World's Oldest Santa Statue
Santa Claus, Indiana
This mighty 22-foot-tall Santa statue is all that remains of a much grander vision, Santa Claus Park. It was purposely built on the highest hill in Santa Claus by businessman Carl Barrett, who wanted to antagonize his arch-rival Milton Harris, who was building his own attraction a hundred yards down the road. It was dedicated on Christmas Day 1935, less than a week after Harris had opened Santa's Candy Castle.
Barrett felt that Harris was commercializing Christmas. In contrast, Barrett claimed that the Santa statue had been built with the pennies of American schoolchildren. That may have been true, but he also claimed that the statue was built on the spot where a meteor had crashed (he hinted that this was a sign of divine guidance), and that it was made of solid granite. In fact there was no meteor, and the statue was later found to be made of concrete.
Barrett had big plans. Santa Claus Park would be a "world shrine" and "a children's dream paradise" with log cabins, a giant doll house, and an Eskimo Village made of real ice. But within a week of his statue's dedication, Barrett was sued by Harris. The two foes fought in the courts for years, both effectively throttling their plans and eventually destroying each other.
All that remains of Barrett's dream is the Santa statue. Its red paint had faded to a pale pink, the low fence around it had rusted away, the grass was overgrown. The inscription on its base -- which sits on a star-shaped slab meant to represent the Star of Bethlehem -- was crumbling. "Life Hath Given Thee Nothing More Sweet Than The Patter of Little Feet Across Thy Floor."
A much-needed makeover in recent years restored the statue; the old paint was scoured off. Now it looks more like a really big, jolly tombstone.