The Haines Shoe House is a stone’s throw from Route 30, sitting on the south side of the highway six miles into York County from the Susquehanna River.
Completed in 1949 by Mahlon Haines, the stucco house shaped like a shoe was the ultimate advertising gimmick for Haines, a relentless promoter who at the time presided over a nearly 50-store chain of shoe stores. Little over a month ago, the shoe house got new owners who are trying to breathe a new life into this landmark.
Having outlasted the shoe stores it was built to promote, The Haines Shoe House has taken on a long second life as a roadside curiosity. And, under new owners who are keeping the house open for tours, visitors will be able to learn more about Haines, the self-described “Shoe Wizard.”
“We’re slowly trying to add some stuff, give it a little more of a museum feel with some of the history behind the house and the man who had it built,” said Jeff Schmuck, 37, who bought the property in February with his wife, Melanie, 34.
The Shoe Wizard’s house
The house house sits on a one-acre property ringed by a fence that has wooden boot cut-outs in its cross beams. Constructed of wood, wire lath and cement stucco, the house at 197 Shoe House Road in York was originally built to be in sight of Lincoln Highway, which was then the main thoroughfare in the area.
After it was opened in 1949, Haines invited poor, elderly couples to stay there for all-expenses-paid vacations. In the 1950s, he allowed couples to apply to honeymoon at the house, contests that generated more publicity for his shoe stores.
The house is 17 feet wide at its widest part, stands 25 feet tall and measures 48 feet from toe to heel. Inside are three bedrooms, two full baths, a kitchen and a living room across five ingenious levels that efficiently include all the comforts of home.
A recent tour began in the “honeymoon suite,” which is situated in the shoe’s toe and includes a full bathroom with a tub.
The rooms are brightly colored, with purple, orange, teal, yellow and pink walls for the living spaces and closets cleverly tucked in small landings off the staircase. In one bedroom, visitors can peek through Plexiglas into criss-crossing beams that support the house.
Melanie runs the day-to-day operations at The Haines Shoe House, which opened the first day of spring and will stay open until mid-November. Photos are allowed on the tours which last 15 to 20 minutes and begin whenever visitors show up.
In a first-floor cafe which has four booths, Melanie has found a home for her former side business, Mellie’s Makery, which sells ice cream and a variety of treats. There is also a gift shop.
The Schmucks paid $160,000 for the shoe house and are its seventh owners, having bought it from Carleen and Ronald Farabaugh who owned it since 2004. With the house already in good condition, the Schmucks are adding small touches such as putting in memorabilia cases and furnishings from the 1950s.
Melanie said she is seeking photos of people who stayed in the shoe house in its early years when Haines opened it for retired couples or honeymooners.
As the new owner of a house shaped like a shoe, Jeff said he has a sense of humor about the inevitable puns, even having some of his own.
“I have said that we’re running the business on a shoestring budget. That’s one of my favorites.” He also adds: “I will tell you, this house has a lot of sole.”