Glenn Holland

Harold Glenn Holland (1918-2002) was a developer from Arcadia, California who established the first franchise of amusement parks, Santa's Village.

Early life

(This is not the same Glenn Holland who is a drummer for such bands as Redd Kross, Wasp and the Noize Toys).Holland grew up during the Great Depression and his parents died before his eighteenth birthday, leaving him to care for his younger sister.

anta's Village

In 1953, Holland proposed Santa's Village after reading a Saturday Evening Post story about a similar project called North Pole in New York. Holland set up a corporation that funded the amusement park, and leased the land from the family of the general contractor J. Putnam Henck.

In the early 1950’s, Holland sat at his kitchen table one day and started to sketch his idea of a Christmas fairyland filled with enormous candy canes, animals and gingerbread houses. Holland developed this idea into a working plan and began finding investors for his project. He traveled the country selling his Santa’s Village concept and $45 stock shares and eventually listed his new company, Santa’s Village Corporation, on the California Stock Exchange.

Around the same time, Walt Disney was building Disneyland; Holland contacted Disney, and the two men reportedly corresponded for a time. But while Disney was already wealthy from his films, Holland was an unknown.

Glenn Holland was also good friends with Dick and Mac McDonald. The McDonald brothers told him about their business idea with Ray Kroc for a chain of fast-food restaurants. The story inspired Holland to franchise his parks.

The first Santa’s Village opened Memorial Day in 1955, six weeks before Disneyland, in Skyforest near Lake Arrowhead in San Bernardino County, California. It would close in 1998. A second Santa’s Village opened in 1957 near Scotts Valley in Santa Cruz County, California, staying open until 1979. The last Santa's Village was opened in 1959 in the Chicago suburb of East Dundee and closed in 2006.

Holland had planned for the Dundee park to be the hub of a nationwide chain of Santa's Villages. The other two, in Richmond, Virginia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, were never built.

Despite the park's early popularity, Holland had not planned for the freezing weather in Illinois. While his West Coast parks stayed open year-round, doing their best business in the weeks before Christmas, the Chicago area was too cold. Eventually, Santa's Village in East Dundee was in the odd position of being closed on Christmas.

The miscalculation helped lead to the collapse of the company. Holland found himself stretched thin. By 1965, investors rebelled. Holland was close to a nervous breakdown. Heartbroken, he left the company; the parks were sold.

"Where he made the error was going on and doing the final one in Illinois. It was just not financially a good idea," said Reece, his daughter. "But he knew he had touched people with the parks. It was the most special thing he felt he had ever done."

Holland, who later became a real estate developer, died in 2002 at 84.


[ Santa's Village Memories and History Page]

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