Mr. and Mrs. Claus are back in Lansing, thanks to the efforts of volunteers and village government.
Santa House, a place where kids can visit jolly old St. Nick, was a landmark in Lansing for over 50 years. It’s been absent since 2013.
Work finished last week on the new, permanent location near the corner of Randolph and Henry streets, next to the Fox Pointe development in downtown Lansing. A ribbon cutting opened Santa House on Wednesday night.
“We’re here tonight to welcome an old tradition back to our village,” Village President Patty Eidam said. “Santa will have his own house in Lansing once again.”
Eidam fought tears Wednesday as she talked about the project’s volunteers and donors.
“To me this new Santa House is a symbol of our community coming together as it has many times in the past, whether it was someone in need, a loss of life, a tragedy or a celebration of a special event,” she said. “This community shines with love and volunteerism.”
The project was overseen by volunteer and Lansing resident John Cole, a retired custom woodworker, general contractor and construction project manager.
“I went to see (Eidam) to talk about it, drew up some plans and got the ball rolling,” Cole said. “I knew (having Santa House ready for Christmas) was one of the campaign promises she had made. So, it was in May or June that I went to see her.”
Eidam was elected in April. Cole was named the chair of a commission for the project soon after speaking with her.
He put hundreds of hours into Santa House.
“I felt it was an opportunity to build some relationships within the village,” Cole said. “I knew there were a number of people, other than (Eidam), that wanted to see this happen.”
Cole wasn’t the only one to give his time. Almost all of the labor, planning and materials were donated by residents or local businesses. An anonymous donor will pay for a plaque to be placed at the site to recognize all of the volunteers by name, Eidam said Wednesday.
“I had the chance to meet a lot of wonderful people,” Cole said. “Just to see the people in the village of Lansing step up and volunteer to do this, that or the next thing on the project was very gratifying. The village really came together and worked toward the end that we are now seeing.”
Village spokesman Ken Reynolds said Santa House will come at no cost to the village after donations reimburse the original cost.
“These are professionals who’ve done this work. This isn’t hacks like me out here with a hammer just trying not to hurt themselves,” Reynolds said.
The new building is all brick with wood flooring and paneling inside.
“It’s a better environment for Santa,” Cole said.
Lansing’s first Santa House, a portable one, opened in 1962. A permanent building in the parking lot of the former Village Hall at 3404 Lake St. was built in 1975, but torn down in 2013 when Visible Music College leased the former Village Hall.
There was a temporary Santa House in Park Plaza in 2014 for one season.
The new 18-foot by 16-foot building could have other village uses outside of the holiday season, Cole said. He suggested public works or storage.