Santa Claus Town
Dedicated on December 22, 1935, Santa’s Candy Castle was the first building in Santa Claus Town, the nation’s first themed attraction. The castle was originally sponsored by the Curtiss Candy Company of Chicago, creators of the Baby Ruth and Butterfinger candy bars. Designed by artist Emil Straus to look as though it were lifted from the pages of a fairytale, the red-brick building has all the elements of a castle including a crenellated tower, a turret, and a rotunda.
Santa Claus Town was the vision of Vincennes entrepreneur Milton Harris, who saw the potential of Santa Claus, Indiana’s unique name after its post office had been featured in Robert Ripley’s famous Believe It or Not cartoon. Harris leased almost all of the land in and around the town and secured sponsorships from
national toy manufacturers. Santa Claus Town was officially launched with the dedication of Santa’s Candy Castle in 1935, and would quickly be expanded with the addition of the Toy Village and Santa’s Workshop in 1936.
The Toy Village was one of the most popular children's attractions in Santa Claus Town. The Toy Village featured over a half dozen miniature fairytale buildings, each uniquely designed and sponsored by a prominent national toy manufacturer. Santa's Workshop was another magical place for children. The unique building with turrets on either end housed an actual wood shop where Santa Claus himself could be seen making wooden toys by hand. A wooden sleigh complete with Santa and reindeers was among the popular wooden toys originally produced in the workshop. The building also displayed the popular toys of the day.
Santa Claus Town brought national media attention and thousands of tourists to the tiny town of Santa Claus which had a population of less than 100 people at the time. Santa Claus Town also caught the attention of Carl Barrett, leading him to build the town's famous Santa Claus statue, which still stands on the highest hill in the town today. Santa Claus Town would serve as a strong influence for other Santa Claus-themed attractions that would later appear throughout the United States from New York to California.
The Legends Meet
In October 1938, Santa Claus Town hosted a Santa Claus school. The rotunda of the Santa’s Candy Castle served as the primary venue for the school’s seated lectures. It is at this Santa school in 1938, that “Santa” Jim Yellig and "Santa" Charles W. Howard met for the only known time during their extraordinary lifetimes.
It is here in the rotunda of Santa’s Candy Castle, exactly 70 years later, that we gather to commemorate that historic meeting, and to officially begin the journey of the Santa Claus Oath Book.
The above picture is the only known photograph of this historic event. Jim Yellig (hand raised) and Charles W. Howard (full regalia) in the round room of the Castle during a Santa School seminar.