Magazine article Sunset

Real Danish in Solvang? It's Still There

Magazine article Sunset

Real Danish in Solvang? It's Still There

Article excerpt

Real Danish in Solvang? It's still there As you descend San Marcos Pass Road into the Santa Ynez Valley, the landscape is purely Californian: rolling golden hills, cluster of oaks, the occasional barn and cow. And then comes Solvang. What is a cute little Danish village doing here? Escaping from Disneyland? But there are really Danes in Solvang--about two-thirds of its 3,700 residents are of Danish descent--and their traditions are the reason for the town to look as it does. Solvang is still run by people named Rasmussen or Nielsen, families who've been here for decades. Danish Americans from around the country seek out the town for its nostalgic ambience. If you're planning to attend the town's popular Theaterfest, the round of plays that runs this month through August, spend some time looking for the authentic Danish influence amid the curio shops. You'll find it in the architecture, language, and food. The town was incorporated only two years ago, and the resulting revenues are being used to update streets and landscape public areas.

When was the last time you saw a thatched roof? When Danish educators from Minnesota came to the valley in 1911 to start a folk school, the only building in town was the Santa Ynez Mission. The settlers, including carpenters and other artisans, built as they had in the Midwest: clapboard houses, the saltbox folk school (now gone), and a handful of Danish country-style buildings (one of these from '20s remains at 440 Alisal Road). But generally the town became a typical Southern California blend of Mid-western and Mediterranean styles. After World War II, artist Ferdinand Sorensen returned from Denmark with an intimate knowledge of its rural architecture. He built his own home using the bindingsvaerk style (with half-timbered facades) and deep, warm colors. He also built the town's first windmill, just east of town and south of State Highway 246; today, it's an apartment. Sorensen convinced others to build in the style and, until his death last year, continued to carve storks and spires. A row of copper roofs with green patina lines the 400 block of Alisal Road. A thatched roof tops Petersen's Yummy Burgers (1659 Copenhagen Drive), with short crossed beams--"crow trees"--holding the thatch at the peak. The Bethania Lutheran Church, built in 1927, has the stark lines of Danish country architecture. …

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