Want some holiday nostalgia? Scotts Valley’s history delivers--in spades!
In 1957, H. Glenn Holland leased 25 acres of the former Lawridge Farm in Scotts Valley, and opened Santa’s Village.
Holland, a developer from Southern California, grew up during the Great Depression. His parents died by his 18th birthday. He wanted to give the children a place where they could experience the Christmas magic that was forcibly interrupted in his own life.
With childlike enthusiasm, Holland opened his San Bernardino park in 1955. The Scotts Valley park followed, and a third opened in Dundee, Illinois, in 1959. Santa’s Village Corporation was the world’s first franchised theme park.
Mention Santa’s Village to locals who remember, and you may get a tear or two. The memories of Holland’s vision feel sacred to many.
Santa’s Village was located just off Highway 17, at the north end of Scotts Valley. It was lovingly run. The grounds were immaculately maintained. Every detail carefully fostered the young visitors’ belief in Santa Claus. Holland “wanted Christmas to be just magical,” shares his daughter, Pamela Holland Reece.
The chalet-style buildings boasted roofs with fake snow and gingerbread trim. Brightly colored, curvy mushrooms dotted the place—homes for the hard-working gnomes and elves who made Santa’s toys. Candy canes and tree-sized soldiers stood at attention. Mrs. Claus’s kitchen produced enormous gingerbread men and other treats. Cash would have broken the spell, so Mom and Dad secretly paid your marked-up passport tab at the end of the visit.
Rides included a Santa’s Express train, a bobsled rollercoaster, spinning snowballs (later moved to the Boardwalk), and a whirling Christmas tree. There was a petting zoo, an Alice-in-Wonderland maze, a lollipop tree, and an elf factory. Old Saint Nick himself took awed children on sleigh rides, with the help of four actual reindeer from Alaska.
And here’s an astonishing fact: For 22 glorious years the North Pole was located right here, in Santa Cruz County’s very own Scotts Valley! Children would lick the frozen pole to make sure it was real. (It was!)
Alas! The North Pole is gone, with the rest of Santa’s Village. Holland’s vision did not survive the cultural drift—or the financial challenges of one rain-soaked Santa Cruz fall and the Illinois park’s paradoxical closures each freezing November and December. In 1979, the Scotts Valley Santa’s Village closed. The San Bernardino park closed in 1998, and the Illinois park in 2006.
Traces of Holland’s Scotts Valley park still linger. Two giant mushrooms stand beside a grizzly bear, on the lawn at McDorsa Park. And south of Lake Tahoe, you can stay in two cabins from Santa’s Village, at Sorensen’s All-Season Resort.
Did Holland’s dream die altogether? Of course not! Christmas never dies. Santa’s Village is again alive and well in Dundee, Illinois. And the San Bernardino park reopened three weeks ago, on December 2nd.
Feeling nostalgic now? We hope you have a wonderful holiday season! Don’t forget, we’re here to help with your real estate questions and needs. Call us at (831)818-4321, or contact us here.