The Second World War left many Norwegian seamen stranded outside Norway when the Nazis invaded Norway in 1940. The Norwegian government in exile attempted to assist the seamen, but their funds were limited. In May 1941, Norwegian Consul Lars Christensen, Sr., who was also a ship-owner, visited San Francisco. He recognized that these seamen needed a “home away from home” to get away from

the stress of war and a place to seek comfort with colleagues.  He therefore used his own personal money to purchase a large residence located at 2501 Vallejo Street, formerly the residence of an earlier mayor, Eugene E. Schmitz, and “Norway House” was established.

A local volunteer group of Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans was organized to operate Norway House and in October 1942 a California non-profit corporation, Norway House, Incorporated, was founded. Its purposes were to provide food and lodging, and social, literary and similar services to Norwegian seamen between tours of duty.

Within the first year of its opening, Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Maartha, Prime Minister Nygaardsvold, as well as several ministers of the Norwegian Government visited Norway House to bolster the spirits of these war sailors and to acknowledge these men for their efforts and heroism. Several sailors were decorated with the “His Majesty the King War Medal” and recognized with ribbons and awards for distinguished service.

The Norwegian government also used Norway House for international receptions and as a base for its welfare services to Norwegian seamen temporarily stationed in the Bay Area. Eventually, the war was won, Norwegian ship calls diminished, and no longer was there a need for a facility such as Norway House in San Francisco.

Since its reorganization in 2002, Norway House Foundation has granted numerous fellowships to Norwegian graduate students, made grants for Norwegian cultural activities and for educational seminars focusing on Norwegian–American educational and scientific projects. The primary focus has been to fund studies in Northern California for Norwegians who wish to come here to study at our many universities, and return home to Norway. We hope that in a small way we are returning to Norway the assistance that the seamen from Norway received from the original Norway House, established by Mr. Christensen’s gift and funded in part for many years by the Norwegian government.