Santa arrives in Lansing

Santa waves to visitors as he arrives in December 2014 at his house in Park Plaza in Lansing. It was a temporary Santa House for one season. The village is working to build a permanent Santa House at Randolph and Henry streets.

Carrie Steinweg, the Times

A Christmas tradition is set to come back to Lansing for the coming holiday season.

Santa House, a place where kids can visit Santa and Mrs. Claus, was a fixture in Lansing for over 50 years. A permanent Santa House had been absent since 2013.

Work on a new, permanent location near the corner of Randolph and Henry streets in downtown Lansing is set to begin in the next few weeks, Lansing Director of Communications Ken Reynolds said. It’s expected to be finished in late November.

The aim is for the project to come at no net cost to the village, Reynolds said.

“It is difficult to put a price tag on this project,” Reynolds said. “All the time, planning and engineering, drawings done so far have all been done by those donating their time and skills. Several different kinds of building materials have also been donated, such as windows.”

The village is still looking for volunteers and materials, and Reynolds asked residents to contact him for more information. The Village Board did approve advanced funding, but Reynolds said it may not be needed.

The return of Santa House also fulfills a campaign promise for Village President Patty Eidam.

The new location will be near the Fox Pointe amphitheater development, so Village Engineer Jeff Pintar, of Robinson Engineering, said it will have plenty of space and parking. The building will be 18 feet by 16 feet, and the sidewalk and bike path will provide a natural track for a line.

John Cole chaired a volunteer commission for the project. He told the board at its Aug. 1 meeting the building could have alternate uses outside of the Christmas season for storage or public works.

“We had talked about making, on the east side, the Henry Street side, making some designation for this to be the Santa House, a permanent designation even though it would be available for other uses,” Cole said.

A portable Santa House was first built in Lansing in 1962. That wooden structure was replaced 13 years later by a permanent building in the parking lot of the former Village Hall at 3404 Lake St.

The project was overseen by then Chamber of Commerce President Barry Bergstrom, and Smokey Loquist did most of the construction with materials and time donated by residents.

That version of Santa House was shuttered in 2013 when Visible Music College leased the former Village Hall.

The village then installed a temporary Santa House in Park Plaza in 2014 for one season and the following year it was in a storefront on Ridge Road. 

Santa Houses are popular in the Chicago suburbs, with others in Blue Island, Crystal Lake, Downers Grove, Naperville, Fox Lake and elsewhere. Lansing’s is believed to be one of the oldest traditions.

Reporting like this is brought to you by a staff of experienced local journalists committed to telling the stories of your community. Support from subscribers is vital to continue our mission.