by Mary Jane Teeters-Eichacker, Curator of Social History
It all started with a train. When L.S. Ayres closed its downtown flagship store in 1990, it donated its iconic Santa Claus Express miniature train to the Indiana State Museum along with the L.S. Ayres animated window and Tea Room memorabilia. The train had been the centerpiece of Ayres’ “Toyland” since 1958, and given holiday joy to generations of Hoosiers. The museum couldn’t let that tradition die! So it opened a new holiday exhibit, “Toy Soldiers’ Playground,” so called because some giant toy soldier figures were available as decorations. The exhibit included a ride on the Santa Claus Express train, a visit to Santa Claus and the L.S. Ayres window, as well as toys and examples from the L.S. Ayres clothing collection in the Victorian setting of the museum’s former home in old City Hall. The recreated L.S. Ayres Tea Room began as a wildly popular program offered in conjunction with this exhibit.
When the new museum opened in 2002, the familiar features continued, but our building isn’t very Victorian! The exhibit needed a new setting; the village of Celebration Crossing. A few years later the original train was reproduced in a larger size to dependably accommodate today’s bigger youngsters. The old train remains a memorable “photo op” in the museum’s lobby, while new memories can be made in the popular exhibit upstairs.
Celebration Crossing opens Nov. 25 and continues through Dec. 31. Santa will be visiting with children in his house through Dec. 24.