Pennsylvania, one of the original 13 colonies of the United States, is known for many things, from its forests, the largest Amish population in the country, to its major cities and as the chocolate capital of the world. Did you know however that here in a small town is where you can find the world’s greatest experience and interactive panorama of the American history like no other.
Located in the small town of Shartlesville, PA the Roadside America has been one of the most iconic roadside attractions in the country. This indoor miniature village and railway covering 8,000 square feet created by Laurence Gieringer in 1935 and depicting over 200 years of American history is a completed piece of artwork created by one man over his entire lifetime.
Mr Laurence Gieringer first displayed his work to the public in his home in Hamburg, Pennsylvania and after a story about the exciting miniature village was published in the local newspapers and word got around Mr. Gieringer moved the display to the recently-closed local amusement park called Carsonia Park, where more people could come visit and enjoy his spectacular creation.
The display stayed there from 1938 to about 1940 before Geringer had to purchase land and build a larger display in order to accommodate the growing interest. That’s how the current display found it’s place at the current site of Roadside America in 1941 which is said to be a former dance hall in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania.
After the death of Mr Laurence Gieringer in 1963, the miniature village at Roadside America has been primarily a preservation project. There have been upgrading and restoring the miniature world where necessary while still maintaining the classic and nostalgic nature of the display but Roadside America has remained unchanged since Gieringer died in 1963.
The 3/8 inch to one foot scale display contains a 7,450 square foot, fully landscaped village diorama displaying over 300 miniature structures, up to 18 “O” gauge trains, trolleys and cable cars running throughout the display, some of which you can move with a push of a button, over 10,000 hand-made trees, 4,000 miniature people engaged in everyday daily pursuits, many rivers, streams and waterways, interactive animations such as a circus parade, construction workers, saw mill workers and more that can be activated by visitors and 600 miniature light bulbs. Even the nearby famous attraction of the Luray Caverns found a permanent place as part of the display.
The miniature village is constructed with 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, 18,000 pounds of plaster, 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 and a whole lot of love and patience.
The huge room has a wide path that waves all the way around the miniature world pass the trains, towns, bridges, flowing waterways and waterfalls, cities, helicopters, highways, farms, mountains, animal and human figurines and all and everything you could find in America from the 1800’s up to the 1950’s.
Your visit would not be complete without watching the five minute show presenting the village at nighttime demonstrating nightfall over the miniature world during which the moon and stars come out, the overhead lights come down and the street lamps replace the house lights as the village’s tiny inhabitants go to sleep. They play America The Beautiful and project pictures of happy families and Jesus on the wall! It’s a spectacular few minutes that you’ll remember for a long time.
Roadside America is open on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m to 5 p.m and is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The admission for adults is $8 and kids cost $5. Children under 3 years old are free and the village offers a Senior and Military discount. For special events, updates, news and before planing your visit check here.