1. Roadside America is located in a town called Shartlesville, Pennsylvania.
Shartlesville is about 126 miles outside of New York City.
Forreal. Not kidding. At first I was like pfft, but then I did it and now I believe.
2. Some guy named Laurence Gieringer created everything in Roadside America by hand. BY HAND.
Gieringer’s love of miniature models began around 1899, when he was five years old.
3. It took him 60 years to do so.
A portrait of him lies in the back of the miniature exhibit near the church setup.
Now come inside…
4. The display is 8,000 square feet.
It’s made of:
21,500 feet of electrical wiring
17,700 board feet of lumber
6,000 feet of building paper
4,000 feet of sheet metal under the plaster work
2,250 feet of railroad track
648 feet of canvas for waterproofing
450 feet of pipe
4,000 pounds of sheet iron
900 pounds of nails
600 pounds of rubber roofing material
75 pounds of dry paint
75 gallons of liquid paint
225 bushels of moss
25 bags of cement
Three barrels of screened sawdust
Three barrels of tar
5. Since Gieringer died in 1961, basically nothing has been added or changed. The current display is maintained exactly the way Gieringer left it.
It’s like a giant time capsule. When you walk through the doors you really feel like you’ve gone back in time.
This is the guestbook. As you can see, people have been coming back to this place for decades.
6. All trees are hand-made. There are 10,000 of them.
7. There are 3 different levels for viewing.
See the guy in the upper right.
8. There are buttons all around the exhibit that move objects or make sounds in the villages.
Who doesn’t love pressing buttons?!
9. The dioramas depict American life from the early pioneer days to the mid-20th Century (right up until Gierlinger passed away). Time basically stops in 1960.
Here are some closeups of the intricate detail Gierlinger put into them.
That’s a train whizzing by.
10. There’s a waterfall.
And many pools and streams with real running water.
11. The absolute best part of Roadside America happens every-half-hour when there’s a sound and light show. The show is unchanged since the 1950s.
It might just be the most American thing I have ever seen.
Here’s some video I took of the light show:
12. Oh and there’s a little girl holding a cat and an ice cream cone.
I guess you’ll have to go there and see it for yourself.
Start planning your trip to Shartlesville. Go!
Update: Some of you guys have pointed out some of the cars being from a different time period. That is true and I was wrong. There are a few minor changes to the exhibit.
FYI, we’re on a road trip to Bonnaroo. See all the stuff we’ve stopped at a long the way here!