Heritage Museums
of the
Coteau des Prairies
SissetonSouth Dakota
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Overview
The historic Stavig House, built by Scandinavian craftsmen in 1916, combines elements of the Victorian era with Arts and Crafts style architecture. Listed on the National Historic Register, the museum tells the authentic story of a Norwegian immigrant family through three generations, from fishermen in Norway to homesteaders on the Dakota prairie to Main Street entrepreneurs in the new town of Sisseton.
History
"If these walls could talk…"

The Stavig House, built in 1916 by the son of a Norwegian immigrant, tells the universal story of a typical immigrant family coming to America for a better life. Andrew Stavig, the eldest son in the family, designed the house and raised his family there. The house remained in the Stavig family for 80 years before becoming an immigrant museum. Andrew and his brothers established a successful mercantile business on Sisseton's main street in 1898. Stavig Bros, Inc. served the area for 100 years from 1898-1998.

The Victorian home has its own architectural story to tell. The exterior features include a three story tower and a wrap around front porch. The interior design incorporates more of the Arts and Crafts style. The quality craftsmanship of its Scandinavian builders is reflected in the design of the wood floors throughout the house, the open staircase and the more than thirty window groupings found throughout the seventeen rooms of the house.

The house was bequeathed to the Heritage Museum of the Coteau des Prairies by Andrew's daughter, Mathilda (1904-1994), who lived in the house throughout her life. It opened as a museum in 1996.
The Stavig Letters Collection
The Stavig Letters, written in Norwegian and translated into English, are an extensive collection of letters between two brothers, Lars Stavig, who immigrated to America and his brother, Knut, who stayed in Norway. Consisting of more than 150 letters spanning more than five decades, the Stavig Letters give voice and reality to the immigrant experience from the perspectives of both countries.

The letters document the period between 1880 and 1938. Lars' letters from Dakota Territory offer a first-person perspective of the arrival of the railroads on the prairie, changes in agriculture, the advent of aviation, World War I and the Great Depression. Knut's letters from Norway tell not only of personal struggles, but also of the state of the Norwegian economy, the dangers of traditional fishing practices of the period and changes in Norwegian culture. Woven through the letters are the dreams and aspirations, the joys and griefs of two brothers, one who came to the prairie and one who stayed by the sea.

The letters were collected by Harold Torness of Sisseton, SD, and Dorothy Stavig, of Sacramento, CA. They were translated from Norwegian into English by Marta Boyce of Minneapolis, MN. Copies of the letters in Norwegian and English are archived at the Center for Western Studies on the campus of Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD. Copies are also available at the Stavig House Museum in Sisseton.

Readers Theater production
"The Stavig Letters: The Story of a Norwegian Immigrant" is a dramatic performance by Dr. Wayne S. Knutson. The cast of three includes a narrator and the two brothers, Lars Stavig, who comes to the prairie, and Knut Stavig, who remains in Norway. Using direct excerpts from the Stavig letters and basic theater props, the play lasts approximately 70 minutes and can be performed anywhere. Over 70 performances have been given throughout the midwest over the past 20 years. "The Stavig Letters" is a program of the South Dakota Humanities Speakers Bureau.



The cast of "The Stavig Letters: The Story of a Norwegian Immigrant" includes Rev. Gary Westgard as Lars Stavig, Jane Torness Rasmussen as the narrator, and John Rasmussen as Knut Stavig. Jane is the great granddaughter of the immigrant Lars Stavig.

Contact us about scheduling a performance of The Stavig Letters in your community.
Visit Us
Summer Hours
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Daily
1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Sundays
(Closed Tuesday & Wednesday)

Winter Hours
Open for special events and by appointment throughout the year

Admission
Guided Tours $5.00

Location
Stavig House Museum
I-29 Exit 232
112 1st Ave West
Sisseton, SD 57262
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Special Events
House Tour and Catered Luncheon
An old-fashioned lunch served on china plates at the dining room table along with a guided tour of the house is available to groups any time of year by arrangement ($12 per person).

Several of the recipes used at the Stavig House are taken from the "Goodwill Cookbook," originally printed by the women of Goodwill Lutheran Church in Sisseton in 1936 and reprinted by the museum in 2006. A unique gift, this cookbook is available for $20 (includes shipping and handling) – contact us for orders.

Contact us to arrange a luncheon and/or a group tour.


"The Stavig Letters: The Story of a Norwegian Immigrant"
A 70-minute dramatization based on the Stavig immigrant letters is a unique program for Sons of Norway groups, historical societies, and other organizations

A DVD of The Stavig Letters readers theater production is also available for $30 (includes shipping and handling)

Contact us to bring the performance to your community or to order a DVD.
Galleries
Stavig House