The Queen’s Jewelry Collection (Part One)

Over the past months there have been two posts that discussed the Crown Jewels of England, Part One and Part Two.  Part One detailed the Royal Regalia which is used in the Coronation of the British Monarch and Part Two had information on some of the other items within the Crown Jewels collection, such as Queen Victoria’s small diamond crown and the Queen Mother’s crown with the famous 105 carat Koh-I-Nor diamond.  (yes, the diamond is that large!)   This post will detail some of the items in the Queen’s personal collection; such as the George IV State Diadem, several beautiful tiaras and other pieces of lovely jewelry that have been passed down within the royal family.

By definition the British Monarch’s Jewels are a collection of tiaras, necklaces, earrings and brooches that are part of their personal collection.  Queen Elizabeth II is the current British Monarch and for her coronation in 1953 she wore St. Edward’s Crown and for the annual State Opening of Parliament she wears the Imperial State Crown. (for more information about these two crowns please see Crown Jewels – Part One)  According to tradition, the Crown Jewels never leave England, so when the Queen travels to another country she will wear one of several tiaras from her personal collection.  In addition to a variety of beautiful tiaras, the Queen also has a lovely selection of necklaces, earrings and brooches that she will wear while attending the daily events on her royal calendar.

Listed below are some of the items from the Queen’s personal collection:

The George IV State Diadem

The George IV State Diadem was made in 1820 for the coronation of King George IV.   The diadem includes 1333 diamonds, including a four-carat yellow diamond and 169 pearls, the circular frame alternates between crosses and a floral design which incorporate roses, thistles and shamrocks which are the symbols of England, Scotland and Ireland.

The diadem was later worn by Queen Adelaide, the consort of King William IV.  Queen Victoria inherited it in 1837 and she wore it at her coronation during the recessional from Westminster Abbey.  Upon her death in 1901 the diadem was passed to a secession of Queen consorts; Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.  The diadem was worn by Queen Elizabeth II for her coronation on the procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey and it is now part of the Queen’s Personal Jewel Collection.   The diadem is one of the most easily recognizable items of the collection since it is worn by Queen Elizabeth in the image on the postage stamps, coins and currency of England; it is also worn in the annual procession from Buckingham Palace to the State Opening of Parliament.

George IV State Diadem

Queen wearing the diadem - young Queen-Elizabeth-Parliament-Opening

Queen Mary’s Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara

In 1893, this tiara was given to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck on the occasion of her marriage to the Duke of York, the future King George.  Funds were privately raised and it was given by the “girls of Great Britain and Ireland” as a gift to the future Queen Mary. (hence the name of the tiara!)

The tiara is circular in form with diamonds pave set in silver and gold.  Originally the tiara had 14 large oriental pearls at each top; in 1914 Queen Mary adapted the tiara to use 13 large diamonds instead of the pearls for a slight change.  The tiara can also be worn as a necklace.  Queen Elizabeth wears this tiara often and can be is seen wearing it in the images on the paper currency and coins of Great Britain.

Britain Royal Jewels

crown 1 crown 2

Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara

Known by several different names, such as the Hanoverian Fringe Tiara and King Georg III Fringe Tiara, the history of this tiara can be rather confusing.  The piece started as a diamond fringe necklace owned by Queen Adelaide, the consort of King William IV, made with diamonds formerly owned by King George III and Queen Charlotte.  The necklace was inherited by Queen Victoria and passed down within the royal family.  Queen Mary had the fringe necklace remade into a tiara.

Later, Queen Mary decided to combine this fringe tiara with diamonds from a necklace that Queen Victoria gave her as a wedding present.  The royal jeweler, Garrard, was brought in make a new tiara that used elements of these two pieces.  The new tiara now included 47 bars of diamonds with smaller diamond spikes, the new piece can be converted into a necklace.  In 1936, Queen Mary gave the tiara to her daughter-in-law Princess Elizabeth, the Duchess of York (the future Queen Consort of King George VI and later the Queen Mother).

The Queen Mother lent it to her daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth II, to wear on her wedding day in 1947.  The tiara broke but was quickly repaired and in photographs taken that day the tiara can be seen looking a little off-centered.  The Queen Mother also lent the tiara to her granddaughter, Princess Anne, to wear on her wedding day in 1973.  The Queen Mother wore the tiara frequently over the years and when she died in 2002 the tiara was inherited by Queen Elizabeth II.

Fringe Tiara

fringe tiara 2

Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara

In 1914 Queen Mary commissioned Garrard to recreate the tiara of Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, her maternal grandmother, who was the Duchess of Cambridge.  According to her will, when Queen Mary died she left the tiara to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II.  The tiara was later given to Diana, Princess of Wales, as a wedding present and she who wore often.  After her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996 the tiara was returned to the Queen.

The tiara is French Neo-Classical in a design which features 19 openwork frames of diamonds in the form of arches with 19 graduated large pearl drops.  At the top of each arch are lover’s knot bows with a large diamond at the center.

Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara worn by Queen and Diana

The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara

The Grand Duchess Vladimir, Maria Pavlovna, was the wife of the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexanrovich and the aunt of the Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.  The tiara was created specifically for her in 1874 by the Russia royal jewelers and was a semi-circular band made of platinum with a design consisting of fifteen interlaced circles set with diamonds and a band of diamonds across the top with pearls drops and small diamonds mounted inside each of the circles.

With the start of the Russian Revolution in 1917, many Russian royalty members including the Grand Duchess fled the country but most of her fabulous jewels were hidden in a secret vault in the Palace.  Sadly, Tsar Nicholas and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.   The Grand Duchess lived exiled from Russia first in Venice, Italy and later she moved to the south of France.  Her jewels, including the tiara were eventually smuggled of out Russia by a trusted British diplomat and returned to the Grand Duchess.   When she died in 1920 her jewels and the tiara were given to her daughter, the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirona, who married Prince Nicholas of Greece.  As the family’s vast fortune was reduced, she sold several pieces of jewelry, including the tiara, to Queen Mary in 1921.

By this time the tiara was in very poor condition and in need of repairs.  The tiara was refurbished by Garrard, the royal jewelers, and Queen Mary decided to make the original teardrop pearls interchangeable with her famous Cambridge emeralds.  When Queen Mary died in 1953, the Vladimir Tiara was given to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Elizabeth wears this versatile tiara frequently and it is also one of her favorites, sometimes she will wear it with the original pearl drops, sometimes with the Cambridge emeralds and she has even worn the tiara with no pendants at all.

The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara with pearls and Cambridge emeralds

Cartier Halo Tiara

This tiara was made by Cartier in 1939 and purchased by the Duke of York, the future King George VI, for his wife the Duchess of York.  The tiara is designed in the form of a band with 16 graduated scrolls set with 888 diamonds.

As Queen Elizabeth, the consort of King George, she wore the tiara several times over the years before presenting it to her daughter, Princess Elizabeth, for her 18th birthday.  When King George died in 1952 Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II and for her 1953 coronation, the tiara was loaned to her sister, Princess Margaret to wear.  The tiara was loaned most recently to Catherine Middleton for her wedding to Prince William in 2011.

Cartier Halo Tiara

The Prince Albert Sapphire Brooch

The day before their wedding in 1840, Prince Albert gave Queen Victoria a beautiful sapphire and diamond brooch.  The center stone is a large oblong blue sapphire surrounded by twelve round diamonds and set in gold, the size of the sapphire has never been confirmed but it is estimated to be between 20-30 carats.

After Prince Albert’s death in 1861, the brooch became a very sentimental to Queen Victoria and she wore is very often for during her long life.  When Queen Victoria died in 1901, this important historical brooch was given to the British Crown. Several Queen Consorts have worn the brooch over the years including the present Queen Elizabeth II.

Prince Albert Brooch

 “Granny’s Chips” – the Cullinan III & IV Diamonds

The Cullinan Diamond was found in South Africa and presented to King Edward Vii on the occasion of his birthday in XXXX.  Several stones were cut from this massive diamond, two of those were the pear shaped 94.4 carat Cullinan IIII and the square shaped 63.6 carat Cullinan IV.  Queen Mary had both these stones made into a brooch and they became known collectively as “Granny’s Chips”.  When she died in 1953, the most of her jewelry collection, including the brooch, was passed onto Queen Elizabeth II.

The combined weight of the two stones when worn as a brooch can be very heavy. During her reign the Queen has worn the brooch only for very special occasions, the most recent time was for her Diamond Jubilee celebration in 2013.  The beautiful brooch has great significant historical value and it is considered one of the most priceless items in the Queen’s Personal Jewel Collection.

Granny's chips  Granny's chips 1

For more information about the Queen’s Personal Jewelry Collection, please click on the link to Part Two.  Also, if you are interested in more information about the Royal Family and their jewels, please click on the links to the following posts:  The Crown Jewels (Part One and Part Two) and the Cambridge Emeralds.


Travel – Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA

Heast Castle - aerial panorama shot

Hearst Castle was the home of newspaper owner William Randolph Hearst and the magnificent mansion he had built is located on the coast of Central California halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  I had the great opportunity to visit Hearst Castle several times over the years.  The first time I visited was in the 1960s and as a child I was amazed at the size of the house and I thought it was absolutely fascinating to see the herd of zebras roaming over the mountains that surround the property.  (Yes, I said zebras … Hearst had a small zoo on the property!)  Later I visited with my son when he was small and again several years later with my husband for a unique evening tour which was a very unusual way to see Hearst Castle at dusk with the sun starting to set over the Pacific Ocean.

Hearst Castle is located near the small town of San Simeon about 43 miles from San Luis Obispo.  The estate is known as La Cuesta Encantada (“The Enchanted Hill”) but Hearst usually called it simply “the ranch”.  Hearst Castle is both a National and a California Historical Landmark and despite the relatively isolated area, the site attracts about one million visitors each year.  Tours are available daily and there are several different ones to choose from including the evening tour mention above, more information about tours can be found at the end of this post.

A Brief History of Hearst Castle

William Randolph HearstGeorge Hearst originally purchased the 40,000 acres property in 1865.  The estate was located along the coast of Central California and had beautiful vistas of the Pacific Ocean as seen from the hills of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range.  The property remained largely undeveloped with only a Victorian house built for George, his wife Phoebe and their son, William Randolph Heart.  There were also stables and some outbuildings and the younger Hearst loved horseback riding and taking rustic camping trips on the estate.  George died in 1891 and Phoebe, died in 1919. Their son, W.R. Hearst inherited the ranch which at that time had grown in size to include 250,000 acres.

Julia MorganAs early as 1915, Hearst had contacted an architect named Julia Morgan to discuss plans for a home that he wanted built on the estate.  He selected a site that was five miles inland and located on the top of a hill with an elevation of 1,600 feet.  Hearst had explained to Morgan that he wanted something permanent built on the site because he loved the location which had spectacular views but was tired of camping in tents.  The original plans for a modest and simple home quickly began to grow into a much larger Spanish Revival mansion.  By the summer of 1919, Morgan had the site survey completed and had drawn the first plans.  Later that year construction began with the three guest cottages known as Casa del Mar, Casa del Monte and Casa del Sol.  When those were near completion construction then started on Casa Grande, the main building, which is 60,645 square feet.  Construction steadily continued on the estate until 1947 when Hearst stopped living there due to his failing health.

Hearst Castle - constructionHearst Castle includes 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, a movie theater with 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, an airfield for guests to arrive by private planes and at one time the world’s largest private zoo. Morgan was a competent civil engineer and created a gravity-based water system that would transport well water from a location on the property to a reservoir that was built less than a mile from the main building.  In addition, a private power plant was built on site to supply the electricity for the estate since at the time Hearst Castle was being built homes powered by electricity was a new technology.

Hearst was an eccentric art and antique buyer and he furnished his home with a collection of items gathered on his many trips to Europe and his warehouses were bursting with inventory.  Hearst would buy entire ceilings and facades of old European buildings on these buying trips and Morgan was challenged to fit them into the design of the estate and as a result the architectural style is a variety several different periods and the floor plan can be rather chaotic.

Hearst Castle - Hearst in the Dining RoomDuring the time that Hearst owned the property, especially during the 1920s to the 1930s, he entertained lavishly with guest lists including Hollywood actors, directors and prominent political people.  Guests would arrive by private planes or on Hearst’s private train that traveled from Los Angeles.  Guests were free to use the estates facilities during the day while Hearst worked on his publishing and entertainment businesses, but at night they were expected to dress formally for dinner.  Card playing, billards and films shown in the private theater were the main entertainment in the evenings for Hearst’s invited guests.

In 1947, Hearst left his beloved “La Cuesta Encantada” due to failing health and he never returned.  He moved to a home in Beverly Hills and died on August 14, 1951 at the age of 88 years old.  He was buried in the Hearst family mausoleum at the Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California.  In 1957, the Hearst Corporation donated Hearst Castle to the State of California with the provision that the Hearst family would be allowed to come to the property whenever they wished.  They usually stayed at the old Victorian house that was originally built by George Hearst, the house is located on the lower portion of the property and is screened by a grove of eucalyptus trees to offer privacy from the visitors to Hearst Castle.

Information About Visiting Hearst Castle

Since 1958, when Hearst Castle was first opened to the public there have been tours of Casa Grande, the guesthouses, pools and gardens.  The new Visitor center is a great place to start a visit to “The Enchanted Hill” and is where visitors can purchase tour tickets.  While you are waiting for the tour to start, there is a gift store and also a place to eat.  Don’t miss the movie in the Visitor Center Theater that is included with the tour, “Hearst Castle – Building the Dream”, before boarding the bus for the 5-mile ride up the hill to the estate.


Knowledgeable guides take guests on informative tours of William Randolph Hearst private estate.  There are several different tours that explore the various rooms of Casa Grande as well as other areas of the estate.  The three different tours are described below and also the seasonal evening tour.  All the tours visit three of the most photographed areas of the estate, the Gardens with beautiful flowers and lovely statues, the Neptune Pool which is a large outdoor pool with views of the Pacific Ocean in the distance and the Roman Pool which is a lavish indoor pool.

Heast Castle - Gardens 1 Heast Castle - Gardens 2
Hearst Castle - Neptune Pool Heaset Castle - Roman Pool

We would highly recommend making advanced reservations since it is a long drive to Hearst Castle and tours do sell out especially during the busy summer months.  Visitors can reserve tickets online up to 56 days in advance at the Hearst Castle website,

The Grand Rooms Tour –

This tour is highly recommended for first-time visitors.  The tour length is 45 minutes and takes visitors through Casa Grande, the largest house of the estate, and the rooms included in this tour are the Assembly Room, the Refectory, the Billiard Room, the Theater, Gardens, the Neptune Pool and the Roman Pool.  These rooms and areas of the estate were where guests gathered to eat and be entertained.

Hearst Castle - Dining Room Hearst Castle - Billard Room

The Upstairs Suites Tour –

This tour is 45 minutes and takes visitors into the upper floors of Casa Grande to see rooms such as: W.R. Hearst’s private rooms and opulent guest rooms – the Doge’s Suite, the Library, the Gothic Suite as well as the exterior Gardens, Neptune Pool and lastly the Roman Pool.  Be sure to look out the windows for amazing views of the beautiful gardens with the coastline and the Pacific Ocean seen in the distance.

Hearst Castle - Library The Gothic Study at Hearst Castle

Cottages and Kitchen Tour –

This tour is 45 minutes and takes visitors into to two of the three guesthouses on the estate, also visited are the large Kitchen and the Wine Cellar in Casa Grande, the Gardens, the Neptune and the Roman Pool.  While construction of the estate was ongoing for several years, Hearst and his family usually stayed in the Casa del Monte and the other cottage on the tour is the Casa del Mar.

Hearst Castle - Guest House 2 Hearst Castle - Kitchen

The Evening Tour –

This 1 hour and 40 minute tour is available every spring and fall during designated evenings.  The Evening Tour allows visitors to see Hearst Castle as the sun is setting over the Pacific Ocean.  The stage is set in the 1930s as if visitors are attending on of Hearst’s famous weekend parties for Hollywood and Political guests.  Living History Docents dressed in period clothing roam about the estate as visitors tour Casa del Mar and the several rooms of Casa Grande, such as the Assembly Room, the Refectory, the Kitchen, the Library, the Gothic Suite, the Billiard Room, the Theater, the Gardens, the Neptune Pool and the Roman Pool.

Hearst Castle at night 1 Hearst Castle at night 2

For more information about dates and times of the tours and additional details about visiting Hearst Castle, please see their website at

Interesting information about Hearst Castle   

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, when I first visited Hearst Castle during the 1960s I have a distinct memory of the zebras grazing on the hills surrounding the estate.  It seems that Hearst had one of the world’s largest private zoos on the property.  Below is information regarding that period of the history of Hearst Castle.

Animal Hill –

William Randolph Hearst owned a private zoo located on the property, this was not uncommon for wealthy men of the time who owned these private zoos with exotic animals to impress and entertain their guests who visited their large mansions in the countryside.

At the estate in San Simeon, Hearst kept some of his wild animals located in cages just north of the main buildings. Here in this area of the estate in cages of various sizes were several different species of animals, such as black bears, grizzly bears, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cougars, chimpanzees, orangutans, monkeys, macaws, swans, storks and an elephant.  The animals’ diet and exercise were carefully overseen by a veterinarian and staff.

Hearst also kept a small herd of 300 fallow deer which roamed the surrounding hills of Hearst Castle.  Other exotic animals that grazed on the property were the American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, Alaskan big horned sheep, several different types of African and Asian antelope, camels, llamas, kangaroos, ostriches, emus, four giraffes that were kept in a small pen located near the road and of course those famous zebras.

In the late 1930s, as Hearst was experiencing financial difficulty he halted the construction on the estate and in the process of cutting expenses over the next several years he decided to sell or donate many of his exotic animals to public zoos.  Two years after Hearst death, most of the animals were gone.  By the time that the State received Hearst Castle from the estate, the only animals that remained were elk, goats, sheep, deer and zebra.  Today, only a few of those animals survived but a herd of zebra is all that remain.

Hearst Castle Zebras

Craft – Butterfly in a Jar

Butterfly in a Jar

With the end of summer and the start of autumn, I thought this craft project would be a fun way to “preserve” those wonderful summer days as the weather starts to get colder.  Below are the supply list and instructions needed to complete this easy “Butterfly in a Jar” craft project.

Butterfly in a Jar – supplies

Jar with a lid
A few artificial ferns or other greenery
A floral spray to add a little color
An artificial butterfly
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
A small amount of potting soil, sand or small rocks

Butterfly in a Jar - supplies

Butterfly in a Jar – instructions

  1. Start with a clean glass container with a lid. (A lid is important because we don’t want the butterfly to fly away!)
  2. Cut the floral spray to fit the size of the container, hot glue the floral spray to the bottom of container.
  3. Cut several ferns in varying lengths to fit the size of the container, hot glue the ferns in various places to the bottom of the container.
  4. Hot glue the butterfly to a wire, then hot glue the wire to the bottom of the container.  When selecting a color for the butterfly, remember to use a color contrast for a visually appealing display.
  5. To give the container a finished and realistic look, scoop potting soil into the container to fill the bottom.  Sand or gravel can be used as other options to fill the container.

Butterfly in a Jar 1 Butterfly in a Jar 2 Butterfly in a Jar 3

After I finished the “Butterfly in a Jar”, I put it on my office desk to replace the floral arrangement already there.  I enjoy glancing at it during the day – it is like having a little bit on summer sitting on my desk!

Butterfly in a Jar - final

For another variation of a container arrangement, please see last months’s Craft post – Glass Dome Arrangement.

H. G. Wells’ Birthday


You may be noticing a theme here.  Barbara is letting me write another post about another science fiction author.  I think she will be surprised at some of the colorful aspects of H.G. Wells’ life I uncovered in my research on him!

Herbert George Wells (Born: September 21, 1866 – Died: August 13, 1946) was an English author known for his prophetic science fiction novels and in later life his comic portrayals of lower class society.  His parents were servants who had turned shopkeepers when they purchased a small store with an inheritance.   The shop was not particularly successful and his father supplemented their income as a professional cricket player.  When the shop failed and his father broke his thigh ending his career as a cricketer, his mother went back to work as a lady’s maid.  As part of the employment agreement the father and children were not allowed to live with her.  Herbert was placed as an apprentice to a draper.  Long days and poor working conditions made this one of the worst periods of his life, but provided experiences he later wrote about in The Wheels of Chance and Kipps.

Herbert’s education was erratic and broad.  He attended Thomas Morley’s Commercial Academy and then taught at the National School as a pupil-teacher (an advanced student who taught the younger children).  When his sponsor was dismissed he had a short, unsuccessful apprenticeship as a chemist and eventually wound up as a pupil-teacher at the Midhurst Grammar school where his Latin proficiency and science had been remembered from a short stay a few years earlier.  In 1884 he won a scholarship from the Normal School of Science (now part of the Imperial College London) where he studied biology and physics.  He studied teaching at the College of Preceptors (teachers) and eventually earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of London External Programme.

In 1891 Herbert married his cousin Isabel Mary Wells.  The marriage only lasted three years  and they separated when he fell in love with one of his students Amy Catherine Robbins (Jane) who he married in 1895.  He had two children with Jane, but with the full consent of Jane he preached and practiced a version of free love and fathered several other children with other women.  H. G. Wells in Love: Postscript to An Experiment in Autobiography chronicles this portion of his life.  At his request it was published 50 years after his death to protect the women in his life.

Politically Herbert was a socialist and who envisioned a classless world where everyone was judged by their merits, not their lineage.  Many of his writings, especially later in life, were devoted to political themes.  He was a strong proponent of the League of Nations (later the United Nations).  His impact on politics was marginal but he did co-found Diabetes UK which is now the leading diabetes charity in the UK.

H. G. Wells was a prolific writer publishing both fiction and non-fiction.  Few people know he wrote a biology textbook and eventually abandoned science fiction later in life for comic novels with discussions of social or political themes.  What he is primarily know for are his science fiction works which have landed him firmly in contention as the “Father of Science Fiction”.  He wrote many of these is a burst of energy between 1895 and 1904.  These works include one of my all-time favorites “The Time Machine” along with “The Invisible Man”, “The Island of Doctor Moreau”, the “First Men on the Moon” and “The War of The Worlds”.

One of his short stories, “The Country of the Blind” is a tale of a man who is stranded in a valley where everyone is blind.  Being able to see, he remembers the old adage “in the land of the blind the one eyed man will be king” and figures he has it made.  Eventually he falls in love with one of the locals, but his petition to marry her is denied because of his obsession with “sight” that the residents of the valley cannot understand or grasp.  They recommend having his eyes removed so he can become “normal”, but on the day of the operation he flees thinking it will be easy to avoid blind searchers, but it is not as easy as he thought.  He sees that the valley is about to be destroyed by a rock slide, but they do not believe him.  In the final version of the story rewritten in 1939 he escapes with the rock slide with his love.  This is a short read and is really worth the time!

H. G. Wells’ works have been made into many blockbuster movies and other productions, but the most memorable of them was the October 30, 1938 radio production of “War of the Worlds” by Orson Welles.  This was written as a newscast interrupting the regularly scheduled broadcast.  It caused widespread panic among listeners and mass hysteria.  You can see Herbert’s biology training showing through in that the world is saved not by military might, but by germs the Martians bodies cannot cope with.

I hope you have enjoyed this post.  It barely scratches the surface of H. G. Wells’ life.  Please comment if you would like to know more about this great science fiction author!

Jeff Jones

Travel – Solvang, CA

Solvang sign

Solvang is located about 50 miles from Santa Barbara, which is about a one hour drive through the beautiful scenery of the golden rolling hills of Central California.   Our family has been visiting this delightful Danish town since the 1960s.  It is a great day trip and the town is known for their shops, bakeries and restaurants.  The architecture of the buildings are a traditional Danish style, be sure to look for stork figurines on the rooftops, and there are several windmills scattered throughout the town.  There is even a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue of Copenhagen and the bust of the famous Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen.

A Brief History of Solvang and the Santa Ynez Valley

The Chumash Indians were the earliest inhabitants of the Santa Ynez Valley.  They were excellent fishermen and hunters that lived in harmony with nature in the beautiful surroundings of the Santa Ynez Valley.

Chumash Indians

Then in the early 19th century the Spanish missionaries were establishing missions along the coast of California.  In 1804 the Mission San Ines was created to serve as a midway point from the Santa Barbara Mission and La Purisima Concepcion in Lompoc.  The land where they built the mission was originally a 9,000 acre Mexican land grant known as Rancho San Carlos de Jonata.  The missionaries converted the Chumash Indians to Christianity and life in the valley centered on the Mission San Ines.  Today, the mission still stands near the town of Solvang.  (Travel Note:  Take the time during a visit to the area for a quick trip to the Mission San Ines to learn about the interesting history of the California Missions)

During a period of time between 1850 and 1930 a large number of Danes left Denmark due to the country’s poor economic conditions.  The destination of a majority of the Danes was the United States, they settled mainly in the Midwest in the states of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota.

By 1906, the Danes that had immigrated to the Midwest were looking to escape the cold winters and the church leaders were exploring the possibility of moving west to create a new Danish colony in California.  In 1910, several Lutheran pastors along with other Danish immigrants formed the Danish-American Colony Company and started looking for land along the coast of California.  In 1911, they had found and purchased 9,000 acres of the former Rancho San Carlos de Jonata Mexician land grant in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The pastor’s returned to the Midwest to encourage the other Danish immigrants to buy land in the new colony, this proved very successful.  One of the first building to be constructed in the new town was a hotel where new arrivals could be housed and it was located not far from the old mission.  Later a school was built at the end of 1911 and opened with 21 students.  Soon, Solvang had a post office, a bank, several stores and a lumberyard.

Initially, for a number of years church services of the Bethania Evangelical Lutheran Church were held at the school.  In 1928, a new church was built based on the rural Danish Gothic-styled churches found in Denmark.  The exterior of the building is made of concrete with walls that are a foot thick and the interior features beautiful hand-carved woodwork on the altar, pulpit and altar rails.  Originally services were held mainly in Danish, but currently they are held in English with the exception of the Lillejuleaften celebrated on December 23 every Christmas season.

After the church was built, the architecture of the buildings in Solvang began to slowly change to a more traditional Danish style.  In the mid 1940s, the first of the town’s four windmills was built and the new buildings were built by a local architect in a new style called Danish Provincial and older buildings were redone to fit the half-timbered and artificial thatched roofs designs.

Solvang 2 Solvang 1

Visitation to the area increased steadily over the next decades.  In 1939, Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and his wife Princess Ingrid visited Solvang because there were about 400 Danish people living in the area at the time and this created publicity for the town.  Then in 1947, the Saturday Evening Post published a featured article on Solvang and even more tourists came.  In 1960, Denmark’s Princess Margrethe visited and then again in 1976 with her husband Prince Henrik after she became Queen of Denmark. Solvang was now becoming a California tourist attraction with over one million visitors per year.

Things to do and places to visit in Solvang

Today, visitors to Solvang love the little “Danish Capital of America”.  They enjoy the more than 150 specialty shops, restaurants and bakeries.  The weather has mild temperatures year-round and the charming village is located in just a few short blocks so walking around is very easy.  There is also a replica of a 19th century Danish horse-drawn streetcar known as the Honen (“the hen”) that take guests on sightseeing tours around downtown Solvang. Bicycling or a motorcycle ride through the beautiful rolling hills of Central California is also a favorite activity for visitors.

  • Elverhoj Museum of History and Art – This building was once the home of Viggo Brandt-Eichsen and his wife Martha Mott.  He was a painter & sculptor and she was also a painter and art teacher.  They built the home in 1950 and the style was inspired by Scandinavian architecture with a carved redwood front door, wrought ironwork and hand painted panel.  Today the building has become the Elverhoj Museum which opened in 1988 as a museum dedicated to the Danish culture.  For more information about the museum, please see their website

 Elverhoj Museum

  • Hans Christian Andersen Museum – This very small museum is located in a store called The Book Loft. This independent bookstore opened in 1970 and there is a small display dedicated to Hans Christian Andersen on of Denmark’s most famous writers.  For more information about The Book Loft, please see their website 

The Book Loft

  • Mission Santa Ines – Mission was founded on September 17, 1804 and is the nineteenth of the twenty-one Missions of California.  The mission was once the center of life in the San Ynez Valley and it is a very interesting part of history in California.  For more information, please see their website

Mission San Ines

  • Danish Days – The Danish Days annual event started in 1936 and it is usually held during the third weekend of September.  At the event there is Danish music with singers and folk dancers, a Sunday morning breakfast features medisterpolser, a spiced pork sausage.  It can be a little crowded during the festivities but it is a great way to experience Solvang!  For more information about the event, please see their website

For more information about the town of Solvang, please see their website

Interesting facts about Solvang

The Little Mermaid statue – Located near the center of Solvang, at the northwest corner of Mission Drive (Highway 246) and Alisal Road, is a bronze replica of the famous statue that sits in the Copenhagen, Denmark harbor.  The two foot tall statue has stood surrounded by a fountain in Solvang since in 1976 and commemorates one of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories about a mermaid who gave up everything for the love of a prince.  The original 50 inch tall bronze statue in Copenhagen was created by Edvard Eriksen in 1913 and was commissioned by Carl Jacobsen whose family founded Carlsberg Brewery.

Solvang - Little Mermaid statue

The Rooftop Storks – When you visit Solvang, look up at the rooftops of the buildings that line the main streets and you will see life-size wooden replicas of the European White Stork.  In Denmark it is said that if one of these birds land on your house it is believed to bring good luck and they would protect any home that they nest upon.

Solvang - rooftop storks

The European White Stork is a migratory bird that signals the arrival of summer in Denmark.  Sadly, the stork has dwindled in population from 4,000 pairs in 1890 to only 5 pairs of storks in 1995 according to the Danish Ornithologist Society.   The decrease in numbers has been linked to the drainage of their native wetlands, the use of pesticides, deaths due to collisions with overhead power lines and illegal hunting.  In 2008, the European White Stork was declared extinct in the wild of Denmark.