The Haines Shoe House: From Cobwebbed Curiosity to Polished Airbnb Attraction

published on 26 October 2023

Nestled between York and Lancaster in Pennsylvania, the Haines Shoe House has long been a roadside marvel that prompts double-takes from passing motorists. Erected in 1948, this whimsical structure was initially a marketing gimmick for a chain of shoe stores owned by local entrepreneur Mahlon Haines, affectionately dubbed "The Shoe Wizard." Over the decades, the Shoe House has donned many hats—a honeymoon suite, an ice cream parlor, and a whimsical vacation getaway, to name a few. Now, thanks to its latest ownership change, the iconic 'foot-home' has been “resoled” into an Airbnb, breathing new life into a venerable landmark.

A Fresh Coat for the Old Sole

Stephen Dietrich, president of Ville Painters, was charged with the daunting task of refurbishing this beloved relic. “Our job was to refurbish the exterior of the landmark as well as surrounding structures, which include a shed and a large doghouse, a ‘mini-me’ of the Shoe House,” said Dietrich. The project was as challenging as it was fun. With a structure that looks like something straight out of a storybook, refurbishing isn't your everyday paint job. From rusted fire escapes to stress-cracked stucco, the Shoe House presented a host of obstacles.

Dietrich narrated the intricate details, saying, “The fire escape was extremely rusted and sorely in need of extensive preparations. There were stress cracks throughout the stucco that needed attention, and the laces of the shoe were positioned in a way to make safe access difficult.” Moreover, the renovation was a race against time, with the Shoe House set to open almost immediately after the project's completion.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Intriguingly, this renovation didn't just breathe new life into the Shoe House; it also served as a vital team-building exercise for Ville Painters. Dietrich orchestrated the project meticulously. He divided the tasks between different teams, with some laying the groundwork for the subsequent company-wide paint day that involved both the field and office staff. “It became an enormously successful team-building day,” he declared.

Repair work was no small feat either. “It took a lot of hours to mechanically prepare the metal fire escape,” said Dietrich. “The stucco repair was largely handled by a local plaster company, but we performed many of the smaller repairs.” To reach the towering heights and precarious angles of the Shoe House, an articulating boom lift was employed, ensuring the safety of the workers.

Step Inside the Shoe

For those enamored by this architectural marvel, the Shoe House offers a delightful experience as an Airbnb property. Prospective guests can choose between whimsically named suites: the Shoelace Space, Instep Suite, or Ankle Abode, with rates starting at a plush $269 a night. And don't worry, much of the original memorabilia still decorates the interior, offering a journey down memory lane, right from the era of Mahlon Haines.

Sole-full Conclusion

The Haines Shoe House stands as a testament to the power of whimsy, imagination, and now, community teamwork. Its latest refurbishment has not only restored its structural integrity but also elevated it from a fading roadside attraction to a contemporary vacation hotspot. The meticulous work of Stephen Dietrich and his team at Ville Painters ensures that the Shoe House will continue to intrigue and enchant visitors, just as Mahlon Haines would have wanted.

So if you ever find yourself cruising through Pennsylvania, between York and Lancaster, consider pulling over for a closer look, or better yet, spend a night inside the shoe. You'll be stepping into a rich tapestry of local history, revamped for the modern age.

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