Wreck of the “Dictator” – The Story of How Moss, Norway and Virginia Beach, VA Became One

While visiting relatives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, I took a walk along the Atlantic Avenue boardwalk. Approaching 25th Street, I saw a Norwegian flag waving in the air. For a moment, I was baffled for a second, thinking that someone was a real Letters from Norway fan but then recalled the story. Virginia Beach and Moss Norway are sister cities, brought together by a shipwreck.

25th & Oceanfront in Virginia Beach.

In March 1891, the Bark (an old word for a boat) Dictator (registered in Moss) embarked on a journey from Pensacola, Florida to England. In addition to carrying lumber and 14 sailors, Captain Jørgensen’s wife and four-year-old son were on board.

The Dictator ran into some inclement weather and ship decided to head for Virginia Beach. In the process it became stranded, hitting a sandbar. Bad weather hampered rescue efforts. The Captain’s wife, son, and five crew members were lost at sea.

Later the city built a memorial from the salvaged figurehead (The Norwegian Lady), which was destroyed in a 1953 hurricane. Eventually, the people of Moss and Virginia Beach raised enough money for a bronze statue. Moss Norway also put one up, and the two figures face each other across the sea.

Every year since 1962, at the time of the anniversary of the shipwreck Dictator a memorial service takes place at the Norwegian Lady in Virginia Beach, and flowers are placed by the statue. In 1974, the Virginia Beach City Council adopted a resolution officially extending an invitation to Moss to become a sister city for the purpose of creating greater mutual understanding between the people of Moss and Virginia Beach. The Council of Aldermen of the City of Moss unanimously accepted the invitation. Numerous official and unofficial visits have taken place between the two cities over the years, and have further strengthened the ties between the sister cities.

If you would like to read more about this story, please visit “The Norwegian Lady” page.

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