Solvang (Danish for "sunny meadows") is a city in Santa Barbara County, California, United States. It is one of the communities that make up the Santa Ynez Valley. The population was 5,332 at the 2000 census.
Solvang was founded in 1911 on almost 9,000 acres (3,600 ha) of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata Mexican land grant, by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish colony far from the midwestern winters. The city is home to a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark in California. The architecture of many of the facades and buildings reflects traditional Danish style. There is a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen, as well as one featuring the bust of famed Danish fable writer Hans Christian Andersen. A replica of the Copenhagen observatory Rundetårn in the scale 1:3 was finished in 1991 and can be seen in the city centre.
Mission Santa Ines, one of the California missions (National Historic Landmark), is located near the center of the town, at the junction of State Route 246 and Alisal Road.
The Santa Ynez Valley in which Solvang lies today was originally inhabited by the Chumash people, identified by Fr. Pedro Font, chaplain of the 1776 Anza Expedition, as an ingenious and industrious people. They had an excellent astronomical system and were good fishermen and hunters. When Spanish missionaries arrived at the beginning of the 19th century, they encouraged the Chumash to adopt the Spanish way of life by creating the Mission Santa Inés in 1804, located midway between the missions of Santa Barbara and La Purísima Concepción in Lompoc. The lands became Rancho San Carlos de Jonata. The mission became a seminary in 1844 but soon began to deteriorate. It was however repaired by the Donahue family in 1884 and especially by Fr. Alexander Buckler in 1904.
Between 1850 and 1930, a considerable number of Danes left Denmark which was suffering from poor economic prospects. According to some estimates, as many as one in ten Danes emigrated during this period, mostly to the United States. The most popular destinations for Danish settlers were Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. In many of the new communities, churches and schools were set up in accordance with the ideas of N. F. S. Grundtvig, an influential Danish philosopher, hymn-writer and Lutheran pastor. In particular, the so-called folk schools introduced a new approach to education based on a spirit of freedom, poetry and disciplined creativity. Folk schools were established in Elk Horn, Iowa (1878-1899); Grant, Michigan (1882-1888); Nysted, Nebraska (1887-1934); Tyler, Minnesota (1888-1935) and Kenmare, North Dakota (1902-1916) and finally in Solvang (1911–1931).
One of the most enthusiastic proponents of the folk school approach to education was Benedict Nordentoft who was born in Brabrand near Aarhus in 1873. After graduating in theology in 1898, he was soon tempted to travel to the United States where he began coordinating relations between Danish Lutheran churches in Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine. In 1901, he returned to Denmark specifically to be ordained in Aarhus Cathedral. Back in America, he took a special interest in Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa which was also set up by the Danish Lutheran Church. After first becoming a lecturer there, he was appointed president in 1903, a post which he held until 1910.
From 1906, Nordentoft together Jens M. Gregersen, a pastor from Kimballton, Iowa, and Peder P. Hornsyld, a lecturer at Grand View, had discussed the possibility of creating a new Danish colony with a dedicated Lutheran church and school on the west coast. In 1910, together with other Danish-Americans, they created the Danish-American Colony Company in San Francisco. Later that year, their land agent, Mads J. Frese, found suitable land in the Santa Ynez Valley northwest of Santa Barbara. On January 23, 1911, the contract was signed and Solvang was founded. The Danes had bought almost 9,000 acres of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata land grant, paying an average of $40 per acre.
The first who arrived with Mads Frese on January 28, 1911, were Mr. and Mrs. Sophus Olsen, Hans Skytt, John Petersen and John Ahrenkild. Skytt was to play an important role as the carpenter who constructed many of Solvang's early buildings. The first to be constructed was a hotel where new arrivals could be housed. It was located close to the Mission because of the water supply. Gregersen became president of the Danish-American Colony Company and Nordentoft was named head and Hornskyld a teacher at the school which opened on November 15, 1911, with 21 students.
Thanks to its Danish lifestyle and architecture, Solvang has become a major tourist attraction in California. Ever since 1936, the town has scheduled a Danish Days festival during the third week of September. But it was in 1947, following an article in the Saturday Evening Post, that tourists began to flock to the town. In particular, they now appreciate the Danish windmills, the statues of Hans Christian Andersen and the Little Mermaid, the half-timbered houses, the Danish rural church, the Round Tower as well as Danish music and folk dancing. In addition, several restaurants and pastry shops serve Danish specialities.
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,332 people, 2,185 households, and 1,415 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,143.3 people per square mile (826.8/km²). There were 2,288 housing units at an average density of 919.7/sq mi (354.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 88.24% White, 0.43% African American, 0.66% Native American, 1.05% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 5.51% from other races, and 4.07% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino residents of any race were 19.86% of the population.
There were 2,185 households out of which 26.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.2% were married couples living together, 8.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.2% were non-families. 30.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.96.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.9% under the age of 18, 5.5% from 18 to 24, 25.2% from 25 to 44, 24.4% from 45 to 64, and 22.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 89.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $45,799, and the median income for a family was $57,703. Males had a median income of $41,429 versus $30,175 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,363. About 2.7% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.5% of those under age 18 and 5.9% of those age 65 or over.
Andersen's Pea Soup, Bulletin California
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