Saturday, December 13, 2014

The North Pole, New York - 1950's

Christmas is so close I can taste it! (It is sort of pepperminty). It's the perfect time to visit the North Pole. Not the one in the Arctic, the one in Essex County, New York! That's about 60 miles north of Albany.

The North Pole was founded in 1949, and it claims to be America's first theme park. Well, OK! I love this shot of the entrance… it is surrounded by that beautiful Adirondack forest.

The park was the brainchild of Julien Reiss, a local businessman. Reiss' daughter wanted to visit Santa Claus' summer home, and he decided to build a place for children of all ages.

You can see that what it lacked in thrills it made up for in charm.

When the park opened on July 1, 1949, only 212 people showed up, and by people I mean "elves". However, two years later, the park had a single-day record of over 14,000 visitors. Aye, chihuaha! 

Like many (presumably later) Santa-themed parks, there is an actual North Pole, eternally covered in ice. Which seems like a good idea until it has been touched by hundreds of grubby little hands. Elves can sit on it all day with nary a chilblain! 

Wikipedia attributes some pretty big claims to The North Pole. It was the first park to have its own petting zoo (really?). It had its own zip code. And it "…launched tourism in America". That's right, up until 1949, nobody ever left their homes to go anywhere.

Here's Santa's summer home, by the way...

Did somebody say PETTING ZOO?! I appreciate that somebody knew that penguins are found at the South Pole. They get an A plus with a smiley face.

There's Santa himself! You can still visit the North Pole today; if you're lucky you might catch the daily parade, led by Frosty the Snowman; or you can eat dinner at Mother Hubbard's Kitchen. Or you can see a Nativity pageant. 

I am very glad that the North Pole is still around!


Nanook said...


I was perfectly satisfied with "charm over thrills", but I threw that all out when I learned that Santa's Village had a much better marketing machine than even Walt Disney-!

"World's first Petting Zoo"-? Really. Wikipedia also tells us... In 1938, the London Zoo included the first children's zoo in Europe and the Philadelphia Zoo was the first in North America to open a special zoo just for children. But I've no doubt it was Santa's Village that launched tourism in America. Sure. Why that tourism boom forced the building of all them dang freeways and interstates. They didn't even exist before Santa's Village happened on the scene.

All kidding aside, the shots are really pretty, and I see from the web site, little has changed.
Thank, Major. Ho, ho, ho.

Anonymous said...

We visited this park when I was about five or six, and I know there is a picture in the photo album of my younger brother and I standing in front of the North Pole with the blue-roofed building behind us! There may also be one of us in the petting zoo. I seem to recall that we were, being a simple-minded and easily-amused family, astonished that the pole could actually be covered with ice in the middle of the summer.

Nancy said...

Such a nice little place, and really happy to hear that it is still around (so many of the good things go away in the name of progress, you know!)

My favorite view is the one with the children and Santa, who is feeding that cute little deer. I especially love the two little girls in the red coats and red which I had, too, and were my favorite ones.

Thanks for these lovely pictures today, Major. I cant believe that Christmas is almost here!!

In the AM (shuttle comes at 4:15), Rachel and I are bound for the OTHER South Pole, Walt Disney World, and some Christmastime fun! We will be back Friday evening, in plenty of time to do our holiday baking and gift wrapping before the big day! See you then! :-)

Chuck said...

Have a great time, Nancy!

outsidetheberm said...

Yet another ringing endorsement for Wikipedia! Sometimes it's just better to ask your next door neighbor for the gritty details... he'll know just as much.

Love these shots, David! Thanks!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, yeah, they make some pretty amazing claims. I think that they meant "the first petting zoo within a theme park", which may or may not be true. It doesn't seem like much to brag about though. I'm surprised that your Wikipedia entry says that the first "children's zoos" weren't until 1938. I would have thought they'd been around much earlier.

Nancy, wow, have a GREAT trip! Hope you get some good weather and that the crowds aren't too crazy. It doesn't sound like you'll be making a side trip to see Harry Potter over at Universal Studios? I have to admit that I would be sorely tempted to check it out.

outsidetheberm, I get the feeling that the Wikipedia entry was edited by the publicity department for The North Pole, it seems almost laughably hyperbolic. Glad you liked these!

Nanook said...

@ Nancy-

YES-! Have that great time at WDW, fer sure.

Dean Finder said...

I went there in the summer as a kid around 1980.
I remember being impressed by the frozen "North Pole" in the July heat.

Anonymous said...

That building looks like IHOP.

North Pole Pancakes, mmmm.