Saturday, January 10, 2015

Vintage Vacation...Santa Claus, Arizona!

Looking For Santa Claus...

Since Christmas was over, George and I figured the perfect time to look for Santa Claus would be on New Years Day when he wasn't so busy.  Just a few miles south of the Chloride turnoff on US Highway 93 we located the sad ruins of Santa Claus, Arizona.  A frigid wind was moving through the snow-dusted sagebrush as we pulled off the highway.  We found the remaining buildings imprisoned behind a chain link fence with signs warning us not to trespass. It was obvious the warnings came too late, judging by the rude graffiti on the Christmas Tree Inn.

Colorful postcard from the Inn's heyday.

I found a fascinating website called Atlas Obscura.  They have articles on abandoned Santa Claus lands, amusement parks and other cool places.  According to the author of the article, a real estate investor called Nina Talbot arrived in Kingman Arizona with her husband in the early 1930s.  She called herself the "biggest real estate expert in California."  Not because she was good, mind you, but because she weighed over 300 pounds!  She did have a flair for public relations, though.

This looks like a nice place to stop along that empty highway.

The author writes, "The Talbots founded Santa Claus, Arizona in 1937 as an attempt to attract buyers to the desert location.  It featured several Christmas-themed buildings and visiting children could meet Santa Claus at any day of the year.  The town's post office became very popular in December as children and parents could receive mail postmarked with the town's name."

Year-round Christmas menu at the Christmas Tree Inn.

No one ever bought land there, but the restaurant, the Santa Claus Inn...later called the Christmas Tree Inn...was quite successful.  Food Critic Duncan Hines (yes, that Duncan Hines) described it as being one of the best in the region. And according to the article, in 1950, Sci-Fi writer Robert Heinlein wrote a short story about a gourmet meal served there by Mrs. Santa Claus.

Cinderella's Doll House

Santa's "Office?"

"The last gift shops and amusements went out of business in 1995, leaving little recognizable, except for a few vandalized buildings, a wishing well, and the "Old 1225", a derailed, pink children's train covered with graffiti."  The train was no longer there when George and I visited.

Then and Now...A Study in Contrasts

The Inn and the Office/Gas Pumps

The Inn now.
Red and white stripes usually make me happy.

The gas pumps are long gone.

Interior of the Inn.

Happy children enjoy the nursery rhyme characters.

Inn interior in recent times...picture from a Google search

The Third Little Pig's House...all of brick.

The Big Bad Wolf must have driven them away!

No one bought any land...but they kept on trying.

The old "1225" in a Google photo.
I finally got it...12-25...Christmas Day.

The wishing well just over a week ago.

This has been part two of my first Vintage Vacation of 2015.  I found a Pin on Pinterest that lead me to an article in Country Living Magazine. One never knows where the road will lead sometimes. I sure hope you like road trips because I have a few leads for some weirdly wonderful places in Armargosa Valley.  If you are the foolishly brave and hardy type, Santa Claus, Arizona is still for sale...maybe it's just the place for you!


Margaret said...

Fascinating yet so sad :( Here in New York, my parents took us to "Storytown" in the Adirondak mountains in the late 60's. I don't really remember it as I was three or four but we have many photos of us with Little Bo Peep and the Three Little Pigs. I even rode in a pumpkin coach! Sadly that closed in the early 80's and I think those buildings remain a sad reminder of a simpler time when thrills & suspense weren't so popular with little ones. There was even a North Pole to meet Santa. I hope someone comes along and invests in making Santa Claus Arizona something wonderful again! Thanks for the tour! Maggie

Tammy's in Love said...

My family used to take us on vacation to Colorado Springs where we visited The North Pole. Gift shops with folks in feathered hats, Santa available for pix with kiddies and wishing well too...Simpler times, simple fun and still we were thrilled.

Jann Olson said...

Can't believe I have never heard of this town Shirley! How sad that it has become such ruins. Sounds like it would have been such a fun place to visit in it's glory days! Hubby and I visited a fun place in ID that would be perfect for your vintage vacation series. Chesterfield, is an old Mormon settled town. We went there when everything was locked up, but I guess it's open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Fun place to see!

vivian said...

Its too bad places like that are no longer... There used to be a famous santa claus school right down the street from where I work. Now they have made it into a santa claus museum. But oddly, I dont think its open to the public.
anyways.. I love the little trips and the posts you make about them!
have a great day my friend!

Musings from Kim K. said...

How fascinating and sad. Makes you want to go back to the past and do it over again when it was thriving!