Creating Christmas town in downtown Brockton

Brockton, home of first department store Santa, wants to set ‘hat’ record


ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER
Posted Nov 08, 2008 @ 11:38 PM

BROCKTON —
John Merian has a dream — to rekindle the spirit of Christmas in downtown Brockton, the home of the first department-store Santa Claus.

“First and foremost, I love Christmas, and second, I have a passion for downtown that can only come from 49 years of being here,” said Merian,
a downtown businessman whose quest to bring a year-round holiday spirit to the district begins Nov. 23 with a sea of red.

On that day, Merian envisions the color blazing from the Santa Claus hats worn by a crowd of revelers who join in the dedication of a plaque to honor James Edgar.

Edgar was the downtown Brockton businessman who in 1890 donned a custom-made Santa Claus suit to bring to life the 1863 Thomas Nast cartoon. Thus was born the “department store Santa,” an image that would make holiday memories for generations.

The plaque at Main and Crescent streets will mark the location of Edgar’s Department Store, the spot where the department store Santa was born. It will also serve as the first spot in  the “15 rounds of history trail” that will mark landmarks in the center of the city in a project endorsed by the Downtown Brockton Association.

The dedication is intended to set a record for the most people wearing Santa Claus hats, a record Merian is working to have the Guinness Book of World Records recognize. And, it is intended to create a theme, identifying downtown Brockton as “Christmas town.”

In time, Merian also sees a Web site, a museum that grows from the holiday window and shop at his store, and the resurgence of downtown Brockton to the vibrancy of the past, turn-of-the-century facades on shops, all in the spirit of Christmas and the department store Santa.

Merian said he is reaching back to the spirit of Edgar, a philanthropist who gave much for the city of Brockton and its children.

“He always wondered why Santa would only come to visit but once a year,” Merian said, “so he made it so they could see him more often.”

 

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