Much historical information about our area can be found online here:
Early settlement of the area to become know as Santa Claus began in the early 1800’s. The town was Santa Fe and was laid out in 1846 by Thomas M. Smith, surveyor, on Section 1, Township 5 south, Range 5 west, and consisted of seventeen lots. (Outlined in red on the map at left.) Shadrach Hall had built a tan-yard there as early as 1820. Absalom Pollard opened the first store about the time the town was laid out, or perhaps earlier. After him the merchants were John Wollen, John Spect, John Bloom, Dr. Abbott, Mr. Paddock, Samuel Lamar, Mr. Sewerman, Mr. Shetzer, H. T. Barker, Mr. Niehaus, Ernest Eghert, Louis Weis and others.
Except for the addition of the U.S. Post Office in 1856, the town remained a quaint community tucked away in the rolling hills of Southern Indiana. It would take until 1933 before the community started to match its unique name with some equally unique attractions.
It was at this time that Milton Harris gave up a law practice in Vincennes, Indiana, and arrived in Santa Claus to manufacture decorative sleighs. He purchased some acreage and began construction of a souvenir shop and other buildings followed a theme of medieval architecture that brought tourist appeal for the Town of Santa Claus.
The years 1935-36 marked a time when Harris’s completed souvenir shop was joined by other developments. Several toy manufacturers occupied the other medieval theme buildings of his and they established toy displays in them. Also joining the group was the Curtiss Candy Company which opened a special outlet of its Chicago headquarters here. They had a candy castle complete with simulated candy sticks placed upon the roof. From this castle, the company sold and mailed candy to all parts of the country.
At the same time that the Candy Castle was being opened, Carl A. Barrett, a resident of New Harmony, Indiana, held December 25 dedication ceremonies for a roadside park on a scenic Santa Claus overlook. In these ceremonies, Barrett unveiled a giant 40-ton statue of Santa Claus dedicated “to the children of the world in memory of an undying love.” Besides the statue the park also had a wishing well and an ancient log cabin to round out the spirit portrayed by the jolly old gent.
Credit for making Santa Claus the exciting fun-filled center of recreation that is it today, however, must go to the late Evansville industrialist, Louis J. Koch. A love of children was genuine for Koch who had nine children of his own. He believed that just as his family enjoyed the happiness of being together, other families would enjoy having a place where they could be together in a joyful atmosphere.
Near the beginning of World War II Koch retired form his activities as an industrialist and began to think seriously about creating such a place. To put his plan into action he purchased 260 acres of rolling farmland at Santa Claus. But before he could begin work toward his goal, the expanding war caused a postponement in the project. Coming out of the war years in August of 1945, work began on the creation of Santa Claus Land.
The park opened a year later all decorated in festive holiday attire and filled with attractions straight out of Santa’s sack of treats. Designed in an appropriate alpine architecture, Santa’s Headquarters included Toyland, a restaurant, a gift shop, a large doll house with more than 1,100 antique toys, a variety of playground equipment, a museum filled with antique toys, toys from foreign lands, and a selection of current toys that children could point to when they sat upon Santa’s knee to tell him what they wanted for Christmas.
Santa Claus Land is now called Holiday World & Splashin Safari, which still has the same atmosphere as the original park. Under the direction of one of the sons of the park’s founder, new rides, musicals, live shows, additional displays and other improvements have been made to Holiday World & Splashin Safari, one of the most popular and picturesque parks in the country. With plans for even more rides, attractions, and live shows, officials anticipate ever-increasing crowds at Holiday World & Splashin Safari.
In 1967, the Town of Santa Claus was incorporated as an Indiana Municipality.
The Town of Santa Claus has two residential/recreational areas. One of these is Christmas Lake Village. It is located adjacent to Holiday World on the south side of town. This area of the community features a 7,300 yard championship 18 hole golf course, tennis club, and country club. With home sites on a chain of scenic lakes- Christmas, Noel and Holly Lakes; and streets as well with Christmas names such as – Sleigh Bell, Chimes and Three Kings.
The other area of development in Santa Claus is Holiday Village which is located on the north side of town and primarily follows a holiday theme, as the streets have names such as; New Years Eve, Good Friday Blvd, and Easter Circle. Located in Holiday Village is a 6,000 sq. ft. recreation and office building, a heated pool and bath house, a 18-hole miniature golf course, tennis and shuffleboard courts, a one-mile jogging trail and a six acre stocked fishing lake.
The town also has a 325 acre industrial park established in 1970. It is presently home to Kimball’s Heritage Hills Division, National Office Furniture and CMI.
The original water and wastewater facilities were constructed from 1970 to 1974. The town hall was built in 1972, which now houses town offices and the police department. A new combined wastewater facility and administration building was completed in 2003. A new water plant, wells and transmission lines where completed in 2011. A new Fire Station was constructed in 2012. Our Santa Claus Community Center opened a fitness center in February of 2015 with a minimal membership fee.
The Town of Santa Claus is currently working on several trail projects: Lincoln Discovery Trail, Yellig Park to Christmas Lake Village Trail, Westside Connector and the Eastside Trail.