Living not too far from York, PA, I remember hearing about the shoe house. However, for the longest time it reminded me of the nursery rhyme “Mother Goose.” “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…” But unbeknownst to me, it had nothing to do with Mother Goose. Instead it was about another interesting, but real life character.
Mahlon Haines, born in 1875, referred to himself as “The Shoe Wizard.” He was an opportunist and businessman. Haines was riding from Ohio (his home state) to Washington, D.C., when his bicycle broke down in York, PA. He used this “opportunity” to start a business for himself. He sold an engagement ring (from a broken off engagement) and made enough money to start selling shoes… (Long story short)
During Haines’ success he decided to create the ultimate marketing gimmick. He handed a workboot to an architect and the shoe house was built in 1948. Like many “roadside oddities” it was created to draw motorists in from the road (Lincoln Highway East).
He lived in the shoe house for a short time, and then moved across the street. Afterwards, he would rent the shoe house out to couples. There’s a living area in the front of the boot, a kitchen in the heel, two bedrooms, a maid/butler’s quarters and a bathroom. It’s cute and cozy.
Years later, it has become an ice cream shop and bakery. You can take a tour for $5 a person and enjoy some delicious treats. It’s a fun and unique attraction, with the perfect amount of history in the air.