Sept. 9, 2007 — Steffen Larsen says he retired at 27 and now works seven days a week. The difference is that his current work used to be his hobby — photography.
Born in Jylland, Denmark, the son of a boat builder, boats became a central part of Larsen's life early on.
Before settling on St. Croix in 1988, he sailed what he calls the "Milk Run" five times from Denmark to the Canary Islands to Barbados and other Caribbean islands.
In his new home he is taking an active part in the community. He is a proponent of alternative energy. He and his wife, Jan Mitchell Larsen, often open their house to let people see how they use solar and wind to supply all their electricity.
He also is a proponent of efficiency in government and is critical about waste he sees. He also has plans to make Christiansted streets more people-friendly. He and his wife own a studio downtown.
He brings a broad background to his tasks on St. Croix. He graduated in 1968 from the University of Aarhus with degrees in art and literature. While teaching ecology he got a sign that teaching wasn't his thing: He didn't like kids.
With two partners he operated an antique Scandinavian furniture company. Before the oil crunch in 1973, Larsen sold his shares to the partners. He was able to retire and sail and travel, as he had always wanted to. He built his own 31-foot boat in 1976.
Larsen anchored in the tropics in December and then in May migrated north; he also sailed the Mediterranean and to Brazil. Larsen said Brazil was nice, particularly the women.
His first wife was from St. Croix. He docked the boat he built in the Virgin Islands and fell in love with the place. Larsen said, "It was just like coming home."
In 1996, Gloria Bourne, then commodore of the St. Croix Yacht Club, introduced Mitchell to Larsen at a Christmas party. They were married in 1997.
Mitchell and Larsen bought an old blacksmith's shop at 58 Company St. "We now have an incredible, real success story: the Mitchell Larsen Studio," he said. Mitchell creates and sells decorative glass, and Larsen sells his photography.
Around three years ago, Larsen started selling his photographs. He has been commissioned to take interior shots of the governor's mansion. He has been to Cuba to take shots of historic buildings, many of which are crumbling due to salt corrosion.
Larsen and Mitchell take pride in the fact that everything is American-made including their tools. All of the employees are American. Larsen said. "Our success is based on Jan's talent," he said, plus the fact that "we never default on our deadlines."
With a conceptual drawing of a Danish farmhouse and Larsen's original sketch of a house, they began to build their totally energy-efficient home, completed in 2000. They incorporated classic pillars and arches from the islands 18th-century colonial era. Larsen's last project will be laying 15,000 Danish bricks to finish the driveway. The home is like a livable art gallery.
Larsen has a vision for the future of Christiansted, such as allowing only foot traffic in town with limited hours. He wants to see no trucks there over a certain weight, and parking lots built on the perimeter.
He said pressure should be put on legislators to make property owners renovate buildings. Larsen said, " I swear to God if we do this, people will come."
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