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The Santa Claus Man

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The Strange Story of an NYC Santa Claus Building That Almost Was

Posted on December 01, 2015

On Christmas Day 100 years ago, plans were announced for the building of a grand monument in Manhattan—to Santa Claus. Designed by famed architects George and Edward Blum (who devised Gramercy House at 235 22nd Street and The Capitol apartments at 12 E 87th Street), the Santa Claus Building was expected to serve as headquarters for a number of youth charities, a resource for the city's needy, and a giant toy store, all packed into one stunning Beaux Arts building. But more than anything, it was to provide an international symbol of "spirit of Christmas"—a real-life Santa's workshop. The speed with which the press and public embraced the idea, and the reasons why it was never actually built, embody the optimism (or maybe naiveté) of the Jazz Age, and the fast-growing prominence of Christmas as a massive commercial event.

The Santa Claus Building was the brainchild of John Duval Gluck, Jr., the founder of the Santa Claus Association, which in 1913 took on the responsibility of answering the letters children sent to the mythical saint (which instead of going to Santa's imaginary workshop, were shuttled to the Dead Letter Office along with other mail going to nonexistent addresses). A former customs broker, Gluck had stepped forward to take charge of answering Santa letters in the city. The idea caught on fast, with volunteers and donations rolling in to help ensure that the poor children who wrote to Santa were not forgotten on Christmas.

In the Santa Claus Association's third year in operation, Gluck called reporters into the group's offices (on the 30th floor of the Woolworth Building) and announced an ambitious plan: "The peculiar nature of our work calls for a building of our own," he said.

Read the full story at Curbed.

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