Sunday, March 23, 2014

Santa's Village, December 1959

Santa's Village was a winter-themed amusement park in the Skyforest section of Lake Arrowhead, California. Opened in 1955, it was the first franchised amusement park, one of three built by developer Glenn Holland. The other two were located in Santa Cruz and Dundee, Illinois.

Holland was born in 1918 and grew up during the Great Depression. His parents died by his eighteenth birthday, leaving him to care for his younger sister. As an adult, Holland dreamed of giving his children and other children the type of Christmas he only knew in his dreams.

"He wanted Christmas to be just magical," said Holland's daughter, Pamela Holland Reece, 63, of Fallbrook, California. "He always thought that children should have adventures and great happiness in their lives. He wanted to make that come true."

In 1953, Holland was inspired to create Santa's Village after reading a Saturday Evening Post story about a project in New York called Santa's Workshop in a town called North Pole. Working at his kitchen table, Holland sketched out his idea of a Christmas fairyland filled with enormous candy canes, animals, and gingerbread houses. Holland contacted Walt Disney, who was involved in building his own theme park at the time, and the two men supposedly corresponded for a time.

Opening for Memorial Day in 1955, six weeks before Disneyland, the 220-acre park was one of Southern California's biggest tourist attractions. It featured kiddie rides, including a bobsled, monorail, and Ferris wheel. There was also a petting zoo with live reindeer. Children enjoyed feeding the goats and other smaller animals that freely roamed the property. The shops included a bakery, candy kitchen, and toy shop. The park was constructed at a cost of approximately $1 million in less than a year by Henck Construction.

I had to zoom in to see what the box was for; hot chocolate. Yum!

Reduced attendance and revenue shortfalls caused Santa’s Village to close on March 1, 1998. The property sold three years later for $5.6 million, and now serves as a staging area for local logging operations. The park's faded candy cane signpost and dilapidated buildings have become a ghost town along the Rim of the World Highway.

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K. Martinez said...

I practically grew up on Santa's Village in Scotts Valley (Santa Cruz County). It was only couple of miles away from where I lived. My parents took us there when we were children and I took my nieces and nephews there during its last years of operation. I remember Frosty's Snowball Ride which was similar to the Mad Tea Party but with snowballs. There was such a homegrown feel to the place. I wish it had survived the modern theme park era. Nice update today. Thanks, Dave.

Connie Moreno said...

1998?! I thought it had closed in the 1970's - wow! Wish I had gone back. These photos bring back neat memories as I visited the park around '65 and then again in '69. In 1969 it did not look this nice, I'm afraid.

Fifthrider said...

I visited the Lake Arrowhead one in the early 80's. It wasn't looking too good then either. You could get straight onto any attraction with almost no line, but the faded paint and splintered wood made you think twice about getting on. I seem to remember a possible monorail-like track but no working ride. I honestly have no idea how it survived to '98, it defies the laws of finance. Thanks for sharing Dave, what great memories of such a forgotten place.