Roadside America: A tiny slice of Americana

jazz lady

~*~ rara avis ~*~
I remember going here when I was a kid and was amazed to see this story AND it is still open! Great childhood memory of simpler times and my siblings agreed. I need to go on a road trip to go see this again.

roadside-america-miniature-city-620.jpg

If you're looking for a road-trip into yesteryear -- our Lee Cowan takes has found "A Sunday Drive" that, instead of being off the beaten path, is actually right NEXT to it...

Before I-78 was I-78 – back when folks weren't in such a hurry – a roadside attraction called Roadside America had motorists tapping the brakes.

You could barely find a parking spot when it opened in 1953 just outside Shartlesville, Pennsylvania.

The curious passed under the same sign then that still hangs today: "Who Enters Here Will be Taken by Surprises" – surprises, plural. That's because once inside, there's a surprise around every turn.

"You can walk around it ten times and find something new every time you come around," said one visitor.

Roadside America is a wonderland – part miniature village, part model railroad.

It's all the brainchild of one man – Lawrence Gieringer – a carpenter by trade who began building scale models in the early 1900s. They soon took over his entire living room.

In 1938 Gieringer moved his display to an amusement park in Reading, Pa., but it outgrew that space, too.

It now encompasses nearly 8,000 square feet, with 4,000 tiny residents living and working amid their hundreds of tiny handmade homes and businesses.

Dolores Heinsohn, Lawrence Gieringer's granddaughter, calls Roadside America a testimonial to persistence: "People who want to give up? Don't give up!" she said. "It's an absolute time capsule of an era that's long gone."

It does conjure simpler times... the square dance in the barn; the Esso gas station with its army of attendants; and the church choir singing behind the intricately-handpainted windows.

Lawrence Gieringer passed away in 1963, and everything has remained largely as he left it.

"I always feel it's him in here," said Dolores.

"You still feel that? Even now?" asked Cowan. "And it's emotional for you, right? Because this was his life and you're still the caretaker of it."

"That's what I am."
https://www.cbsnews.com/video/a-sunday-drive-roadside-america/
 

Monello

Awww, jeez
PREMO Member
Hard to believe anything positive would be located in a place called Shartlesville.

I do love a good road trip. The longer the better. But not longer in mileage, longer in duration.
 
There was a piece on TV recently about a place that sounds exactly like this one, same scenario about how popular it was, founder dying, grand daughter continuing to run the place. I think it's the same one. If it is, make your plans to be there ASAP as she was selling it all. It was costing a fortune to keep it in operation. Tons of volunteers, but it was just getting to be too much.

Edit: that's where I saw it... CBS Sunday Morning, like was linked in post 1 !! :lol:
 
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jazz lady

~*~ rara avis ~*~
There was a piece on TV recently about a place that sounds exactly like this one, same scenario about how popular it was, founder dying, grand daughter continuing to run the place. I think it's the same one. If it is, make your plans to be there ASAP as she was selling it all. It was costing a fortune to keep it in operation. Tons of volunteers, but it was just getting to be too much.

Edit: that's where I saw it... CBS Sunday Morning, like was linked in post 1 !! :lol:
Duh! :lol: Yes, it is for sale and is mentioned in the article. Which I failed to link to in my original post, instead linking to the video. :doh:

Anyway, the full article is here:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/roadside-america-model-railroad-a-tiny-slice-of-americana/

Truth is, that parking lot isn't as full as it once was. Tourists still come, but a lazy stroll through yesteryear has a lot of modern-day touchscreen competition.

So, after all these years, Dolores is putting Roadside America up for sale, hoping someone with deeper pockets than hers can preserve what she no longer can.

It's not closing, she says; at least she hopes not. Whoever buys Roadside America has to understand what her grandfather did, that the feeling of being a kid doesn't have to die, no matter the price.

"I always say this is like comfort food for the soul, to come here, and feel nothing bad's gonna happen!" she said. "Safe, you know? It's a safe place."
 

jazz lady

~*~ rara avis ~*~
Hard to believe anything positive would be located in a place called Shartlesville.

I do love a good road trip. The longer the better. But not longer in mileage, longer in duration.
The name of the town was there long before any negative connotation came along. :lol: It is about 40 minutes from Reading and an hour from Hershey, so a trip to the area for the weekend is doable and might be part of my summer plans. :yay:
 

SailorGirl

Active Member
There was a piece on TV recently about a place that sounds exactly like this one, same scenario about how popular it was, founder dying, grand daughter continuing to run the place. I think it's the same one. If it is, make your plans to be there ASAP as she was selling it all. It was costing a fortune to keep it in operation. Tons of volunteers, but it was just getting to be too much.

Edit: that's where I saw it... CBS Sunday Morning, like was linked in post 1 !! :lol:

I thought you might have been talking about Enchanted Forest near Ellicott City for a minute. Same scenario, family owned, death in family, Americana, etc. All the pieces in that place were eventually given to another family who restored and opened a new place. That was a great place to go if you were a young kid and liked fairy tales. I managed to make it once with my oldest before they closed for good. Sorry to see it closed - like centuries ago.
 

Gilligan

#*! boat!
PREMO Member
I thought you might have been talking about Enchanted Forest near Ellicott City for a minute. Same scenario, family owned, death in family, Americana, etc. All the pieces in that place were eventually given to another family who restored and opened a new place. That was a great place to go if you were a young kid and liked fairy tales. I managed to make it once with my oldest before they closed for good. Sorry to see it closed - like centuries ago.
That area is where I'm from..where I grew up on a farm (in Glenelg). Fortunately, many of the features were saved and relocated to a farm not too far from the original location on Rt 40. But of course it's not the same and not the big draw - and youth summer job source - that it was back in it's day. Forest Diner is gone now too...my "second home" back when I lived in a small trailer off Marriottsville Rd, running a landscape/patio/pool business.
 

Gilligan

#*! boat!
PREMO Member
Is there anyplace you're not from or lived at?
Yeah...but I've always worked toward rectifyin' that.... And if I don't stay constantly on the move, they might catch up with me.

I only recall one visit to Enchanted Forest...back in the mid 60s when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. But drove buy it often in later years, and knew the family that owned and ran it.
 

SailorGirl

Active Member
That area is where I'm from..where I grew up on a farm (in Glenelg). Fortunately, many of the features were saved and relocated to a farm not too far from the original location on Rt 40. But of course it's not the same and not the big draw - and youth summer job source - that it was back in it's day. Forest Diner is gone now too...my "second home" back when I lived in a small trailer off Marriottsville Rd, running a landscape/patio/pool business.
Forest Diner - was that a dining car/trailer type thing with seats at the counter/booths maybe or am I getting that mixed up with other stuff?

I can't picture where Glenelg is located. I frequented Ellicott City/Rising Sun a lot in my 20s and car trips to Patapsco State Park every Sunday. There was a factory or something somewhere on the way that made whiskey and you always rolled the windows down to smell what you could. Can't remember the name of the place anymore and it's driving me bananas. Enchanted Forest was always a landmark for me on the way back from anywhere and meant I was getting close to home. I miss those days.
 

Gilligan

#*! boat!
PREMO Member
Forest Diner - was that a dining car/trailer type thing with seats at the counter/booths maybe or am I getting that mixed up with other stuff?

I can't picture where Glenelg is located. I frequented Ellicott City/Rising Sun a lot in my 20s and car trips to Patapsco State Park every Sunday. There was a factory or something somewhere on the way that made whiskey and you always rolled the windows down to smell what you could. Can't remember the name of the place anymore and it's driving me bananas. Enchanted Forest was always a landmark for me on the way back from anywhere and meant I was getting close to home. I miss those days.
Glenelg was just a bit west of Enchanted Forest. Rt 144 peeled off Rt 40 and a few miles west of there was Triadelphia Rd. Or you could shoot straight down south 97 from Rt 40W and Glenelg was just past Glenwood. There wasn't anything there then...a general store and post office.

And yes...you described Forest Diner to a a "t". Can't recall any distilleries but there was the big Carling brewery.
 
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