Roadside Americana: If the Shoe Fits


While rolling through the cornfields of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the last thing we expected to see was, as Ed Sullivan would say, “ A really big Shoe!” But there it was, rising out of the corn – the Haines Shoe House. image

Marketing 101 tells advertisers that one of the best ways to attract customers is through humor. But I doubt that “Colonel” Mahlon Haines (the shoe tycoon of York, Pennsylvania) had ever taken a marketing class … or knew much about novelty architecture.


When he built this 3 bed/2 bath “Shoe House” in 1948, he expected two things: First, he wanted you to laugh …


and second, to think of SHOES. It certainly worked on us.

Even the dog gets his own Shoe House!


The Colonel, known for his outlandish advertising gimmicks, turned $127 worth of shoes into a large, successful shoe store chain, and became a millionaire in the process.

Today, a shoe house seems wacky and weird. But is it? Compare this to Budweiser Beer spending $4,000,000 for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial showing a bunch of Clydesdale horses playing football.

You make the call.

Happy Trails,


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

27 thoughts

    1. The fact that it still stands after 65 years and is in good nick, must be a testament to good construction. And they’ve carried the shoe theme through wonderfully. It was lots of fun to see. ~James

  1. As an architect this is a very spooky building to me. I think humor is ok in things like I don’t know… clothes, but not in houses hahah. Did you get to see the inside?

    1. Virginia, as an architect, you’ll appreciate that the shoe house in now a museum. And what you don’t see in these photos are the fire escape stairs which were added to the backside of the house. I guess that at least the fire department is keeping things to code. ~James

      1. Hahaha at least they keep things to code. Thanks for sharing it, it’s always curious to see whats going on around the world 😀

  2. AHHH! I lived 20 minutes from this building and we used to go here as children to get ice cream. It’s only open to visitors in the summer (early fall) for the ice cream today serving Hershey’s. Anyone who wants to see it during off hours can hit their website and make an appt. How cool is this!?

    1. Thanks Andrea. I can believe that this would be a great place to go as kid, particularly for ice cream. Also, when we visited, we went to downtown York to the Emporium Bookstore. It’s a wacky place as well. At the time, the cigar box guitar festival was going on, which is a pretty big deal. Unfortunately, we couldn’t attend the big concert. It’s an interesting area. ~James

    1. It certainly is imaginative Alison. From the limited amount I read about the Colonel, he was a real Barnum and Bailey sort of businessman. You have to admire his whimsical spirit. ~James

    1. You’re right Carol, this Ed Sullivan line definitely dates me and anyone else who gets it. If you want a blast from the past, go to youtube and search Ed Sullivan. The videos of his many guests are amazing: The Beatles, Jackson 5, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, etc, etc. His show was the standard Sunday evening entertainment at my house. ~James

    1. Thanks LuAnn. I love these wacky Roadside sights, as I’m sure you can tell from the number of posts in that category. They’re great fun, and demonstrate that there are still lots of folks out there with a sense of humor, which I reckon we need these days. ~James

    1. Thanks Margo. From what I read about the Colonel, he was a real “promoter”. And I’m sure that living with enthusiastic business person would be interesting, but also a trial at times. Luckily, they didn’t have to live in the house. He used it as a getaway for elderly couples, where they were “King & Queen” for the weekend, complete with cooks, butlers, etc. A creative guy our Colonel. ~James

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