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History of Santa's House in Belleville

OPTIMISTS SAVE SANTA’S HOUSE
Original History by Harold A. Wright, 2001 (edited and updated 2009)

Since 1963, Santa Claus has enjoyed a house of his own in Downtown Belleville, IL where children could come in out of the blustery cold weather to bring their Christmas list personally to Santa and tell him of all the things they hoped he might bring them for Christmas.

In 1994, Santa didn’t know if he would still have a house in Belleville because it had become time worn with old age. The previous sponsors of the house were unsure if they could afford the cost of renovation.

Well, Santa didn’t lose his Belleville house because the Downtown Belleville Optimist Club took over sponsorship and agreed to the renovation and preservation. Optimist Club of Belleville past President George Renner and a crew of 14 hard working Optimist volunteers spent more than 60 hours renovating the Santa’s House inside and out.

SANTA’S HOUSE BEFORE 1963
Before 1963 Santa was squeezed into a small hut on the Public Square, barely large enough for Santa himself, much less for several children.

AN IDEA WAS BORN
A good citizen by the name of Alan Bott decided at that time that something had to be done to make Santa more comfortable and allow more room for the children.

Alan, a brewery worker for Belleville’s Stag Brewery (no longer in business) designed a model of his idea for a new Santa’s House, which would be mounted to a trailer bed. He presented the model to the local Chamber of Commerce and his idea was accepted, agreeing to fund the project.

Bott, his wife Lavon and two senior citizens, Oliver Seibert and John Graves, began building the Santa’s House in the heat of summer in 1963. A total of 988 hours of work (all volunteer) were recorded from the beginning to the end of the project. Materials for the Santa’s House totaled about $2,500 at the time.

The new Santa’s House had a fireplace with a simulated log fire, shelves for toys and space for Christmas decorations. A home away from home befitting the jolly old elf, better known as Santa Claus.

The house was ready for Santa on his arrival to Belleville on November 29th, 1963. The excitement of the new Santa’s House to the citizens of Belleville that year was somewhat of a relief from the pain of the tragic events preceding Christmas that year with the senseless assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

RENOVATION
Somewhere between 1983 and 1985 the house had fallen into a state of disrepair. Once again some funds were appropriated from the Chamber of Commerce and the Jaycees painted the house.

As time takes its toll, by 1994 it looked as if Santa might lose his house as it fell into disrepair. That didn’t happen because the Optimists were there and pledged to take over the renovation, painting, displaying and storage of Sants’s House. This is what Optimists do best, working for the children of our community.

Since 1994, the Optimist Club of Belleville had performed dozens upon dozens of small renovations and upgrades to the Santa’s House. A motorized lift was added to accommodate wheelchairs, new capeting, new paint, doors and windows replaced, and exterior sections replaced as they become deteriorated by the elements are just to name a few.

Most recently, in 2009, Santa’s House received new electrical upgrades to correct old deterioration wiring, new interior lighting, new exterior coat of paint and fresh carpet cleaning.

All of the labor and materials used to renovate and upgrade the Santa’s House are provided by Optimists and local supporting businesses who contribute materials and skilled labor to keep the house in tip top shape. Many thanks goes out to all those volunteers who are too numerous over the years to name. They help make the Santa’s House the success it is today.

HOSPITALLITY
Since the early 2000’s Optimist Club of Belleville volunteers have been giving out Hot Chocolate and Cookies to visitors to Santa’s House on weekends. A tradition he hope to continue into the future.

SANTA CLAUS PARADE
For more than 40 years Santa Claus has been ushered into Belleville by a grand, colorful, musical, candy pitching parade through the center of town. The parade led Santa to his warm and cozy Belleville home, the Santa‘s House.

In 1994 there was a crisis in trying to find a new sponsor for the Santa Claus Parade. Since the Belleville Downtown Optimist Club took over the renovation and care of the Santa’s House, why not the parade as well? And so it was, the Optimists became the new sponsors of the parade. The parade in 1994 was great, had beautiful weather and the crowds of children along the parade route were enormous. Santa was welcomed to town in royal fashion.

The 1994-1995 motto of the Optimist was “For a Better World.” It surely is a better world because of Santa Claus and the Optimists.

The parade has continued with more floats, bands and marchers each year since 1994. Today it averages 100 units in participation. The parade theme has changed in recent years to “An Old Fashioned Christmas.” The Santa Parade remains as one of the longest and best watched parades in Belleville. And Belleville does love parades.

A FEW FINAL WORDS
Santa’s House is always bright, clean and shiny each Christmas season, ready for children to come and visit Santa. This has all been possible because of one man, Alan Bott, who in 1963 designed a model for a new Santa’s House. I am sure Santa is very proud of Alan Bott recruiting volunteers and securing the sponsors to improve his house in Belleville.

The Optimist Club of Belleville wishes everyone a very...
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with Peace on Earth to all people of all nations!


Learn More about the Optimist Club of Belleville

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