You know it’s Christmastime in Saratoga when Santa’s cottage, that small wooden structure where kids can drop off their letter to Santa Claus or meet the jolly, old fellow in person, appears on Broadway. This year, the cottage will return, and while meet-and-greets with Kris Kringle won’t be possible inside his home, the Downtown Business Association (DBA) says he’ll be making regular Broadway appearances, greeting children in socially distanced style.
Actually, Santa started bringing joy to Spa City children long before Saratogians Ed Sakos and Michelle Erceg built him his current digs. In the late 1940s, Santa had an entire village—complete with a stable for his reindeer, church, toy shop, candy shop and evergreen “forest”—all on the south porch of the Grand Union Hotel. A December 1949 Times Union article reported that each visitor to the village would be greeted by Santa and receive a gift, and it quoted then–Saratoga Mayor Addison Mallery as calling the operation a “veritable fairyland for children.”
In the above photo from the George S. Bolster Collection, children and their families gather on the porch of the Grand Union Hotel, in what Saratoga History Museum Executive Director James Parillo believes to be 1947. The hotel closed and was demolished in the early ’50s, and Santa downsized to his downtown cottage in the early ’90s. He may have lost his village, but he gained a city: the City of Saratoga Springs.