Herman’s Christmas Wonderland

If you grew up in the Poughkeepsie area between the 1960s and the 1990s, it’s possible that you visited Herman’s Christmas Wonderland display as a child (that is, if you’re into the whole Christmas thing). There was something special about getting the family together in the minivan and driving down Route 44 to the Pleasant Valley nursery where you could stroll through the “Christmas tunnel.” There you would see handmade displays like, the North Pole, ski slopes, Eskimos, and of course, the Nativity scene. As we are all getting older and feeling a bit nostalgic, we thought this would be the perfect time to revisit an old holiday favorite that is now sadly a thing of the past.

In 1960, William Herman opened a nursery and garden center in Pleasant Valley. The business was very successful with their slogan, “For every Bloomin’ thing” that attracted everyone from beginner gardeners to professional landscapers. In 1962, the store set up their first Nativity scene with live animals and “2 of Santa’s real live reindeer,” Dancer and Prancer. The following year the store planned an even bigger display and placed advertisements in the papers that proclaimed that Herman’s Christmas Land had “the largest display of Christmas decorations in the Hudson Valley.” They were not exaggerating, and they would only continue to expand over the next 30 years.

Each year, new additions were added to the mix of scenery within what many locals referred to as the “Christmas tunnel.” In the early days, mannequins from old storefronts were dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus, but as time went on they soon gave way to animatronic elves and Eskimos (similar to a Disneyland ride). Speaking of Disney, another attraction added to the show was the chance to meet with larger than life characters like Mickey, Pinocchio, and Charlie Brown. The backgrounds, buildings, and sets were handmade and painted by talented store employees and artists who sometimes had to repaint and repair the figures each year. The “Silent Night” tree room was added to the mix by 1968, which was meant to show off how wonderful artificial trees could look with the hundreds of decorations that the store offered for sale.

The displays and petting zoo were free (with donations requested on weekends), but you would finish the experience by walking inside the main store where rows and rows of ornaments, candy canes, and trees were up for sale. It was hard to walk away without purchasing something to remember the experience (I know my parents would always let me pick out a new ornament for our tree every year). By 1974, Herman’s Christmas Wonderland had become such an attraction with hundreds of folks eager to see it, that the store began offering “sneak peaks” of the displays weeks before Halloween (sorry to all the folks who are triggered by early Christmas retail displays).

The Christmas Wonderland continued into the 1990s until its very last appearance in December of 1996. Less than a year later, the store was sold to Agway and the tradition came to an end. We hope that you have enjoyed this little trip down memory lane. It may not be as old as some of the historical things we have covered in previous blog posts, but it is a piece of local recent history. Have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year! For more nostalgic memories, check out this video of old photos on youtube – Christmas at Herman’s


Poughkeepsie Journal – 9 Dec 1962, 10 Nov 1968, 15 Dec 1983, 18 Oct 1974, 25 Nov 1976, 20 Dec 1983, 20 Dec 1996


Hermans-001 – A photo of a young boy enjoying the Herman’s Christmas display, 1982. Poughkeepsie Journal Archives

Hermans-002 – A photo of two children viewing the Hermans’s Christmas display, 1977. Poughkeepsie Journal Archives

Hermans-003 – A photo of a little girl checking out one of the elves in the Herman’s Christmas display, 1977. Poughkeepsie Journal Archives

Hermans-004 – A photo of the nativity scene at the Herman’s Christmas display, 1983. Poughkeepsie Journal Archives

Hermans-005 – A photo of Lorie Householder, an employee of Herman’s, repairing one of the figures in the Christmas display, 1983. Poughkeepsie Journal Archives