Vanderlip family remains a presence on the Hill

Portrait in Time Shown above is a painting of Elin Regina Brekke Vanderlip of Rancho Palos Verdes dressed in hardanger bunad (Norwegian costume). The original watercolor is by Eileen Chandler.

One cannot discuss the history of the Palos Verdes Peninsula without mentioning the name of financier Frank A. Vanderlip Sr. The descendants of that first major developer of the Peninsula continue to make their presence felt on the Hill.

Elin Regina Brekke Vanderlip of Rancho Palos Verdes was honored for her early involvement in Nansen Field. On May 18, the Norwegian Seamans’ Hall at Nansen Field was named for Mrs. Vanderlip — the widow of Kelvin Cox Vanderlip Sr. — for her early involvement in its founding.

Nansen Field, in Rolling Hills Estates, seems appropriately located on Hidden Valley Road, because few Peninsulans know where it is. When headed west on Palos Verdes Drive North, take a right turn onto Hidden Valley Road, which is about 50 yards beyond the Hawthorne Boulevard intersection.

The field’s unusual history is told on a plaque inside the building that was placed there when it was named for Elin.

After World War II, the building was brought overland from Fort MacArthur and became the field’s original clubhouse. Today, the field is open to the general public and has become a mecca for soccer enthusiasts from all over the South Bay.

Initially, the field was set aside for use by Norwegian seamen. In those pre-container ship days, the men experienced long and idle two-week layovers while their ships were tied up to load or unload cargo in the port of San Pedro.

In 1947, Consul General Kaare Ingstad, a frequent guest at the Vanderlips, and Pastor Hans Steensnes of the Norwegian Seamen’s Church, told the young Mrs. Vanderlip that they wanted to provide outdoor recreation for those sailors. The plaque notes that “A soccer and track field would provide a healthy alternative to the questionable entertainment the port offered seamen of all nationalities.”

Born in Oslo, Elin Vanderlip served during World War II at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington and the Norwegian Ministry in London. As the bride of real estate developer Kelvin Cox Vanderlip Sr., she shared with him her love of Scandinavia and its culture.

Her husband knew he could not ask his family’s corporation to donate land for the soccer field outright. But he convinced the board to make 8.5 acres available for a nominal $4,330. That was the amount his father Frank A. Vanderlip Sr., had paid in parcel taxes after he acquired the original Rancho Palos Verdes in 1912.

On Oct. 15, 1947, Kelvin and Norwegian Consul General Kaare Ingstad signed the deed. In 1952, the property was then deeded to the nonprofit Seamen of Norway, Inc., a charitable foundation “for the benefit of seamen and others.”

Later, Elin Vanderlip held a party for the creation of SCAN (Scandinavian Center at Nansen field) at her Villa Narcissa.

And on June 6, Elin held a 60th birthday party at the villa for her son, Kelvin Cox Vanderlip Jr.

In its citation, Elin was called, “a faithful, generous and imaginative supporter. She has hosted fund-raisers, designed and donated landscaping, brought family and friends to events, and inspired a master plan to make Nansen Field evermore Scandinavian and beautiful. She has always loved this place for what it represents, ‘a symbol of the friendship between the United States and Norway’. All who enjoy and treasure Nansen Field will be forever grateful to Elin Vanderlip for her vision and generosity.”

Elin also holds several other honors bestowed on her by the French government for her work in raising $20 million to restore French art and decorative art in both France and America. She organized many restoration projects and exchange programs for young French and American restoration interns.

She is one of the few women who hold the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. She is Commander of Arts and Letters, the highest decoration awarded by the French for support.

Nansen Field continues to attract a faithful band of supporters. Its Scandinavian-Americans annually hold the center open to all for one of their festivities. On Saturday, June 28 at 5 p.m., they will offer a traditional shrimp feast and dancing around a Maypole. If you are not a shrimp fancier, they will also offer grilled meats and pasta. The reservations must be made not later than June 25. The cost is $30 a person.

Call Paal Berg at (310) 547-9349 for reservations. His e-mail address is Paal.berg@wilhelmsen.com.

— Pat Brown contributed to this story.

fbrown@pvnews.com

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