The Story of The Norge Depot
Before the 1890’s the area of Norge, Virginia was undistinguished and very sparsely populated. The peninsula Division of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway between Richmond and Newport News was built in time for the Yorktown Centennial celebration in October 1881. Carl M. Bergh (1849-1906) a land excursion agent for the C & O, came to James City County and purchased a farm in 1896. Bergh was born in Norway and raised in Wisconsin. He knew that many Scandinavian immigrants had problems with the arduous winters in the Midwest. And land was cheap in Virginia. So he printed brochures in Norwegian, German, and English extolling the benefits of the climate and opportunities in Virginia.
Beginning in 1898 and for about ten years, Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes came to the Norge area from the Midwest, especially Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and North Dakota. By 1902, 61 families had arrived. Bergh, with the help of Jens B. Jenson, designed the town of Norge. Soon there were nine homes, two stores and a church. Later, a sawmill, cabinet shop, and grist mill were also constructed. The first name suggested for the town was Foster, the name of an 18th century house standing near the railroad tracks. The name Norway was also suggested but there was already a post office of that name. Finally, Norge, using the Norwegian spelling of Norway, was decided upon. At that time the name was pronounced “Nor’-ga” In 1908, a group of young men, calling themselves Vikings, felt the need for a town hall as their parents had known in Norway. They purchased two lots on Main Street (now US Route 60) and built Viking Hall using donated materials. Now named Norge Community Hall, it is still used by the community.
Regular train service began in June 1882. At that time the flagstop at Norge was called Vaiden’s Siding, taken from the name of the family that lived in Fosters, a nearby 18th century home. In 1907 the 34 x 89-foot depot was built at the foot of Peach Street in Norge. The depot was a gathering place for the early settlers to Norge, for trains were the chief mode of transportation to Newport News, Richmond, and beyond. Since it took two days for a wagon to take produce to Richmond, the railroad was used extensively by farmers. Local passenger trains stopped twice a day and excursion trains to the beaches ran daily during the summer months. During both world wars, the trains were especially busy transporting troops and supplies to the embarkation centers on the Lower Peninsula.
The Norge Depot closed to passenger traffic in 1969. It continued as a railroad maintenance building, its condition deteriorating as the years went by. Slated for demolition by the railroad, it was acquired by James City County in 1999 and with funding from a federal Transportation Enhancement grant, was moved intact to the nearby James City County Library property in February 2006. In 2009, the Norge Depot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. An exterior and interior restoration was completed in August 2012 and serves as a museum of railroad and community interest.
The Norge Depot Association is a dedicated volunteer group of local history enthusiasts who are active in the Depot’s presentation to the public and preserving its historical significance.