San Bernardino Mountains, CA, May 17, 2014 – When Santa’s Village opened it’s doors in 1955 in Skyforest, it was the first franchised theme park in the country, beating Disneyland’s opening by more than a month. It was the first of three Santa’s Villages built by developer Glenn Holland. In it’s heyday, it was one of Southern California’s biggest tourist attractions drawing nearly 180,000 visitors per year.
In 1918, Joseph Henck bought 440 acres of land in the San Bernardino Mountains for $10,000. with hopes of someday building a resort. The family moved to the property in 1923, becoming very involved in local affairs. Joseph started subdividing 160 acres of the property for development, opened a general store, and became the area’s first fire chief and insurance agent. His wife Mary, was the first postmaster and opened Lake Arrowhead’s first schoolhouse.
In the early 50s, the Henck’s were approached by Glenn Holland about building a park on their land after he had read an article about a similar project in New York called the North Pole. He found investors, put together a corporation to fund the park, and leased the land to build the elfin park in 1953. Many people who grew up in the decades before it closed in 1998, remember fondly visiting Santa, feeding the reindeer, riding the Bumble Bee Monorail, and enjoying goodies from the Good Witches Bakery and Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen.
In the years since it closed, there have been several attempts to reopen Santa’s Village with no success. It has just been reported that an anonymous Lake Arrowhead resident has purchased the property and mountain residents are hopeful that their Christmas wish will come true. However, at this time there is no word what the new owner plans to do with the property. Perhaps we should all write letters to the North Pole, and hope for a Christmas miracle.