand and tears in eyes, to remember that dreadful and terrible day.
The Norwegian Lady stood as a guardian to those memories for over 60 years. In 1953, Hurricane Barbara damaged the Norwegian lady beyond repair and she was removed from the site. Word traveled to Norway about the loss and a joint venture was sent out to raise the funds to build a new memorial. Hearing about the interest, the Norwegian Shipping Association raised enough money, not for one memorial statue, but for two.
The renowned Norwegian sculptor Ornulf Bast was commissioned to create two-nine-foot replicas of the original figurehead, being completed on September 22, 1962. One was given as a gift to Virginia Beach while the other was erected in Moss Norway, forever linking the two sister cities together. The two statues are positioned to face one another over the Atlantic Ocean. Both are a tribute to those who died, as well as those who faced peril in attempting the rescue. Each year the Ladies Auxiliary of the Virginia Beach Volunteer Fire Department places a memorial wreath at the base of the statue to remember that anniversary.
In 1995, on an official state visit, Queen Sonja of Norway visited the Virginia Beach Norwegian Lady and gave tribute by placing flowers on the site. Needless to say, we have sent our own Virginia Beach delegation to Moss Norway to pay our respect to the friendship this disaster forged.
To pay your respect, you can visit the Norwegian Lady located at 25th street and Boardwalk. Most of us have seen the Norwegian Lady but never connected the true meaning. I invite everyone this summer to stop by the statue, but also to read the words that are inscribed there: "I am the Norwegian Lady. I stand here, as my sister before me, to wish all men of the sea safe return home."
To this day, The Norwegian Lady statue is awed at by many tourists and locals. She is one of the favorite Virginia Beach attractions. When walking up and down the VA Beach Boardwalk, it's impossible to miss her if you are around the 25th Street area. Go check her out!