Norwegian Lady Statues are located in the sister cities of Moss, a coastal town and municipality in the county of Østfold, Norway, and at the Oceanfront (boardwalk) in the coastal resort city of Virginia Beach, Virginia in the United States. They commemorate the lives lost in the 1891 shipwreck of the Norwegian barque Dictator off the coast of Virginia Beach and the lifesaving efforts of the community.
Wreck of the Dictator
On Good Friday, March 27, 1891, the Norwegian barque Dictator, whose home port was the coastal town of Moss, Norway, was lost in the Atlantic Ocean south of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay off Virginia Beach, Virginia. The Dictator had a crew of 15 and the captain's family aboard. The sailing ship had been en route to West Hartlepool, England from Pensacola, Florida with a cargo of Georgia Pine lumber. After being caught and disabled in several storms along the East Coast of the United States, she was headed up the coast for port at Hampton Roads at Norfolk, Virginia to make repairs when she encountered gale force winds.
Just a few miles south of Cape Henry, and the comparative shelter of the Chesapeake Bay, the sailing ship was driven aground on a sandbar over 300 yards (300 m) offshore of Virginia Beach near present-day 37th street. Her only two lifeboats were destroyed as the main mast and other rigging fell onto the deck. As the vacationing guests of the Princess Anne Hotel and area residents of the small new resort town watched, members from Seatack and Cape Henry Lifesaving Stations of the United States Lifesaving Service (a predecessor agency of the United States Coast Guard) worked in the high winds and seas at rescue efforts beginning about 10:45 A.M.
Ship's figurehead: Norwegian Lady memorial
Since early days of navigation, a ship's figurehead had often been a feature intended in some way to help ensure a safe and prosperous voyage. After the breakup and sinking of the Dictator, the ship's wooden female figurehead had washed ashore nearby. Spotted by a young guest, it was retrieved by the manager of the Princess Anne Hotel. He subsequently had it placed in a vertical position facing the ocean near the boardwalk as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the shipwreck. Known as the "Norwegian Lady", it was a landmark at Virginia Beach's Boardwalk at 16th street for more than 60 years as the town became incorporated in 1906 and grew to become a small city in 1923.
New statues for sister cities
As the story of the lost memorial grew in Virginia Beach, community interest spread across the ocean to Moss. A drive began at both ends to replace the memorial. With a substantial contribution of the Norwegian Shipping Association, enough funds were raised to pay for not just a replacement for Virginia Beach, but two new statues.
Norwegian sculptor Ørnulf Bast was commissioned to create two nine-foot bronze replicas of the original figurehead. The Norwegian Lady statues were unveiled on September 22, 1962. One was presented as a gift to Virginia Beach, and an exact duplicate was erected in Moss, Norway to unite the two cities. Each statue gives the appearance of facing the other across the Atlantic Ocean (but in reality, the directions of their respective gazes are almost perpendicular to each other).