See also Exhibitions for news about current and upcoming Elverhøj exhibits.
On Saturday June 22 Elverhøj Museum of History & Art will celebrate the year’s longest day with Solstice Sundowner, a benefit party with fun, fine food, and entertainment.
Guests will congregate at 5 pm under a canopy of oaks on the greens alongside the picturesque lake at Jonata Vineyards. The bucolic setting lies off Ballard Canyon Road within the boundaries of the nearly 9,000 acres that Solvang’s founders bought in 1910 for their new Danish colony.
Superb wines will be flowing along with a Sundowner cocktail special. Tray-passed appetizers, and a gourmet dinner prepared by Ono Catering will be followed by a decadent dessert. Tickets for the evening are $100 per person. Seating is limited to 125.
Following Danish tradition, a Solstice “Sankt Hans Aften” (St. John’s Eve) bonfire will be lit by the water as the sun sets in the west. At nearly the same time, guests will be able to observe the full Moon rising in the east from this magnificent location.
Save the date of June 22, 2013 for this fabulous event benefitting the Elverhøj Museum, whose mission is to collect, preserve and exhibit the history and Danish culture of Solvang and to promote the arts.
For more information, to request an invitation, or inquire about sponsorship opportunities, please phone Elverhøj at 686-1211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ELVERHØJ CELEBRATES A QUARTER CENTURY
Elverhøj Museum of History and Art is having a party that’s 25 years in the making. On Saturday May 18 the Museum celebrates a quarter century of service with an open house from 4 to 6 pm. There will be refreshments, craft activities for all ages and living history demonstrations. A short program will take place at 5 pm in the garden.
The occasion will also mark the opening of a new exhibition, “Essence of Elverhøj: Celebrating a Quarter Century of Service.” The focal point of the show is a timeline of the museum’s development, achievements, events and activities through the years. Additional displays will highlight exhibitions, volunteers, artists and the legacy of the Brandt-Erichsen family.
The Legacy of Elverhøj
Elverhøj Museum began as the dream home of artists Viggo and Martha (Patt) Brandt-Erichsen and their three children. He was an internationally recognized painter and sculptor and she was an accomplished painter and art teacher. In 1949 the Brandt-Erichsens purchased property on the edge of Solvang and set to work hand-building their home in a style derived from the large farmhouses of 18th century Denmark. Ornamental wrought ironwork, a hand carved front door and colorful handpainted panels in the kitchen are just some of the permanent imprints of this talented family.
The house took almost four years to complete, with Viggo laying nearly every brick himself, as seen in the composite photo below, “Elverhoy Then and Now.”
On April 25, 1953 the Brandt-Erichsen family moved in. They named their new home “Elverhoy” (The Elves’ Hill) after Denmark’s first national play. Written in 1828 as part of the celebration of a royal wedding in Denmark, it was a family favorite. The new home, with its spacious art studio, soon became a venue for many cultural events, setting a tradition of supporting the arts in the Santa Ynez Valley.
The composite photo below shows Elverhoy "then and now" — Viggo Brandt-Erichsen personally laid almost every brick in Elverhoy.
Many years later, Martha Brandt-Erichsen gave a very generous and important gift when she donated her home to become a community museum. It was decided that the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society would be the recipient of the gift and in 1984, the Board of Directors of the Historical Society formed the Elverhoy Committee. Original members were Pete Grigsby, Paul Burtness, Rosalie Cornelius, Elenita Merrill, and Dale Rossi. In addition, there was a Testamentary Committee formed to advise and guide the house-to-museum transformation. Original members were Thor Brandt-Erichsen, Richard Christensen, Johannes Jaeger, Karl Jorgensen, and Poul Palmer. (Other people also served on these two committees.) Working together, the Elverhoy Committee and the Testamentary Committee formed a joint Advisory Board of Trustees.
A Bigger Job than Anticipated
Much work had to be done to convert a private home into a public museum. Permits had to be obtained from the City of Solvang to establish a museum in a residential area and remodel the building. Erling Pohls, a local building contractor (and grandson of Hans D. Skytt, the man who had largely built early Solvang), was engaged to do the remodeling and the mandated seismic retrofitting. Project foreman Tory Griggs is shown below (left) with Thor Brandt-Erichsen during the remodeling.
Construction workers blended current building techniques with old-world craftsmanship to achieve an accurate historical representation of a late 18th century Danish building. Pine wood flooring was laid throughout to re-create materials used in Danish Provincial houses. The modern family kitchen was remodeled to reflect an earlier period by using older fixtures, a wood/peat-burning stove, and pine countertops, tables and floors. Family living quarters were turned into display rooms. The Brandt-Erichsen studio became a spacious art gallery with skylights.
On May 22, 1988, the museum opened to the public as the “Elverhoy Danish Heritage and Fine Arts Museum.” Initially the newly rebuilt structure was furnished with items donated by the Brandt-Erichsen family and by Solvang residents and other friends of the museum. Richard Christensen traveled to Denmark to acquire Danish artifacts for the museum’s permanent display. While there he also established connections with the Danish Department of Cultural Affairs as well as various agencies and Danish museums.
Following extensive dialogue with the City of Solvang, in March of 1990 ownership of the Museum was transferred from the Historical Society to the City. The City also took possession of the substantial debt that had been incurred with the remodel and formed a non-profit corporation — Solvang Heritage Associates — to operate the Museum. Also in 1990, the name was shortened to “Elverhoy Museum.” In 1993, it was decided to change the name to incorporate the Danish spelling which is the name that remains today: Elverhøj Museum of History and Art.
In 2007, the City of Solvang transferred ownership of Elverhøj to Solvang Heritage Associates, who continue to oversee operations. The first director, Richard Sims, worked to establish the nonprofit status for the newly formed board. Esther Jacobsen Bates has served as Executive Director since October of 2003, overseeing an expansion of services and programs while creating new partnerships with area organizations and Denmark’s Embassy in Washington, D.C.
The Success of Elverhøj
Elverhøj today is a vibrant community institution whose mission is to collect, preserve and exhibit the history and Danish culture of Solvang and to promote the arts. Visitors can enjoy exhibits celebrating the Danish-American pioneer spirit and the colorful heritage of Denmark; view Solvang’s history through photos, artifacts and video displays; and linger in the attractive and spacious gallery which shows changing exhibitions of regional, national and international art. In addition, people come to take classes, attend lectures, and participate in educational, social, and fundraising activities. Elverhøj is recognized as a cultural center for Solvang and the area.
Maybe you have spotted the elegant red and blue Elverhøj Museum banners hanging from street light poles throughout Solvang.
The two-sided banners depict motifs at Elverhøj. The first motif portrays one of the stylized peacocks that perch in the wrought iron scrollwork inside the Museum’s main room. The other motif portrays “Jørgen,” the terracotta Icelandic horse in the courtyard at the Museum entrance. The horse was sculpted by artist Viggo Brandt-Erichsen whose former residence is now the Elverhøj Museum.
Solvang street light pole banners change periodically for special events and activities, but you will see some Elverhøj banners up year round.
At Elverhøj we want to provide engaging cultural and educational experiences for our visitors. Often they provide the same for us. This happened to me recently when a team of government officials from Crimea came to Elverhøj at the invitation of Solvang City officials. Not only was it impossible for me to understand their language or identify most of their alphabet, I had to research exactly where on the map this autonomous republic of Ukraine is located. (FYI: Crimea is a peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea). Although our discussion — with the aid of a translator — centered on small government management and public/private partnerships, we also shared a keen interest in the history and contemporary culture of each other’s homeland.
This cultural inquisitiveness is present in many visitors who come to Elverhøj. They often ask us about Solvang’s historical ties to Denmark and, with increasing frequency, about life in contemporary Denmark. The media interest in Solvang’s 2011 Centennial extended all the way to Denmark; as a result, more Danes are including a stop in Solvang when visiting California.
Cultural exchanges between Denmark and Solvang are vital and ongoing, with special support from the Embassy of Denmark in Washington, D.C. A fine example of this support and cultural exchange is the May 8 performance by the boys and men from Copenhagens Royal Chapel Choir. It is quite extraordinary that such a world-class choral group has chosen to include Solvang in their tour of U.S. cities.
The Royal Chapel Choir will be followed in late summer by the first cohorts of Danish students from Copenhagen’s Niels Brock Business College and Hospitality College. Discussions about the possibility of educating young Danes in Solvang began over a year ago. It seemed like a modern version of Solvang’s founding, when a group of Danish educators traveled west in hopes of starting a school in the Santa Ynez Valley! Ive found it fascinating to be part of the discussion and am excited to see the project become reality.
Educators, government leaders, community groups, and others meet at the Museum. In fact, Elverhøj is becoming an art and cultural center for the area. I invite you to visit. Bring your club or organization, family and friends. See the latest art exhibition and learn about the community. Take a class or attend a lecture. Share a picnic in the garden and enjoy colorful spring flowers. Its a great time to drop in and see what’s new at the Museum! Something exciting is always going on.
Esther Jacobsen Bates
Elverhøj has published a new book, Spirit of Solvang, drawing on photos and historical information from its archives. Like the exhibit of the same name, the 56-page book is replete with engaging black and white images of Solvang. These 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. Both the exhibit and the book celebrate Solvang’s Centennial by paying tribute to the rich cultural history and heritage of its 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 a newly-produced DVD now screening in Elverhøj’s Solvang Room and 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.
Eight Santa Ynez Valley volunteers were honored by The Valley Foundation at a dinner banquet on March 24. The Santa Ynez Valley News co-sponsors the annual awards, recognizing volunteers and volunteerism in the community. The following three long-time Elverhøj supporters were among those recognized for their contributions.
RICHARD CHRISTENSEN was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteerism. His deep involvement in the community covers many aspects, from elected office on school boards and water boards to nonprofit work with elder care, museums and cemeteries.
Richard was a co-founder and director of the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art, where he remains involved at the committee level and as an advisor. He was a charter member of the Vikings of Solvang, and a founder of the Solvang Friendship House Foundation and has helped a long list of non-profits in the Santa Ynez Valley.
He has also served on the Solvang and Dunn school boards, the boards of Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People, Friends of the Library, the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, and is a long-standing member of the Danish Brotherhood and Rebild Society.
“The Santa Ynez Valley is a unique place,” Richard noted, “but the giving spirit of its residents, whether in time, money, or kindness, is what truly sets it apart.”
KATHRYN MULLINS was honored as Volunteer of the Year for Community Enhancement. “Most of my community involvement centers on being in charge of a business that has become a kind of community center where both local people and visitors come for information, advice and relaxation,” Kathy said.
Owner of the Book Loft in Solvang, Kathy now spends a majority of her time in the top floor which houses the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. It was officially dedicated on Andersen’s birthday on April 2, 1990. “It was quite a project as we spent time traveling and hunting for books, memorabilia, and fixtures.” Over time, the space has evolved into a showcase for the city and its Danish heritage.
Kathy has served on the Elverhøj board and continues in an advisory role. She has also served on the Theaterfest and the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau boards and as a member of the Solvang Centennial Committee.
ESTHER JACOBSEN BATES received the award for Volunteer of the Year for contributions to arts and culture. Over the decades she has volunteered extensively with Danish Days, the Solvang School PTO and the Solvang Education Foundation, Bethania Preschool, Arts Outreach, the Santa Barbara Arts Commission, and very intensely over the last several years with the Solvang Centennial Committee.
Dave Bemis, editor of the Santa Ynez Valley News, introduced her at the dinner, saying “Esther is the executive director at the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art, so you might say, arts and culture are her job. But her efforts have gone so far beyond her job description, and so far beyond the number of hours for which she’s paid. In addition to all the very significant improvements she’s made at Elverhøj, and continues to make, she worked behind the scenes for years to create links with Danish ambassadors and others to lay a foundation for Solvang’s Centennial celebration throughout last year. That was the essential groundwork for getting a visit from Denmark’s Prince Consort Henrik, for example.
“I truly feel that I have received more than I’ve given,” Esther said. “I’ve learned that when you are all together because you want to be, amazing things can happen.”
The man and woman of the year and the lifetime achievement honoree were asked to choose a nonprofit group of their choice to receive a $1,000 donation in their names from The Valley Foundation, while the other honorees are asked to direct a $250 donation.
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.