Solvang, meaning sunny field, was founded in 1911 by a small group of Danish educators. They wanted to establish a Danish-type folk school in an area where settlers could farm the rich riverbed soils. Along with the teachers came farmers, carpenters, and artisans who constructed the first shops, homes, hotel, Lutheran church, and the original folk school.
The town grew up a short walk from Mision Santa Inés, founded in 1804, one of twenty-one missions established by the Spanish padres in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The town itself was built on land that was formerly part of Rancho Jonata, a Spanish land grant.
Danes from the Midwest and Denmark continued to migrate west to Solvang, bringing their skills as farmers, teachers, carpenters, merchants and artisans. In 1936, as part of Solvang’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebration, the future king and queen of Denmark visited, and more interest in the community developed. By the end of World War II tourists were coming, and more shops, bakeries, hotels and restaurants were built to make their visits enjoyable.
Architecturally, Solvang reflects an all-Danish style. Visitors from Denmark frequently comment on Solvang’s architectural authenticity reflected in half-timbered walls, simulated thatch and copper roofs, dormers, and decorative use of tile, stained glass, and cobblestone walkways. Gas street lamps originally used in Copenhagen still light some portions of Solvang. Four country-style windmills are scattered around town, and a half-scale replica of the Little Mermaid, Denmark’s national symbol, sits on one corner of the major intersection of town.
From Santa Barbara, Solvang is 43 miles on Highway 101 or 28.5 miles on Highways 154 and 246.
When R.T. Buell stepped off the Yankee Blade in San Francisco in the mid-1800s, having come from Vermont around the Horn, little did he know that a small town in the Santa Ynez Valley would be named after him a few years later. Panning for gold, he saved enough to buy his first dairy herd, building it into an 800-head operation by 1865.
When a severe drought in the early 1860s forced many of Santa Barbara’s ranchos to be sold off, Buell and his brother each purchased a quarter-interest in the San Carlos de Jonata Ranch three miles west of Santa Ynez. R.T. settled into what became the Buell ranch and tended to his herds. In 1877, a second drought almost cost him the ranch and did force sale of 10,000 acres of the best flatland. Though the family no longer owned the property, this land proved an enduring namesake, part of it being named Buellton some 30 years later.
From Santa Barbara, Buellton is 40 miles on Highway 101 or 31.5 miles on Highways 154 and 246.