A shoe sale too big to miss 25-foot-tall work boot with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths built by a Pa. 'Wizard'

Dream Home

November 03, 1996|By DeWitt Bliss | DeWitt Bliss,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It is a house straight out of a children's rhyme -- a three-bedroom, two-bath shoe.

You could even call it a dream house, although no one has lived in it full-time since it was completed in 1948.

It was originally the dream of Mahlon N. Haines, also known as "the Shoe Wizard," who owned a chain of shoe stores. He built what became known as the Shoe House outside York, Pa., in the shape of his best-selling high-top work boot as a publicity stunt.

He provided weekend stays there -- with amenities including chauffeur service, food and entertainment -- to newlyweds, couples celebrating golden anniversaries and, occasionally, customers selected in random drawings.

When he died in 1962, he left the house to his employees.

Since then, the Shoe House has become well-known in real estate and tourism circles, and has passed through several hands -- including a York orthodontist who operated an ice cream parlor in an addition under the instep for two decades, and a granddaughter of Haines' who spent several years restoring the house.

In 1995, when the Shoe House last changed hands, its picture was featured on the cover of Real Estate Today, the magazine of the National Association of Realtors, as winner of that year's Unusual Listing or Sales Contest.

And now, the shoe is up for grabs again -- listed at $139,900, with no box large enough to hold it. It is 48 feet long, 25 feet high and 17 feet wide, with nearly 1,600 square feet of living and commercial space.

It was built of stucco on wire that was stretched over a wooden frame, and is painted a light tan with a dark brown heel and sole. In recent years, it has been laceless.

The latest owner, Ruth Miller, had been operating a souvenir and tour business at the house, which stands (face it -- shoes don't sit) on Shoe House Road, on a hill above U.S. 30.

Marjorie Franek, a York real estate agent who handled the 1995 sale to Miller and has put it back on the market for her, said it has been easier to get publicity about the Shoe House than to sell it.

The brochure Miller gives to visitors describes it as the "most outlandish advertising gimmick" of Mahlon Haines, who at one time had more than 40 stores in central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.

And "Colonel Haines," as he liked to be called, remains there as a ghostly sort of presence -- holding a pair of tan work shoes in a stained-glass image in the window of the front door. Below his image is the caption, "Haines the Shoe Wizard."

All the other windows also have leaded glass with a tan shoe in the middle.

The fence along Shoe House Road is decorated with high-top shoes, and a doghouse in the rear is in the shape of a work shoe.

Miller describes the first of the five levels in the house as the "honeymoon suite." It includes the living room in the toe, a bedroom and a bath.

As you go up through the other levels, you find a kitchen, two bedrooms and a second bathroom -- with its sink set outside in the hall.

At the top of the stairs is a hatch leading to a platform in the top of the shoe, with views over farmland to a wooded hill in the north and across fields, woods and industrial properties to Route 462, the old Lincoln Highway, to the south. In the bootstrap at the back of the platform is the chimney. The utility room is in the heel, below the kitchen.

Haines' granddaughter and her husband bought the Shoe House in 1987, embarking on a restoration that took several years. The shoe, alas, outlasted the marriage, and the granddaughter lost the shoe to foreclosure by the bank when she could not sell it.

Miller bought it for $80,000 in the spring of 1995, after hearing that someone might buy the Shoe House and move it elsewhere. She and her husband redid the interior and furnished it in a style in harmony with the windows.

Now, because of ill health, she is selling the Shoe House. Her asking price includes all the furnishings and decorations, and recent improvements including a security system, dusk-to-dawn exterior lighting, and a black-topped driveway and parking area.

Pub Date: 11/03/96

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