WE HAVE AN AMAZING HISTORY
Santa’s Village opened on Memorial Day weekend in 1955, just six weeks before Disneyland.
The original idea came from a Saturday Evening Post article that was written about a project called “North Pole” in New York. Crestline resident Glenn Holland proposed the idea to investors and broke ground, with Putty Henck as the general contractor, in 1954. They worked closely with local artisans and craftsman to create the whimsical Village.
The park was built on 15 of the total 230 acres, which were leased to Santa’s Village by the Henck family. The park operated for approximately 23 years in this capacity.
Glenn Holland went on to build two more parks; one in Santa Cruz, California and one in Dundee, Illinois. Santa’s Village became the first franchised theme park in the country.
A BRIEF COMEBACK
When the Santa’s Village franchise went bankrupt in the late 1970’s, the Henck family was able to purchase Santa’s Village because it was situated on their land.
Pamela and Putty Henck operated and expanded the park to include more rides, horseback riding, and nature trails which they called “Fantasy Forest at Santa’s Village.” They briefly made the business successful, but eventually had to close in 1998. The Henck family then decided to auction the rides and fixtures. Many of these items can be seen around our local communities.
After the closing of Fantasy Forest at Santa’s Village, a new owner attempted to reopen the village. He brought in a local contractor, John Radleigh and began restoration of many of the structures. We are grateful to the Plott family and the efforts of John Radleigh. Because of their efforts in restoring the roofs and windows of most of the buildings, they prevented further degradation of the historic structures and most likely saved the buildings from the fire that would ensue a few years later.
The “Old Fire” of 2003 was one of the worst wildfires in state history and ravaged much of the property and its neighbors. If not for the extraordinary staging efforts of local fire agencies, the Village would have been destroyed. The fire was exacerbated by a previous bark beetle infestation that weakened the already drought stricken trees. The Santa’s Village property was chosen to store and process millions of infested logs. This was not the most environmentally friendly use of the property as it was leased to a logging operation, and its abuse of the land is still evident today in many areas.
BRINGING IT ALL BACK
Restoring the historic qualities of the park is paramount in our efforts. Bringing Santa back to his village is also very important to us: he is why we are here in the first place! Every year, SkyPark at Santa’s Village transforms into a dazzling Christmas Wonderland. Guests can experience the nostalgia of an “Old-World Christmas in the Woods” with their family and friends, and create memories that will last a lifetime.