Arizona is home to the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon, crazy desert wildlife, and very hot summers.
#1 Way back in 1937, there was a town called Santa Claus in Arizona!
It might not make much sense that this town, who boasted artificial snow-capped roofs, spritely elves, children’s toys, and jolly old Saint Nick, was once nestled into the desert in Mojave County. In fact, though, that has always been part of it’s appeal. In 1937, Nina Talbot, a real estate minded woman, purchased the chunk of desert land with the vision of creating an unexpected Christmas themed village juxtaposed against a backdrop of Arizonian desert. Not only this, but she hoped to use the town to attract buyers for the surrounding subdivided land she wished to sell. It took under five years for her to realize her vision and put Santa Claus on the map as a booming tourist attraction.
#2 Santa Claus, Arizona used to be quite the attraction!
As the town became more and more popular, people flocked from far and wide to visit the unexpected Christmas oasis. There were a number of buildings to explore. One of the most popular buildings was Cinderella’s Doll House, which had been designed to look like a Swiss chalet. What used to be the Kit Carson Guest House became the Santa Claus Inn, and provided people with a place to stay while enjoying the town. At the time, the restaurant was famous for having air conditioning and serving a 75 cent “big farm breakfast.” Their other menu items seamlessly incorporated into the theme of the attraction with names like “Chicken a la North Pole,” and “Rum pie a la Kris Kringle.” The delicious rum pie became another source of fame for Santa Claus. Back in 1942, you could sit in the French Room, chowing down and admiring the photograph of Santa Claus himself above the mantle.
#3 Santa Claus didn’t quite function as Nina had wanted it to.
The lots of eighty acre land that Nina had hoped would form a bustling Christmas-themed resort town remained unsold. Though the town did well as a tourist attraction, twelve years after opening, the only people who actually lived in the town were the employees. Finally, in 1949, Talbot sold the town. The Santa Claus Inn became the Christmas Tree Inn whose delicious food was lauded by famous restaurant reviewer Duncan Hines. This even attracted some celebrity visitors at the time! A proposed plan to reinvigorate the town led to the roads being renamed fitting things like “Santa Street” and “Prancer Parkway.” In 1961, Santa Claus ran ads for a remailing service in the magazine Popular Mechanics. For the cost of twenty-five cents, mail would be remailed through Santa Claus, thus bearing the Santa Claus United States Postal Service postmark. This was a very popular service around the holidays!
#4 Santa Claus’s decline began in the 1970’s.
By the mid seventies, the attraction was closed. Sadly, Santa Claus was even removed from the official Arizona state map. In 1983, owner Tony Wilcox hoped to sell the four acre town for $95,000, but was never offered more than $50, 000 which he starkly refused. Until 1995, a struggling gift shop remained open, but eventually Santa Claus was altogether abandoned. By this time, Tony Wilcox had resignedly lowered the price of the town to $52,500. Today, all that remains of this once booming town are a handful of run down, graffiti covered buildings, a wishing well, and an old train. The once happy images of Santa and his elves painted on the side of the “Old 1225” children’s train can now barely be made out beneath a layer of graffiti that has accumulated over the years. Soon, Santa Claus, Arizona will only be a piece of abandoned American history alongside the highway.