The Lunchtime Tourist

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June 16, 2003 // UPDATED 10:51 am - April 30, 2007
By: Bull statue
Bull statue

Loring Park, Part two of three

In August of 1895 the Norsemen's Singing Society passed a hat for contributions for a memorial for Norwegian violinist Ole Bull. This small effort grew into a nationwide campaign resulting in the bronze statue we still see today in the Northeast corner of Loring Park.

Ole Bornemann Bull was born in the quaint seaside village of Bergen, Norway, in 1810. His violin concerts of Norwegian folk songs and original compositions made him a national hero.

After a debut in Paris in 1832, Bull set out on a tour of Europe and the United States. The New York Herald reported that during a concert "the very musicians in the orchestra flung down their instruments and stamped and applauded like madmen." Five American tours took the violinist through Minnesota several times. Still composing in his spare time, Bull's American tours inspired the pieces "Niagara" and "Prairie Solitude."

Bull was a member of the "Young Norway" movement of artists who wanted to liberate the Norwegian artistic culture from the influence of Sweden and Denmark. He started an art and literacy program and helped establish the Norwegian Theater in Bergen where he appointed Henrik Ibsen as writer-in-residence. The theater lasted only two years, but Ibsen's career took off. It's been rumored that his most famous character, Peer Gynt, was modeled after Ole Bull.

In 1852 Bull returned to America with hopes of establishing a Norwegian settlement. Hundreds of followers joined him in Potter County, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the land was steep and the soil poor. Eventually Bull sold his interest in the community and most of the immigrants moved west to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Today the land is a state park that bears the violinist's name. Though he maintained a home in Cambridge, MA, for many years, Bergen remained his home. He died there in 1880.

To sculpt the violinist's likeness, prominent Norwegian American artist, and Minneapolis resident, Jacob Fjelde was awarded the commission of the sculpture. Unveiled May 16, 1897, Ole Bull was the first statue in any Minneapolis park.

A parade of 1200 people marched from the West Bank's now demolished Dania Hall to Loring Park where an astonishing crown of 25,000 were gathered for the festivities. The highlight of the event was a concert by Ole Bull's son Alexander playing one of his father's original compositions on his father's violin -- which resides in the collection of St. Paul's Schubert Club.

LUNCH TIP: Enjoy a spicy Asian pork burger at Joe's Garage overlooking the park at 1610 Harmon Place.

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