You don’t have to be in the Santa Ynez Valley long before realizing that this is a special place. The nature is picturesque, the weather practically perfect and the pastimes, like bike riding, wine tasting and general life celebrating, are simply everyday events. Yet underneath those present day realities thrums a rich history of foreign culture and westward expansion that has shaped the valley into what is today.
Here’s a glance into the history of the Santa Ynez Valley.
The towns that make up the Santa Ynez Valley were established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Ballard in 1881, Santa Ynez in 1882, Los Olivos in 1887, Solvang in 1911 and Buellton in 1920) and as each unique town formed, a new culture arrived in SYV.
Danish-American settlers brought their old world to a very new, undeveloped California in the early 1800s, creating a rich mix of the two in the town of Solvang. Danish for “sunny field,” Solvang remains a European treasure in the heart of California wine country complete with windmills overhead and a replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower in the town center. Many of the town’s shops and restaurants, including Mortensen’s, Greenhouse Café and the Red Viking Restaurant, provide a taste of the old world while other Danish traditions including the Danish language, folk dancing, music and festivals keep the traditions alive. While in town, visit the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art as well as the Hans Christian Andersen Museum to put the finishing touches on your Danish cultural experience.
Starting in 1858, the Overland Coast Line Stagecoach helped grow the Santa Ynez Valley as it ran from San Francisco to Los Olivos and then on to Los Angeles, San Diego and finally Yuma, Arizona. As people traveled the line, economic activity poured into the towns making them true pictures of the West complete with saloons, blacksmiths and mercantile stores. Then, in 1887 the Pacific Coast Railroad helped bring more growth to the area by making it easier to transport large farming tools necessary for the area’s growing agricultural society.
An ideal climate for crops, the area first thrived with cattle and sheep as well as the growing of olives, peaches, walnuts, prunes, apples and cherries. At the time of Prohibition, roughly 500 acres of the valley were used for vineyards. It took nearly four decades after the repeal for the area’s wine culture to regenerate, but today nearly 20% of the valley’s land is under vines.
For a complete history lesson, stop by the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum and Parks- Janeway Carriage House next time you are in the area. And when you do, be sure to take the historical journey in style with the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott’s Escape! Wine Transportation Package. Complete with a four-hour town car tour, three buy-one-get-one-free wine tasting passes at local wineries and deluxe accommodations at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, we think you’ll agree – it’s the ideal way to experience the best of both the past and present in the Santa Ynez Valley.