Santa Claus is a small town located in Spencer County in the southwestern part of the state of Indiana. The town was founded in 1854 and was named Santa Fe (pronounced fee). The story of how it became known as Santa Claus has roots both in fact and fiction. In 1856, the town applied for a post office under the name of Santa Fe. The application was returned with the directions to choose a different name as the town of Santa Fe, Indiana had already been established with the United States Postal Service. There are different versions of the story and there were other choices that the town did not settle upon. The story that appears most often is that the small area of Spencer County was settled in the 1840’s by German immigrants who were too busy to name it. They put off naming the town so long that the people in nearby cities referred to it as “The Nameless Town.” In 1892, the residents met at a log church on Christmas Eve to select a name. During the deliberations, the doors of the church blew open and sleigh bells could be heard in the distance, causing the little ones to shout, “It’s Santa Claus!” According to legend, the decision was made to go with that. What is known is that in 1856, the name of Santa Claus was accepted by the United States Postal Service.
In 1895, the post office changed the name to one word Santaclaus. The small town went unnoticed until the 1920s, when Postmaster James Martin began promoting the Santa Claus postmark. On February 17, 1928, the name was changed back to Santa Claus and it was then decided that there would never ever be another Santa Claus Post Office in the United States due to the inpouring of holiday mail and the staffing issues it causes. The growing volume of holiday mail became so massive that it drew the attention of Robert Ripley in 1929, who featured the town’s post office in his nationally syndicated Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
On August 3, 1946, industrialist Louis J. Koch opened Santa Claus Land, which is claimed to be the world’s first theme park. The park’s name was changed to Holiday World in 1984. In 1993, it became Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari when a water park named Splashin’ Safari was added to the park. Still owned and operated by the Koch family, it attracts more than one million visitors each year, and is home to The Voyage, which has repeatedly been voted by coaster enthusiasts the number one wooden roller coaster in the world.
In 2005, a local development company purchased Santa’s Candy Castle in addition to other buildings that comprised Santa Claus Town and announced plans to restore and re-open them to the public. When its doors opened on July 1, 2006, Santa’s Candy Castle was the first building of the original town to be re-opened. The 40-ton, 22-foot concrete Santa Claus statue was restored in 2011. In 2012, a local historic church and the town’s original post office were moved to the site next to the large Santa Claus statue.