Stoughton once again has its Norwegian rooftop dragons watching over the city.
The once-familiar rooftop dragons on the historic Iverson Johnson house at 327 E. Washington Street, were put back on their perch on Monday, May 4, after years of effort and plenty of help from neighbors and family.
Owner Eric Francksen said it took about five years to restore the dragons that were put on the house more than 100 years ago. He did the majority of the restoration himself and sought help from metal smithers, neighbors and roofers. The project cost more than roughly $2,000, but he said for him, his wife, and their three boys, it was worth it.
“It just seemed like an amazing challenge,” he said. “We love the house, we loved the dragons. It is a beautiful part of the town’s heritage.”
The house was built in 1898 and was owned by Dr. Michael Iverson, who operated his medical practice there for five years before founding Stoughton Hospital. Iverson was a proud Norwegian, Francksen said, and so the dragons were put on the house as a nod to Norwegian architecture. Dragons mounted at the peak of Victorian homes were popularized in the 1890s in the artistic town of Balestrand in Southern Norway.
When Francksen and his family bought the house on foreclosure around 5 years ago, it was in disrepair. Over five years of repairs were needed, including new paint, a new roof, redecking the balcony and front porch.
But Francksen said the dragons were the true cherry on top.
The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means he has to work closely with the Landmark Commission to make exterior repairs appropriate to its original character. He said finding the correct paint colors to restore the dragons was like an archeological dig.
“There were a lot of layers of paint, and most of it was worn off,” Francksen said.
Strangers consistently knock on his door and reminisce about the dragons from their childhood, he said. Neighbors anxiously waited for them to come back.
“They would ask me when they were going back up. I’d tell them they were having a spa day,” he said with a laugh.
Francksen said he had significant support from the neighbors, businesses and the Landmarks Commission.
Once during installation, it was a particularly stressful day with quarantine — and he had to cut the installation day short. But Brian Lanear of Ridge Top Exteriors volunteered to come back on a Saturday to ensure the dragons could be put on the roof before Stoughton’s annual Syttende Mai celebration.
Lanear even brought his wife with so she could watch Eric’s kids.
“It was a community effort,” Francksen said.