When Chicago native Kevin Klosowski first came to Santa Claus, Indiana, to visit his girlfriend’s family in 1991, he was intrigued by the abandoned brick castle that sat along State Road 245. When he inquired about it, even the locals couldn’t tell him the whole story.
So he dug deeper, and the story he found was amazing. Santa’s Candy Castle opened to much fanfare in 1935 as the first themed attraction in the U.S. It was part of Santa Claus Town, the brainchild of Milton Harris. The “town” also included Santa’s Workshop and Toy Village. No admission was charged, and children — during the Great Depression — could play with the toys for free.
But World War II started the attraction’s decline. Sponsors that had helped fund Santa Claus Town were lost and gasoline restrictions curbed tourism. By the time Klosowski first set eyes upon it, the place had been abandoned for nearly two decades.
Klosowski longed to see the old castle returned to its former glory. Finally, in 2005, he and his wife Diane — the girlfriend who brought him to town in 1991 — bought the dilapidated castle and workshop. Within 18 months, Klosowski’s dream was realized as Santa’s Candy Castle reopened to the public in July 2006.
“We’re reintroducing it to a new generation,” says Klosowski. “It’s for all families, but seeing the little ones have that wide-eyed wonderment as they come in, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”
Klosowski tries to find unique items, like a wall of Pez dispensers and a room filled with nothing but Jelly Belly products. Other items are locally made.
“We pride ourselves on being uniquely Christmas,” says Klosowski. “We have 31 flavors of hot chocolate. We try to focus on things that are unique to us, with Christmas things and old-fashioned candy. And we try to rotate things to keep it fresh.”
Santa’s Candy Castle is open weekends only until the day after Thanksgiving, when it will be open daily through Dec. 23. On Saturdays, visitors can roast chestnuts on an open fire at no charge.
For more information on Santa’s Candy Castle, visit santascandycastle.com.