Located on the outskirts of York, Pennsylvania, is one of the strangest sights in all of Pennsylvania: the Haines Shoe House. Visible from Route 30 a few miles east of downtown York, this giant shoe has likely caused many people to do a double-take over the last six decades.
The Haines Shoe House was the creation of Mahlon Haines, who was locally known as “Haines: The Shoe Wizard.” In the late 1940s, Haines took one of his work boots and asked a local architect to create him a building that looked like the shoe.
In 1949, the Haines Shoe House was completed as an advertisement for his shoe business. At the time, the highway adjacent to the Shoe House wasn’t there, and instead, the famous Lincoln Highway ran along another nearby road. While it’s not visible from that road today, it was at the time and served as an iconic symbol of his business to passersby.
Despite being referred to as the Haines Shoe House, Haines himself never lived in the home. For the first year it was open, he allowed those that had been married for at least 50 years stay in the home. Then, in 1950 and 1951, he invited honeymooners to do the same.
Not only were stays there free, but there was a live-in cook, butler, and chauffeur that catered to the needs of the couples staying in York’s Shoe House.
Over the next six decades, the Haines Shoe House was primarily a tourist attraction with tours being offered throughout the summer season. Approximately 20 years after the house was built, the open carport was turned into an ice cream parlor. This parlor remains today and is one of the most popular features of the site. In fact, locals often come here just to get some locally made Beck’s ice cream.
The Shoe House is 25 feet tall and 48 feet long. After several renovations over the years, it looks just as good as the day it was built. Inside, much of the home’s original furniture can be found and recent updates by the current owners have filled the rooms with memorabilia from Haines’ life, his company, and the site’s history.
I had the opportunity to take a 25-minute tour of the home’s five stories during my recent visit. I was shocked to learn that it’s much larger than it appears, and the home features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchen inside its 1500-square-foot interior.
Tours take you through all of the rooms in the house and provide you with a great overview of its history and function. While I would have enjoyed more time to explore each room and see the many artifacts on display, the tight quarters obviously make this a bit of a challenge as other tours of the home need to see the rooms as well.
My favorite part of the tour was getting an up-close look at the home’s original windows. The window on the front door even has a stained glass image of Mahlon Haines himself holding up a pair of shoes.
Without a doubt, the Haines Shoe House has to be one of the strangest roadside oddities in Pennsylvania. And while it’s possible to simply visit and just see the outside, you are missing out if you don’t tour the home and get some delicious ice cream.
Note: My visit to the Haines Shoe House was hosted by the site. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Haines Shoe House
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 11a-5p
Cost: $5, Children (5 and under): Free
Address: 197 Shoe House Road