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2008 News Archive
News Archive


On exhibit April 12 through June 22 in the museum gallery is “California Dreaming,” in which visual historian and renowned music photographer Henry Diltz returns for an encore exhibition. With more than 40 photographs by Diltz, the exhhibit presents a visual account of the last four decades of popular music.

More information


We are pleased to welcome Chris Nielsen to the board of directors. Born, raised, and schooled in Solvant, Nielsen earned a B.S. in Engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the United States Marine Corps and went on active duty. During his career he developed a wealth of experience in leadership, critical problem solving, and administration. He met his wife Diane while stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA, and they were married in 1995.

In 2006 Nielsen retired from active duty. “I spent a large part of my life away from Solvang, my family, and teh community I love,” says Nielsen. “I realized it was time to bring my family home, ensuring my chhildren the same wonderful childhood I had — in Solvang surrounded by our family, friends, and a nurturing community.” Also in 2006, Nielsen began his “second” career as a Financial Advisor with Edward Jones Investments.

Chris and Diane built their family home in Solvang where they reside with their three children: Kyle and Ben (7) and Gillian (6).


Valley Wines & Valentines, our winter FUNdraiser, was a beautiful and delightful evening which brought in over $5,000 for museum operations.

Flowers, candlelight, and live music provided an elegant ambiance for Valentine's Day festivities. The gallery exhibition “Artists' Books Made Here,” an intriguing show of local artists' handmade books, provided not only a colorful backdrop but also stimulated interesting conversation. The food, prepared by volunteers Sandy Gregersen and Carol Johnson, was as delicious as it was attractively presented. Docents and board members greeted guests and assisted at the event.

Valley Wines and Valentines proved again to be “a fun way to celebrate Valentine's Day, sample some of our wonderful valley wines, and come together to support the Museum,” said Executive Director Esther Jacobsen Bates. “Thank you to all who attended, donated and contributed to the evening's success!”

This annual fundraiser included the Fabulous Valentine's Drawing and a small, but select, silent auction. The grand prize Cupid's Wine Cellar, a 24-bottle wine collection, was won by Randy and Annette Burak. First place winners Shirley Heap and Hanne Pico-Larsen each received a 12-bottle wine collection.

Thank you to the following vintners for donations of wine for drawing prizes and sampling at the event:

  • Alexander & Wayne
  • Arthur Earl Winery
  • Brander Vineyard
  • Bridlewood Winery
  • Buttonwood Farm Winery
  • Casa Cassara Vineyards
  • Curtis Winery
  • Daniel Gehrs Wines
  • Firestone Vineyard
  • Foxen Vineyard
  • Gainey Vineyard
  • Olive House
  • Stolpman Vineyard
  • Sunstone Vineyards & Winery

Silent auction prizes and winners:

  • Bit 0' Denmark Restaurant gift certificate, Lonny Etzel
  • Brothers Restaurant at Mattei's Tavern gift, Norma Hollowell
  • Firestone Walker Brewing Company tour and tasting, Pat Roberts
  • Greenhouse Café gift certificate, Lonny Etzel
  • Home Connection gift basket & certificate, Barbara Chester
  • Johnson's Jewel Box watch, Leslie Ooms
  • Anna LePley tie handbags, Ann Young & Wendy Gregersen
  • Katheryn Mullins gift basket, Maggie LePley
  • New Frontiers Natural Foods gift basket, Knud Jacobsen
  • Presidio Winery gift basket, Ken Johnson
  • Tastes of the Valley gift certificate, Chris Nielsen
  • Valley Oaks Bank gift basket & bond, Barbara Weber
  • The Vineyard House gift certificate, Lonny Etzel
  • Z Folio Gallery giclee, Barbara Weber

Additional drawing prizes and the winners:

  • Berengaria wine t-shirt, JoAnn Verkler
  • Elverhøj mug and gift certificate, Tresha Sell
  • Foxen Vineyard wine, Bill Petersen
  • Gaveaesken gift box, Annie Andersen
  • Old Mission Wine Co. & Honeywood Farm gift, Mercedes Gallardo
  • Paula's Pancake House gift certificate, Christie Anderson
  • Royal Copenhagen Shop cheese board, Elvira Bonazzola
  • Santa Ynez Valley Hardware ice bucket, Aaron Petersen
  • Sunstone Vineyards & Winery wine & tasting, Annette Bredall
  • Vin Hus gift bag, Marion Nielsen
  • Pamela Zwehl-Burke's artist book, Ann Young

Thank you to the sponsors who provided event food:

  • lngeborg's Homemade Chocolates
  • Olsen's Danish Village Bakery
  • Solvang Bakery


Congratulations to docent Clara Ehrsam! Many visitors and supporters recognize Clara as the bobbin lace maker who can be found demonstrating this intricate craft each Sunday at Elverhøj. For her years of volunteer work in the Santa Ynez Valley, Clara Ehrsam has been named the 2007 Volunteer of the Year for cultural enhancement by The Valley Foundation.

Clara's volunteer activities at Elverhøj include supporting museum programs, giving tours for youth and adults, leading the docents, and volunteering for fundraising activities and events. In addition, Clara volunteers in the community, calling bingo weekly at area Senior Centers, and serving as an advocate for special needs adults and children.

Clara will be honored at the annual Man and Woman of the Year Awards Gala on April 5.


Elverhøj has been the recipient of recent gifts from three of Solvang's Danish cultural organizations.

The Rebild National Park Foundation, Solvang Chapter, awarded a $500 gift to fund exhibit renovations in the Solvang Room. Elverhøj and the Rebild Foundation share some of the same goals including promoting Danish culture and traditions, and friendship between Denmark and the United States.

The Danish Sisterhood, Flora Danica Lodge, donated $250 for museum operations. Sisterhood members have been long time Elverhøj supporters, are Life Members, and regular contributors.

A $450 gift was given by Dania Hejls Minde Lodge to honor the memory of the following members: Oswald Iversen, Arnold Detmer, Earl Thygesen, Lester Bornhoft, Judson Krogh, Arne Larsen, Max Vorm, Jorgen Trojmer, Hans Ketelsen, Paul Andersen, Bernhard Vernegren, Knud Miller, Russell Larsen, Kris Klibo, Don Bornhoft, Jorgen Hansen, Anker Johnson, and Daryl Nielsen.


We regularly receive requests for translators to assist with interpreting letters and documents written in Danish. To meet this need, we are compiling a list of translators to share upon request. If you are qualified and interested in being included on the Danish translators contacts list, please contact Esther at (805) 686-1211 or via email, esther@elverhoj.org.


Spring is here and the Elverhøj gardens are full of colorful blooms. The change of season brings longer days and new activities and events.

Committee members have been active, assisting with plans for upcoming programs, classes, and exhibitions. The History Committee met recently, assisting with identifying people, places and events in historical photos. Art Committee members are actively involved in identifying and selecting art for future gallery exhibitions. If you haven't already seen the artists' book exhibit, you'll want to hurry in by the April 6 closing day. The spring gallery exhibition features Henry Diltz's photographs of musical personalities. A 2005 Diltz exhibition brought in a multi- generational stream of enthusiastic visitors and we are excited to have Henry return with new images — and some old favorites.

I encourage you to participate in our interesting programs, classes, and events. Spring classes begin in mid April with courses for youth and adults. Come and learn tips for taking better photos of family and friends, bring your children and grandchildren to the fun Saturday art workshops in the museum gallery, or start a new scrapbooking or faux finish project.

A rite of the season is spring cleaning which is in full swing at Elverhøj. A fresh coat of paint has been applied to some of the interior rooms and renovations are underway in the library. The Solvang Room exhibit upgrades are in progress, with the addition of new photos and expanded information about Solvang's early years on display.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to send a very special thank you to our members. Membership dues provide the basis for our annual operating income and are the financial backbone for programs and events. The list of new and returning members is a growing source of support and we greatly value your confidence in the museum mission.

Esther Jacobsen Bates


Biography of Thor by his son Scott (6.4 MB PDF)

Thor Brandt-ErichsenWe were saddened by the sudden passing of Thor Brandt-Erichsen, who died on May 22, 2008 in Homer, Alaska, where he was working on the family cabin. Viggo Thor Brandt-Erichsen, known to his friends and family as “Thor,” was the eldest son of Viggo and Patt Brandt-Erichsen whose family home is now Elverhøj Museum of History and Art.

No one was prouder of the Elverhøj Museum and its art gallery than Thor Brandt-Erichsen. He often had art on exhibit in the gallery and sold prints of his work to benefit the continued operation of the museum. On his visits to the Valley from Alaska, he and his wife, Nancy, participated in many events held at Elverhøj and represented his family in the operation of the museum.

Born June 3, 1939 in Peterborough, New Hampshire, Thor attended local schools and graduated from Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in 1956 and attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. He was an active participant in the Santa Ynez Valley Boy Scouts program where he developed his love for the outdoors. A journeyman printer, he worked for the Santa Ynez Valley News and the Santa Barbara News Press before moving to Anchorage, Alaska in 1962 with his wife, the former Nancy Hunt of Lompoc, and infant son.

In his early years in Alaska, Thor combined a career as a printer with many Alaskan adventures, including prospecting for gold and antimony, homesteading in the Nabesna area, playing in chess tournaments, and building a home and several cabins. From 1976 to 1979 he was the publisher of the Susitna Sentinel, a weekly newspaper based in Talkeetna.

Rooster Comb, Ruth Glacier, AlaskaIn 1984, Thor retired from printing to pursue a degree in Art at the University of Alaska. He worked in many art mediums, was a past president of the Alaska Artist's Guild, and particularly enjoyed “extreme plein air painting” going to challenging locations such as Ruth Glacier on Mt. McKinley [right].

He was a frequent visitor to Solvang and maintained an active involvement with Elverhøj where some of his art work can be seen.

A Rotarian since 1992, he was active in establishing Rotary Clubs in Russia and promoted many Russian-American exchanges.

“Thor was a generous soul who gave of himself,” said his wife Nancy. “As a true Renaissance man, he had projects and dreams enough for several lifetimes. He lived large!”

Thor leaves Nancy, his wife of 46 years; son, Svend and wife Sarah of Bainbridge Island, WA and their children Haley and Axel; son Scott and wife Beth of Ketchikan, Alaska and their daughters, Sarah, Laura and Gracie. He is survived by his sister, Jean Nandi and her husband Satyabrata of Berkeley, CA and his brother, David Brandt-Erichsen and wife, Bien of Tucson, Arizona.

Thor Brandt-Erichsen

Shown below is another example of Thor's plein [open] air painting, where Thor packed his easel to Corona Arch on an outing with the Natural Arch and Bridge Society led by his brother, David.

Corona Arch Corona Arch

An illustrated biography of Thor Brandt-Erichsen written by his son Scott is available. The 160-page book includes 79 photos. It is available in several formats:


On exhibit through September 21 in the museum gallery is “Merv Corning Retrospective,” a display of original work from various stages in the illustrious career of an accomplished and renowned painter with close local ties. The exhibition will include nearly 40 original paintings as well as pencil studies, mementos, and publications featuring artwork from a career of more than 50 years.

More information


Debuting September 27 in the Museum Gallery is Real/Abstract: Paintings by Jim Farnum & Francis Scorzelli. The exhibition will feature two practitioners of the use of color whose paintings envelope the viewer in two different, yet related worlds. Scorzelli's works are purely abstract while Farnum's are image-based pastels and oils.

More information


We are pleased to announce that James Bertero has been elected to the board of directors. A Solvang resident, Jim graduated from Loyola University, Los Angeles, in 1961 and served 3 1/2 years in the Air Force. He graduated from USC Law in 1969 and has been with the Los Angeles law firm of Musick, Peeler & Garrett ever since. He is currently the resident (and only) partner in that firm's Santa Barbara office.

Jim and his wife, Ann, have been married for 47 years and have three grown children and eight grandchildren. Their two sons live with their families in the Santa Rosa, CA area. Their daughter, Lisa, lives in Los Olivos with her husband, Steve Palmer, and their three boys.

Jim has served as a director of several non-profit boards over the years and states that he “hopes to make a useful contribution to Solvang Heritage Associates and the Elverhøj Museum.”


Solvang RoomA major renovation of the Solvang Room is nearing completion. Starting with basics, the room has been re-painted and new signage put up. As before, the glass case is devoted to Atterdag College, but additional items are now exhibited, including one of the lions that used to guard the gym building and a 1927 autograph book giving intimate glimpses of life at the College.

Archival reproductions of many historical photos are newly on display throughout the room. These have been meticulously restored, enlarged, and reprinted by local fine-arts photographer Paul Roark. You can see photos of the three presidents of Atterdag College, the folk dancers who performed at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Viggo Tarnow with his piccolo, and more. On one wall are photos of Mission Santa Ines in the 1880s; a panorama of Solvang and the Old Mission c. 1913; and Father Alexander Buckler and some of his parishioners. Fr. Buckler was Mission pastor from 1904 to 1924 and a good friend to the early Solvang settlers.

Explanatory text, researched and written by Joan Mitchell and a team of volunteers, will help visitors understand the fascinating history of Solvang. They can also see archival reproductions of the incorporation document of the Danish-American Colony and one of its stock certificates as well as a photo of the representatives of the new colony about to look for land in the Santa Ynez Valley.

One of the most complex and time-consuming projects has been the Solvang History Panels or “scrapbook on the wall.” These panels of text and beautiful old photos tell the story of Solvang, starting with immigration from Denmark and extending to the present day. This is a work in progress; fourteen topics remain to be covered. Just finished were two panels on “Solvang's Ranch and Cowboy Days.” Coming up soon are “The Auto and Solvang,” “Danish Days," and “The Brandt-Erichsen Family.”

Elverhøj is fortunate that it has so many treasures in its collection that it can have rotating exhibits. Look forward to additional historical items going on display, as others are carefully preserved in storage.

Many people have contributed their expertise and time as well as photos, mementos, and memories to the renovation of the Solvang Room and they will all be duly acknowledged. Additionally, Elverhøj is very grateful to institutions that have provided financial support via grants: The Valley Foundation, WoodClaeyssens Foundation, and the Solvang chapter of Rebild.

The Museum still needs help, however, in identifying all the people in group photos. You are cordially invited to visit the Solvang Room soon, enjoy the new exhibits first hand, and, if possible, help identify the early settlers.


Each spring Elverhøj hosts many school groups, giving educational tours and handouts to the students. Solvang School’s third grade classes visit each year as part of their study of local history.

Ms. Johnson’s third graders visited in June and surprised Executive Director Esther Jacobsen Bates with a wonderful gift of original art depicting familiar Solvang scenes. Each student created a mixed media painting using colorful tempera paint, crayon and marker. Eight of the designs were reproduced as notecard sets which are available for purchase in the Museum Store. The students have requested that sales of the cards and artwork go to fund scholarships for area youngsters to Elverhøj’s art classes.

This wonderful gift was part of the Share and Care Project sponsored by The Orfalea Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation.


The six-foot high Burchardi cement milk bottle — a well-known advertising icon in the Santa Ynez Valley — stood for years at the Burchardi Dairy driveway at the western entrance to Solvang. The dairy was located on the mesa where Nyborg Estates are now, just off the present Highway 246.

Johannes and Karen Margrethe Burchardi, successful dairy farmers in Northern California, had been the first to buy land in the new colony of Solvang. In 1917 the family was ready to move to Solvang, and by 1925 the Burchardi Dairy was a flourishing family-run business with 40 cows. The dairy operated until 1965.

After the Buchardi Dairy closed, its milk bottle was moved to the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society’s Museum. Just recently, however, the SYVHS Board of Directors unanimously voted to send the milk bottle “home.” They agreed that the bottle should be nearer to where it originally stood in Solvang and that it would be most appropriate for the Elverhøj Museum's collection.

Elverhøj is delighted to welcome the bottle and intends to place it in its back garden. A special fund has been set up to build a concrete pad and to restore the original advertising lettering. First, however, the two museums must work together trying to move a very heavy and bulky concrete bottle from Santa Ynez to Solvang. Once the historic milk bottle is in place, the two museums plan to hold a joint presentation ceremony.

A fund has been established to cover the expenses of the relocation and restoration. If you would like to make a contribution, please phone the Museum at (805) 686-1211 or send your contribution to Elverhøj Museum at P.O. Box 769, Solvang, CA 93464. Please be sure to include a note indicating that the gift is to be directed to the “Milk Bottle Fund.”


The Solvang Rotary Foundation recently awarded a grant of $950 for a new laptop computer. The new equipment has been purchased and is networked with the desktop computers, facilitating more effective use of staff time and easy availability of information. The laptop is a wonderful tool at meetings and allows staff to access records and documents from any area of the museum.

As part of the Man and Woman of the Year awards, The Valley Foundation presents each honoree with funds to be gifted to the non-profit organization of their choice. We were so pleased and surprised to receive a $500 donation from Man of the Year John Rasmussen. In addition, a $100 gift was donated by Clara Ehrsam, Volunteer of the Year. Thank you, John and Clara, for these gifts and all the others you give our community.


As Executive Director at Elverhøj I have the privilege of meeting with various professional groups and organizations. I meet many fascinating and accomplished individuals, am exposed to new concepts and ideas, and often get invited to interesting locations. Recently I joined with 30 associates from all parts of the United States at a two-day seminar of the Cultural Frontrunners at the Danish Embassy in Washington D.C. This network of people works together to enhance cultural ties between Denmark and the United States, sharing events and exchanging ideas.

The concept of Cultural Frontrunners was developed in October 2005 during the Danish Heritage Society's conference in Des Moines, Iowa. Discussions between the Danish ambassador Friis Arne Petersen, cultural counselor Lene Balleby, and many of the participants at the conference — myself included — indicated a need for a new group to enhance cultural cooperation between Denmark and the U.S. From this discussion grew the concept of establishing a network whose members would be dedicated to creating many more Danish cultural events outside the cities where such events traditionally had taken place. Today, three years later, the network counts more than 40 members and links to many cultural events that have taken place in different parts of the United States.

Speakers at the Washington seminar included Ambassador Petersen and Minister Counselor Torsten Jansen from the Danish Embassy; Lone Ravn, Danish Arts Agency in Copenhagen; Francine Berkowitz, a Director at the Smithsonian Institute; and others. The conversation was energizing and included many constructive ideas and suggestions.

The embassy staff was very accommodating, and served us breakfast and lunch on the grounds. The cherry blossoms lining the embassy driveway and parking lot were in full bloom, creating a beautiful contrast to the marble exterior of the building. Although the embassy is well off the main road, the area was busy. Hillary Clinton's residence is located directly across the street and there was much activity in the neighborhood.

One of the highlights of the meeting was dinner at the residence of Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen and his wife Birgitte Wilhelmsen. They are such a personable duo and the dinner was, of course, quite lovely.

As a direct result of the Frontrunner meetings and networking, several Danish-themed exhibits are expected to travel to Elverhøj over the next 24 months. These may include exhibits of fine art jewelry by a talented goldsmith, examples of trendsetting design work, and art by contemporary Danish artists. Another goal is hosting a Danish film festival in our area. From my perspective, Cultural Frontrunners is going to be a positive force at Elverhøj and will enrich our experience of Danish culture.

Esther Jacobsen Bates


Mark your calendars for the tenth annual Queen of Arts Show and Sale on November 7, 8, and 9. An opening reception and sale will be held on Friday evening November 7 from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. Guests can enjoy wine and appetizers while shopping and meeting the 28 California artists and crafts people showing their original, handmade work. The show continues Saturday November 8 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, and Sunday November 9 from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. There is no charge for admission.

From unique folk crafts to fine art, there is a wide range of prices and tastes. Striking fashion or home décor accessories are offered by fiber artists. They incorporate hand painted fabric, antique kimonos, and/or felted fabric. Glass work, ethnic art, collage, mixed media work, and paintings will be available. Jewelry artists creatively use vintage and contemporary beads, resin, and crystal with cold connection or torch construction. Pit-fired, hand-built, or thrown pottery work will be for sale, as well as original garden art handcrafted from steel, stone, and wood. Choose from a wonderful selection of handmade holiday ornaments and decorations to brighten your home.

Participating artists, including seven new this year, are: Georganne Alex, Diane Arnold, Kristen Bates, Shari Beaubien, Norah Bierer, Elaine Cain, Barbara Carr, Louis Cassano, Colleen Darling, Susan Halme, Carol Kemp, Cindy Knight, Dorothy Love, Lindsey Manzo, Jill McCutcheon, Syd McCutcheon, Mike McNutt, Vicky Mitchell, Shelly Niro, Diana Paul, Petti Pfau, Sue Sattler, Deborah Simpson, Victoria Sjollema, Mary Stanley, and Janet Stevenson. 

Reception Nov. 16

Opening November 15 in the Museum Gallery is “Odyssey,” featuring dramatic new work by Santa Ynez sculptor Suzi Trubitz. She is an artist who uses large sheets of stainless steel and bronze as her canvas. Trubitz enjoys the challenge of manipulating seemingly impossible materials as she creates sculptures with sleek modern lines, often accented with colored glass or mirror. A high-energy artist, she operates welders, plasma torches, grinders, diamond saws, anvils, and hammers as she creates her work.

This exhibit brings together a body of large sculptures. Multi-layered works offer glimpses through the depths of the layers; colors change with the light. Included in the exhibition is a series of multidimensional collages made of wood, glass, and mirror. Trubitz has enjoyed success and critical acclaim with her art, exhibiting regularly in New York and Los Angeles. Her work is included in numerous corporate and private collections in the United States, Europe, and Israel.

The exhibit will remain on display through January 25, 2009.

Click to DownloadNEW BROCHURE 

The Elverhøj brochure has been redesigned 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.

Click to DownloadDownload the new Brochure


Party December 7

Christmas at ElverhojThe Elverhøj Museum of History and Art celebrates the Christmas season with a month of special activities. The museum glows during the holidays. A 12 foot tree decorated with handmade Danish Christmas ornaments is the focal point. Weekend activities include demonstrations of Danish Christmas crafts, bobbin lace making, and more.

Join us on Sunday December 7 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. for our annual Christmas party when we celebrate the holiday season in traditional Danish style. The festivities include Danish open-face sandwiches, homemade Danish Christmas cookies and chocolates, and Christmas cheer. Santa will stop by with treats for the kids. Highlights of the evening are live music and the Danish Christmas tradition of “dancing” around the tree.

Admission to the Christmas party is $5 for member and $10 for non-member which helps to cover the steadily increasing costs for event food. There is no charge for children eight and under.  


The 2008 Living History Festival was a big success. More than 800 visitors attended the two-day event which was held in conjunction with Solvang’s annual Danish Days celebration on September 20 and 21. Guests enjoyed the variety of demonstrations of Old World arts and crafts including Nolbinding, Danish Christmas crafts, Viking knitting, spinning and weaving, wood carving, bobbin lace making, papirklip (Danish paper cutting), Renaissance lace making, and stone carving.

A special thank you to all the volunteers who gave time and shared their talents for the Living History Festival:

Marguerite Campbell

Sonja Cartwright

Joy Deming

Clara Ehrsam

Eva Etzel

Lon Etzel

Barbara Forester

Sandy Gregersen

Gary Gresham

Brit Hale

Kristal Hale

Pamela Hale

Tirzah Hale

William Hale

Elisabeth Jacobsen

Inge Jacobsen

Elizabeth Jensen

Susie La Fever

Maggie LePley

Mary Ann Mammone

Kate McCrave

Pandra Moriarity

Ruth Plambeck

Edel Schonfeldt

Lois Vind

Barbara Weber

Wee Woodward



Docents at La Purisima Mission - Click to view largerFor nearly 15,000 visitors each year, Elverhøj’s docents are the welcoming face and informed voice. In September docents and volunteers traveled by van to Lompoc for a tour of La Purisima Mission followed by lunch at Sissy’s Uptown Café. Pictured at La Purisima are (left to right) Esther Jacobsen Bates, Shirley Heap, Helen Fitzgerald, Edel Schonfeldt, Wee Woodward,  State Park Interpreter Ann Boggess, Agnes Larsen (peaking from the back row), Elizabeth Jensen, Marie Jaeger, Alma Lancaster, Lois Vind, Joan Mitchell, and Kimberly Davis. Click on image for larger version.


Contributed by Ken Johnson, President
Solvang Heritage Associates, Board of Directors for Elverhøj

A museum like the Elverhøj, which is the repository of the origins and growth of a specific community, must be keenly aware of and represent three time frames:  yesterday, today, tomorrow. Let’s look at how Elverhøj manages this task.

YESTERDAY is beautifully represented by the building which houses the Museum. Built as a family home in a Danish provincial style by artists Viggo and Patt Brandt-Erichsen, it embodies the origins and life of Solvang’s settlers and the community they founded. In 1980 the family donated their home as a museum. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude, not only to the Brandt-Erichsens, but also to all the people who helped transform Elverhoy House into Elverhøj Museum. They contributed their time, labor and talents, as well as raised money and donated historical items for display.

How well they succeeded in achieving their vision may be seen in a personal example. My wife Carol and I came to the Valley only five years ago. As a first generation American of Danish and Swedish descent, and still speaking a bit of Danish, I was truly taken by Elverhøj. It represented not only the history of Solvang but also so much of my own family history and background, even though I had grown up on the East Coast. In short, it felt like home, because it represents our own “yesterday” as well Solvang’s.

TODAY we can clearly see how much our community has developed since 1911. Solvang is a thriving town with strong growth and a robust economic base rooted in tourism. It has become the “Danish Capital of America” thanks to the ingenuity and hard work of the original settlers and their descendants. The Museum has also grown with the community. The transition from old to new, from past to present, is depicted by Elverhøj’s displays, especially in the Solvang Room. New and/or enriched programs bring in more visitors and participants. In addition, the effects of one monumental change for “today” have been ongoing: the transfer of Elverhøj’s buildings and grounds to the Solvang Heritage Associates. That means the current Board and the Executive Director have a whole new challenge to meet, as well a huge opportunity.

TOMORROW, however, is the future part of the equation, and perhaps the most important. “Today” quickly turns into “yesterday.” If we don’t plan to meet the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow, the museum will just be a repository of an old, dusty yesterday. The Board and Executive Director are actively working on the present operations and planning for the future. We have been discussing and fine-tuning several initiatives, and envisioning the future we would like for the Elverhøj. But as they say, those are topics for upcoming newsletters. Stay tuned.


N. F. S. Grundtvig
A likeness of N. F. S. Grundtvig from the Danish National Historical Museum at Frederiksborg Castle in North Zealand.

On certain days, when the light is just right, you might see something hover above Elverhøj Museum — the spirit of N. F. S. Grundtvig. He inspired Danish folk schools in Solvang and other places. His spirit must smile on Elverhøj when classes meet to study Danish language and culture in its Atterdag College: Lifelong Learning program.

Nicolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig came into the world 50 miles south of Copenhagen  in 1783 as the new baby of a pastor. He died in Copenhagen on September 2, 1872. He was a pastor, theologian, writer of hymns, philosopher, historian, social critic, honorary bishop, member of the Danish parliament, and a radical.

Most of all he was an educational pioneer who believed in ordinary people. He wrote a booklet called School for Life that outlined his educational theories. Denmark saw its first folk school in 1844. As the year 2000 arrived, Denmark counted 44 folks schools and about 50,000 course participants.

Danes brought folk schools to the United States in places like Elk Horn, Iowa; Grant, Michigan; Nysted, Nebraska; Tyler, Minnesota; and Solvang, California. Solvang’s first folk school opened in November of 1911 on Alisal Road, in the building now occupied by Bit O’ Denmark restaurant. A plaque marks the historic spot.

When the original folk school wanted to expand, Atterdag College was built in 1914 on Atterdag Road up Chalk Hill. Gymnastics, singing, and folk dancing, among many other courses, were favorites of young and old. Danish speakers, artists, actors, and musicians visited the school.

The last winter session at Atterdag came in 1937, but summer sessions continued into the 1950s. Eventually the grounds became the site of Solvang Lutheran Home. As a new century began, the spirit of Atterdag College and N. F. S. Grundtvig was revived with the start of educational classes on Danish culture and language at Elverhøj Museum.

Contributed by Kenneth Harwood


Esther Jacobsen BatesOur days have been full of activity, with a calendar crowded with events, meetings, and  record numbers of visitors. Recent weekend events have included the busy annual Living History Festival and a lively reception for “Real/Abstract” artists Jim Farnum and Francis Scorzelli. Our gallery exhibits, with accompanying talks, are very popular.

Museum attendance is up. Visitors from around the globe come to learn about the history and culture of Solvang. We host a variety of group tours, including a recent Elderhostel visit and 45 Danish gymnasts with the GYS 87 team. If you would like to schedule a private tour of Elverhoj for a group of friends or an organization you belong to, call (805) 686-1211 for more information and/or an appointment.

As the days grow shorter, we will begin a new series of classes. This fall we have four Saturday Children’s Art workshops. These are always well-attended and result in some colorful and charming art. More selections, for both youth and adults, will be offered in early 2009.

An assortment of committees, comprised entirely of volunteers, meet regularly and assist with a variety of museum operations. (See the list of opportunities in this newsletter). Volunteering is a great way to help the Elverhoj and interact with interesting people. If you like taking a hands-on approach to maintenance and repair projects, the building and grounds committee meets the first Wednesday of each month at 3:30 pm. New members are always welcome! Speaking of building and grounds, demolition and rebuilding of the deteriorating exterior deck and stairs begins in October.

Finally, I hope that you enjoy the new look of our newsletter. We want to keep you up-to-date and do it with style and color. Interestingly enough, the new style is less expensive to print, so not only is the newsletter more eye-catching, but it is also cheaper. More copies can be produced and distributed to schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. We want the community to know what a vibrant and fun place Elverhøj is!

Esther Jacobsen Bates

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