Solvang - “Danish-Inspired”

One of the state's leading tourist destinations, this Danish Village features unique shops, restaurants, bakeries and professional theater.

In 1911, there was a meeting in San Francisco. Although the people attending the meeting did not know it, they were about to become an important part of Santa Ynez Valley history. The motive behind the meeting was to find a place for a new Danish colony in California, patterned after a similar project in Grand View, Illinois.

The educators found, in what became Solvang, a land which had the climate, water supply, fertility of soil and beauty that they were looking for. They purchased 9,000 acres from the West Coast Development and Land Company, and thus the town of Solvang was founded. In 1914, Atterdag College came into being. Atterdag means "there shall be another day" in Danish. In the beginning, the college had no textbooks, no exams and no degrees. It was a full time college until 1937, and between 1938 and 1951 it was used during the summer.

Today, Solvang is still primarily a Danish town, but there are people of other nationalities here also. There are four Danish windmills, patterned after Danish mills. Ferdinand Sorensen's (a local architect and designer) windmill was the first. The town of Solvang is now largely Danish architecture of the Old World type. Driving down the streets of Solvang, you will see native thatched and aged copper roofs, with storks on the rooftops, which the Danes believe bring good luck.

The people involved in Solvang's birth were Reverend J.M. Gregersen, Rev. B. Nordentoft, and P. Hornsyld, who headed the committee to start Atterdag College. Early residents of this beautiful Danish town, appropriately named "sunny field," included the Nielsens, Petersens, lversons, and Christiansens, descendants of whom still live here today. Advertising brought people from Northern California, Oregon, Washington and the Midwest. Buellton gained from Solvang's publicity, and many Danes settled there as well.

By Leah Etling

Photos by William Etling