During a visit home to the Black Hills of South Dakota, my sister and I decided to take our kids to a small but beautiful site in Rapid City. The oldest cousin groaned when he heard we were going to go visit a church on a sunny summer weekday morning, but he was quickly won over when he saw Stavkirke, a wonderful treasure of a carved wooden building. Telling them how much the building was like those they see in Frozen (which, I admit, I put off viewing as long as possible) and How to Train Your Dragon also helped garner excitement. The kids took off to play hide-and-seek in the covered passageway that surrounds the interior body of the church and behind the granite walls made of stones quarried from the Black Hills. They admired the wood carvings and the metal door knockers. After I corralled them back together, they ran up into the pine forest along the newly developed prayer path while I admired the many statues along the way. It’s usually a quiet, peaceful place, and the church is an exact replica of one built in Norway. The site also features a tiny historical museum of a Norwegian house filled with lovely examples of traditional furnishings, kitchenware, musical instruments, handiwork, and other household items. There is also a gift store built in traditional fashion with a living roof of turf and authentic Scandinavian items for sale. A large grassy lawn offers kids a great place to burn off energy and to settle down for a picnic; mature pines provide shade on sunny days. Scandinavians (and Germans) were one of the main immigrant groups to settle in the region; visiting Stavkirke offers an enjoyable lesson about the history of European immigration and the settling of the West. It can be a bit difficult to locate, as it is tucked away in a residential area, but it is worth the detour. It is also near Canyon Lake Park, a state fish hatchery, and Highway 44, which leads into the Black Hills and more destinations.
(Originally published on my previous blog.)