A brisk walk from the Brandeis University campus is a tower memorializing a fort belonging to a mythic Viking city along the Charles River.
Beginning in the mid-to-late-1800s, a food chemist, inventor, and major donor to Wellesley College named Eben Norton Horsford became obsessed with the idea Vikings were in New England around 1000. We know Leif Erikson and other Europeans visited North America before Christopher Columbus. However, Horsford deeply believed Erikson had established settlements in the Boston area.
Some maps from the 1500s refer to New England as “Norumbega,” and there were stories about explorers seeing mythical cities and houses made of gold. However, much of that information appears to have been misconstrued or invented. Most of Horsford’s assertions about Vikings in present-day Boston were rooted in bad science. Evidence from his “archeological” digs didn’t provide solid proof of links to Vikings.
In any event, Horsford had the money to erect various plaques and statutes in the Boston area to memorialize his beliefs. Along the banks of the Charles River in Weston near Waltham he erected Norumbega Tower. The tower stands at the site Horsford believed housed a fort protecting the legendary Norse city of Norumbega. Horsford asserted that the city of Norumbega was located just downriver in Watertown, where he erected a memorial plaque.
Again, there was never any real evidence of a Norse fort or city here. Perhaps more than anything, the tower is a monument to how money can shape history. It is, however, a nice place for a picnic and the accompanying Norumbega Road in Weston is a nice place for a jog.
Know Before You Go
The tower is on Norumbega Road near the intersection with River Road in Weston, Massachusetts.