Norblad [nɔr•blæd]


1. Albin Walter Norblad, Sr.: Born in Malmö, Sweden, in 1881, Norblad moved with his family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he was 12. After receiving his degree from the University of Chicago Law School, he became the district attorney of Delta County, Michigan. In 1909, he moved with his wife to Astoria.

He became deeply entrenched within the culture of his new hometown, serving as city attorney, Chamber of Commerce president and a member of the school board. He also joined many civic and social organizations. He was elected to the Oregon Senate in 1918. He briefly became the state’s 19th governor in 1929 when the sitting governor, Isaac Patterson, died suddenly due to complications of pneumonia. Norblad was serving as president of the state Senate at the time of Patterson’s death, which, back then, was the position next in line in the succession to the state’s highest office.

During his time as governor, he oversaw the beginning of construction on the Oregon Coast Highway. After losing the Republican nomination for governor in a 1930 primary, Norblad returned to Astoria where he practiced law and created the Lower Columbia Association of Chamber of Commerce. He died in Astoria in 1960.

His son, Albin Walter Norblad, Jr., would follow his father into law and politics, eventually serving as a Republican representative of Oregon to the U.S. House of Representatives, a seat his father ran for several times but never won.

2. Norblad Hotel and Hostel: a 35-room, second-floor historic hotel and hostel at 14th and Duane streets in downtown Astoria. The two-story, concrete and brick building was designed by famed local architect John E. Wicks, who was commissioned by two local businessmen, A.C. Miller and J.H. Jeffers, the proprietors of Sunshine Dairy.

Lauded for its attention to detail, including two entrances framed in terra cotta, the hostel fell into disrepair and disrepute when operating as The Hideaway Inn and Hostel before being purchased and restored in 2008 by Paul Caruana and Brian Faherty, who are also responsible for the revitalization of the Commodore Hotel, another one of Wicks’ post-fire designs. Ground-floor retail space in the Norblad building is currently occupied by Déjà Vu Thrift Store.

Having undergone massive internal and external renovations with an eye toward historic preservation and the introduction of a chic modernist aesthetic, the Norblad Hotel and Hostel currently has a four-and-a-half star rating on Yelp.

The name Norblad is extremely rare and does not appear to have any distinct meaning. The word, blad, in Swedish, means “blade,” “leaf,” “page” or “sheet.” The prefix nor may be a variant of nord, which means “north” in the same Scandinavian tongue.

Albin Walter Norblad, Sr. was actually born with the family name Youngsberg, but his name was changed by the Swedish government prior to his immigration to the U.S. to clarify military records. It appears, then, that “north leaf” is the creation of a bureaucrat.

The historic building and hotel was named after the prominent politician, who helped secure funding for the construction and initially entered into a 10-year lease for the second-floor hotel space upon the building’s completion. The Hotel Norblad opened in January 1924 and now lays claim to being the oldest continually operating hotel this side of the Rockies.

“The Norblad is being temporarily taken over by local artists and hooligans in a ‘Hostel Takeover.’ Beginning at 7 p.m., a contingent of artists will set up a cavalcade of works throughout the hotel. Food will be provided by chef Marco Davis, rock ‘n’ roll will be controlled by metalhead DJ John Gentner, and wine, beer and punch will be served.”

—“ Astoria Second Saturday Art Walk: January 2016,” ​Coast Weekend, Jan. 6, 2016

“The board of directors of the Astoria chamber of commerce this afternoon adopted a resolution urging A. W. Norblad, state senator of this city, to enter the race to obtain the republication nomination for representative in congress from the first congressional district of Oregon.”

—“A.W. Norblad Indorsed,” The Morning Oregonian, April 7, 1922, P. 6

Correction to the Jan. 4, 2018, Word Nerd:

Recently, when writing about the word “Desdemona,” I inaccurately included the adjective “adulterous” to describe the Shakespearean character and wife of Othello, a play I had not revisited for several years.

Thankfully, dutiful readers pointed out that, in fact, Desdemona was always faithful to Othello, and it was the character Iago’s lies to Othello that convinced the Moor of his wife’s false infidelity. Her tragic arc is to be murdered by her husband because of Iago’s lies.

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