In the 1920’s and 30’s, post World War I Americans took to the highways and byways of the country. With the mass production and affordability of the automobile, Americans became very nomadic.
Merchants along the highways found intriguing ways to bring in travelers by transforming their establishments into animated architectural wonders designed to stimulate the senses and add to the experience of the journey.
It is during this time period that roadside Americana was born. The trend and fascination with constructing roadside attractions have left us with formable iconic establishments and true Americana landmarks along the highways of America.
StrangeHistory.org’s Top 10 Roadside Americana Sites:
Haines Shoe House
The people of Hallam, Pennsylvania, by all accounts, were not at all worried when an eccentric shoe maker, Malhon N. Haines, constructed a house in the shape of a shoe as an advertisement for his shoe shop.
Built in 1948, the “World’s Largest Shoe House” is 25 feet tall and 48 feet long, containing five levels.
Haines would often make the Shoe House aavailable to newlyweds who lived in Hallam. As with all Americana icons, time and weather began to wear on the giant boot.
Restoration efforts saved the Haines Shoe House. Today it stands as a museum to Malhon N. Haines, “The Shoe Wizard”.
The Haines Shoe House is located on Shoehouse Road, just off Highway 462 in Hallam, Pennsylvania.
Tacoma Coffee Pot / Bob’s Java Jive
The Coffee Pot Restaurant was constructed in 1927 for Otis G.
Button by advertising artist, Bert Smyser.
Bob Randonich purchased the 25 foot tall coffeepot, which has a diameter of 30 feet, in 1955.
He renamed the restaurant Bob’s Java Jive for a popular song of the time.
Over the years the restaurant has adjusted to changing trends and evolved into a music club/bar which has been featured in two movies.
Bob’s Java Jive is located at 2102 Tacoma Way, Tacoma, Washington.
Forkland Tin Man
On Highway 43 between Demopolis and Eutaw, Alabama, folk artist Jim Bird has captured the attention of passersby with a 32 foot tall statue of the Wizard of Oz’s, Tin Man, however, Tin Man is not the only creation that can be found at the Jim Bird Hay Bale Art Farm.
Jim Bird has transformed nearly 100 acres of his farm into a depository for his unique folk art complete with Snoopy crashing a plane into a tree, a helicopter made of a giant hay bale and a boat sailing on a sea of hay bales.
Jim Bird’s farm and Tin Man statue are located eight miles north of Demopolis, Alabama, on Highway 43.
When Russell C. Wendell opened his first drive-in donut restaurant in 1950, which hosted a 32.20 foot tall donut on the roof, he no way of knowing that he would eventually open ten locations throughout Los Angeles.
By the 1970’s, several of the restaurants became property of the Eskow family who applied the name Randy’s to the locations.
Randy’s Donuts is truly a Los Angeles icon and has been featured in twenty television shows and movies.
Randy’s is located at 805 West Manchester Avenue, Los Angeles, California.
City Brewing Company/ Giant Six Pack
Heileman Brewing Company opened its door in 1858 and would brew “Old Style Lager” beer from the LaCross, Wisconsin plant for over 140 years.
Six of the brewery’s tanks, installed in the late 1960’s, were painted as “Old Style Lager” beer cans becoming the World’s Largest Six Pack.
Following the closure of Heileman Brewing, the plant quickly reopened under the guise of the City Brewing Company, producing “La Cross Lager” beer.
Coated with the new company’s logo, the site once again stands as the World’s Largest Six Pack.
The giant six pack holds approximately 688,000 gallons of beer or, over 57,000 cans of beer.
City Brewing Company is located at 1111 S. 3rd Street, La Cross, Wisconsin.
Big Muskie Drive-In/ Big Fish
In the credits of the movie Vacation, a postcard of the Big Muskie Drive-In is flashed across the screen.
This small event would bring a lot of attention to the roadside attraction known as the Big Muskie Drive-In, today call Big Fish.
The 65 foot long Muskie was constructed in the 1950’s as a roadside drive-in and snack bar in the town of Bena, Minnesota.
Today, Big Fish Supper Club operates at the location and restoration efforts are ongoing with Big Fish.
Big Fish is located at 456 Highway 2 Northeast, Bena, Minnesota.
The Busted Plug
The 40 foot tall fire hydrant in downtown Columbia, South Carolina is not an illusion.
It is however, a sculpture of Blue Sky Gallery titled “Busted Plug”, aka the World’s Largest Fire Hydrant.
The hydrant was constructed of steel and concrete then coated with aluminum.
At 675, 000 pounds, it is an impressive piece of Americana iconic art.
The World’s Largest Fire Hydrant is located in “Busted Plug Plaza”, AgFirst Farm Credit Bank,Taylor Street, Columbia, South Carolina.
Gemini Giant/ Launching Pad Restaurant
Travelers along Route 66 through Illinois may catch the site of a 1960’s Muffler Man, converted into a Gemini astronaut complete with space helmet and holding a large rocket.
The 20 foot tall fiberglass “Gemini Giant” adorns the entrance to the Launching Pad Restaurant (rumored to be for sale).
The Launching Pad Restaurant and the “Gemini Giant” are located at 810 Baltimore Street, Wilmington Illinois.
Berry Patch Ice Cream Parlor
The World’s Largest Strawberry, as is claimed by the builder, Lee Berry, is a delicious place in roadside Americana.
Constructed in 2003, The Berry Patch stands 20 feet tall and has a circumference of 80 feet.
Boulders painted as fruit and picnic tables adorn the outside of the giant strawberry, adding to the charm of structure.
Weighing in at 8 tons, the World’s Largest Strawberry was moved in 2012 to its present location at: 351 Cargo Road, Ellerbe, North Carolina.
Germantown Earthoid Water Tank
The World’s Largest Globe was constructed in 1978 and first painted as a globe in 1980.
The Germantown Earthoid Water Tank is 100 feet in Diameter and holds over 2 millions of water for Montgomery College in Germantown, Maryland.
Recently the tank was repaired and repainted as a globe. (The alternative painting was of a giant baseball which would have made it the World’s Largest Baseball)
The cost of the repairs by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission approached one million dollars.
The Germantown Earthoid Water Tank is located at Montgomery College, 20200 Observation Drive, Germantown, Maryland.
……….Other StrangeHistory.org Roadside Americana Sites..........
- Smallest Police Station – Carrabella, Florida – 9 Square Feet (3’ x 3’).
- Largest Lava Lamp – Soap Lake, Washington – 60 Feet Tall.
- Smallest Museum – Superior, Arizona – 134 Square Feet.
- Largest Mall – Mall of America – Bloomington, Minnesota – 4,200,000 Square Feet
- Smallest College – Bryn Athyn College – Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania – 155 Students.
- Largest Hotel – The Ventian – Las Vegas, Nevada – 8108 Guest Rooms
- Smallest Post Office – Ochopee, Florida – 56 Square Feet (7’x8’).
- Largest McDonald’s - Vinita, Oklahoma – 29,135 Square Feet
- Smallest Library – Clinton Corners, New York – 9 Square Feet, 150 Books.
- Largest Yo-Yo – Chico, California – 290 Pounds, 5.5 Feet in Diameter, 75 Feet of String.
- Smallest County – Loving County, Texas – 82 Residents
- Largest Stadium – Michigan Stadium – Ann Arbor, Michigan – Seats 109,901
- Smallest Courthouse – Marshall, Nebraska – 728 Square Feet (26’x28’)
- Largest Carousel – Spring Green, Wisconsin – 269 Carousel Animals, 182 Chandeliers.
- Smallest City (by Sq. Miles) – West New York Town, New Jersey – 1 Square Mile
- Largest Tire - Allen Park, Michigan – 80 Feet Tall
- Smallest City (by Population) – Town of Lost Springs, Wyoming – 1 Resident
- Largest Nail – Allen Park, Michigan – 11 Feet Long, 250 Pounds –From 1998 to 2003, Stuck into the Largest Tire
- Smallest Church – Oneida, New York – 28.6 Square Feet (51”x81”) Seats 2
- Largest Easel – Goodland, Kansas - 80 Feet Tall- 32’x24’ Painting of Van Gogh’s “Sunflower” Rest on the Easel.
- Smallest Casino – San Diego, California – 600 Square Feet (15’x40’) 30 Slot Machines
- Largest Rocking Chair – Fanning Missouri – 42 Feet, 4 Inches Tall