To collect, preserve and exhibit the history and
Located in Solvang, California, the Elverhøj Museum is the former residence of one of Solvang’s most artistic families, which is now a community museum devoted to the history of Solvang, the Danish-American pioneer spirit, the colorful heritage of Denmark, and the arts.
The historic hand-crafted structure was the dream home of Viggo Brandt-Erichsen and his wife, Martha Mott. He was an internationally recognized painter and sculptor and she was an accomplished painter and art teacher. In 1950 the Brandt-Erichsens began building their home in the style derived from the large farmhouses of 18th century Jutland in northern Denmark. They incorporated many elements of Scandinavian architecture. Ornamental wrought ironwork, a carved redwood main entry door, and hand-painted panels are a few of the permanent imprints of this remarkable family. After extensive renovation in 1987, the Elverhøj Museum opened to the public in May of 1988. Today Elverhøj is one of the few museums outside of Denmark devoted to the Danish culture and the Danish-American experience.
The name “Elverhøj” is pronounced “Elverhoy” (as spelled in its English version). It was taken from Denmark’s most famous folk play, “Elverhøj,” written in 1828. The play is still performed today. Translated as “elves on a hill,” the story involves a kings’s visit to the night world of the dancing female wood-spirits and her forest friends. Elverhøj was first performed in Solvang in 1914.
The graphic depiction of Elverhøj was designed by Viggo Brandt-Erichsen. The artwork was used as a pattern to create the redwood carving on the front door of the Museum and now has become the logotype for the Museum (seen at the upper left of each web page).
When the Brandt-Erichsen family wanted to preserve their home, Elverhoy, as a museum, they initially donated it to the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society. Later, the City of Solvang took over the ownership and maintenance of the physical facilities, while the non-profit Solvang Heritage Associates and the Executive Director operated the Museum. This worked well until the City began experiencing budget shortfalls and maintenance began to suffer. Negotiations eventually resulted in the transfer of ownership and maintenance of Elverhøj to the Solvang Heritage Associates in June of 2007. Our volunteer Board consists of:
The volunteers at Elverhøj extend gratitude for all of your support and invite you to visit and experience Elverhøj’s warm and welcoming vitality.
The key elements of Elverhøj’s success are volunteers, committees, and membership. Volunteers are involved in all operations and events at Elverhøj. This energized group of more than 65 people contributes time and talent on a regular basis. Committee members guide and assist with education, finance, maintenance of facilities, fundraising, special events, art exhibits, history, the Museum Store, and more. They cannot be thanked enough for their valuable contributions!
Over 30 volunteer docents assist some 15,000 visitors annually! Docents are the Museum’s welcoming face and informed voice. We invite you to join this enthusiastic group of volunteers. All you need is an appreciation of history, Danish culture and/or art and people. You don’t need to know Solvang’s history before volunteering. We have handbooks, videos, and an array of exhibits that will teach you all that you want to know. You will have the support of an experienced team of docents as well as staff to help you. Docent outings (such as pictured here to Old Mission Santa Inés) are offered on a regular basis as a token of gratitude as well as to foster camaraderie and the lifelong learning spirit of Attertag College.
The Elverhøj Board would greatly appreciate more volunteers, particularly from the trades, to help with these chores.
The Craft Committee promotes Elverhøj’s mission by fashioning special items for display and sale in the Museum Store, and by providing crafting lessons and high-quality materials to work with, some of which come from Scandinavia.
Handmade items may include “Jule Nisser” (traditional Danish Christmas elves), paper stars, woven hearts, needlepoint cones, tiny crocheted scarves, and more. It is with great pride that Elverhøj offers the opportunity to participate in learning Danish crafts, preserving a little history, and enjoying a morning with friends and fellow crafters here at the Museum. The Craft Committee meets the first Wednesday of the month, between 10 am and noon, in the Museum Gallery. Registration is encouraged, but drop-ins are welcome.
People travel from across the country and even the world to visit Elverhøj. Closer to home, many school students come to Elverhøj to learn about their community. Pictured here are Solvang School students from Mrs. Bisbee’s second grade class during a visit to Elverhøj.
During Solvang’s Centennial year in 2011, the Elverhøj Museum published a book, Spirit of Solvang: Capturing the Past in Photographs, drawing on photos and historical information from its archives. The 56-page book is replete with engaging black and white images of this Danish colony in California. The carefully restored images document Solvang’s story from its founding to its transition to a Danish-themed downtown. Informative text gives readers an overall view of Solvang’s development, as well as fascinating tidbits of local history. The book pays tribute to the rich cultural history and heritage of the town’s Danish pioneers.
Elverhøj is very grateful to Paul Roark, who expertly and lovingly restored the photographs; to Joan Mitchell, who wrote and edited text; to Ann Dittmer, who tirelessly did research and checked facts; and to the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation and Nancy Brandt-Erichsen for granting funds for printing and design expenses. Thanks are also due to Museum volunteers, especially the History Committee and Photo ID Committee (a.k.a. the “White Glove Gang”). Over the years they have expanded the Museum collection by organizing, identifying, and conserving numerous images.
The book is available for purchase in the Museum Store for $17.50. Special orders are welcomed. Please phone (805) 686-1211 or email email@example.com.
So begins an Elverhøj-produced DVD which screens in Elverhøj’s Solvang Room and is available in the Museum Store for $15. Entitled Solvang, Danish Colony in California, it tells the fascinating history of a little town that grew into an internationally-known tourist destination.
Elverhøj’s photographs come primarily from generous private donors. People have given one or two images and whole family albums, studio portraits and amateur Brownie snapshots, glass negatives and modern color photos.
Because we live in a digital age, precious and sometimes fragile photographs can now be quickly scanned and returned safely to their owners. Without such valuable donations, Elverhøj could not preserve the history of Solvang for others to enjoy and appreciate.
The Elverhøj brochure was redesigned in 2008 for a fresh, new look. There are updated photos and expanded text relating the history of Solvang. Special thanks to Rob Jensen Art Direction Design, members of the Santa Ynez Valley Camera Club, and our sponsors: The Valley Foundation, The Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, and Solvang Rotary Foundation.
The Elverhøj Museum of History and Art encourages art exhibition proposal submissions from individual artists and artist groups. The guidelines are intended to help expedite the review of these submissions by insuring that each proposal is as complete as possible. Proposals for exhibitions at the Elverhøj must include both written and visual components.
A copy of the artist proposal guidelines is available for download.
The historic building and carefully manicured cottage gardens provide a beautiful backdrop for intimate weddings. The garden with its abundant year-round blooms and corner gazebo creates a lovely setting for any wedding party. The bell in its stately tower can chime, marking the presentation of the newly married couple.
The garden area comfortably accommodates up to 150 guests. Call (805) 686-1211 for information about availability and the reasonable rates.