Santa's Candy Castle
Santa Claus, Indiana
Back when Santa was still partly European, he was said to live in a castle. That was the thinking behind Santa's Candy Castle, built in 1935. It was the brainchild of businessman Milton Harris, who knew of the post office popularity of Santa Claus, Indiana, and devised a novel way to exploit it.
Starting in 1932, Harris quietly leased land around the sleepy town. When the castle opened three years later, Harris had amassed a thousand acres (Walt Disney had only 160 when he opened Disneyland).
Harris planned to build Santa Claus Town, a kind of World's Fair for tykes. Each building would be sponsored by a company that sold stuff to kids (the castle was bankrolled by the Curtiss Candy Co.) and would serve as a pavilion for its products. Nothing would be for sale, but everything could be mail-ordered and shipped through the town of Santa Claus to get its coveted postmark (Harris seems to have been aided in his scheme by Santa Claus postmaster Jim Martin, whose pay was paid on the amount of mail that came through his post office).
The castle was joined in 1936 by Santa's Workshop and a Toy Village of eight miniature buildings. But by then Harris was locked in a to-the-death lawsuit with arch-rival Carl Barrett, who was trying to build Santa Claus Park just up the road. This sapped Harris's time and money, and World War II dried up his supplies and his customers. When Harris died in 1950, Santa Claus Town was the same tiny attraction that it had been in 1936. It lingered for a couple of more decades before finally being plowed under.
Santa's Candy Castle, however, was made of sturdy brick, and it survived. In 2005 it was bought by self-confessed "Christmas fanatic" Kevin Klosowski, who restored the abandoned building and reopened it to the public in 2006. Kevin hopes to eventually rebuild all of Santa Claus Town, and he has plans for the castle that go beyond even Milton Harris's wildest dreams.
"I thought it would be cool to fill the castle moat with hot chocolate," Kevin told us. "But our health inspector thought it would not be so cool."