Santa Claus, Arizona: A Brief History
December 21, 2015 at 5:30 am
This Google Maps screenshot shows Santa Claus, Arizona — or what's left of it, anyway.
Santa Claus is mostly a December phenomenon, but for decades, you could meet Santa all year long — at Santa Claus, Arizona, a tiny town near Kingman in the northwest corner of the state. Here, now, is an abbreviated history of the site, sourced from several reputable online sources.
How did Santa Claus end up in Arizona?
In the early 1930s, real-estate agent Ninon Talbott and her husband moved to Kingman from California. They founded Santa Claus in 1937. The idea was to attract land buyers to the area. That didn't happen — by all accounts, nobody ever bought land in the town, and the Talbotts sold it in the late 1940s. But Santa Claus became a tourist destination anyway.
Why did people go there?
For starters, there was a post office, which meant every December, visitors could send their kids letters postmarked from Santa Claus. There also was the Santa Claus Inn (later known as the Christmas Tree Inn), a restaurant described as one of the finest in the region. And, of course, visiting kids could meet Santa every day of the year. The town's proximity to Historic Route 66 helped keep it alive.
Did anyone famous ever visit?
Duncan Hines, who knew a thing or two about good food, was a fan of the restaurant. Robert Heinlein, the author of Starship Troopers and other science-fiction novels, wrote a short story about being served a gourmet meal by Mrs. Claus. And Jane Russell, actress and muse of Howard Hughes, reportedly threw a party there in 1954.
What happened to the town?
By the 1970s, business was dwindling and the town was falling into disrepair. In the late 1980s, a visiting writer described padlocked, dilapidated buildings and a run-down gift shop. The last of Santa Claus' businesses closed in 1995.
What's it like today?
It's slowly fading into the desert along U.S. Route 93, it seems. As recently as February of this year, the property was still being offered for sale, but as you can see in that video (and the image above), there's not much left of Santa Claus, Arizona. Fortunately, there's a place in Indiana for those seeking that coveted Santa Claus postmark.