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Roadside America is billed as the "World’s Greatest Indoor Miniature Village" (over 8,000 square feet). It tells the story of life in America over the past 200 years. The slogan on the outside of the building justifiably proclaims: "Be Prepared to See More than You Expect." There are over 300 miniature buildings in a fully landscaped setting with running water, interactive trains and trolleys, and 4,000 little people. There is also a patriotic and religious slideshow every 1/2 hour which begins with a gradual transformation of the Village into a nocturnal wonder of lights and chirping crickets. There is a large gift shop at the front of the building, and another whole building devoted to Pennsylvania Dutch gifts next door. Between the two buildings is a photo-op, giant Amish Couple. At one time, there was also an adjoining zoo and picnic grove.
In 1903, Lawrence and Paul Gieringer, young brothers, climbed to the top of Mt. Penn in Reading, PA and upon seeing the panorama, Lawrence said "let’s start building little houses as they look from here". And so, what started as a child’s hobby became his life’s work. Lawrence spent 50 years crafting the little buildings of all types and eras.
Laurence went to work at 16 as a carpenter and painter and continued making model buildings in his spare time. He arbitrarily established a 3/8 inch to 1 foot scale which he stuck with for all his models. He married Dora Seisler who lived just down the street. She understood his passion and helped out by creating shrubbery and trees (approximately 10,000 of them over the years). Later, even their two kids got into the act with detailing and figure painting. Today, Roadside America is still run and maintained by family members.
It seems almost inevitable that Roadside America came to be. Word started spreading about his creations in the 1920s and 1930s. When he set up his Christmas display for his kids in 1935, the Reading Eagle newspaper published a story about it. Soon thereafter, the Rainbow Fire Company donated the use of their building for the display of his creations with profits going to local charities. In 1938, an additional exhibit was set up in Carsonia Park and then in 1941, the exhibits were brought together under one roof where it is today. Gieringer died in 1963 and the display has remained exactly as he left it (although he never considered it finished).
|Bird's Eye View Museum
|The Bird's Eye View Museum contains over 165 model buildings which were created by DeVon Rose. He created the museum in his basement from the early 1960s until the late 1990s. The models which represent actual buildings in Elkhart County. They are made from trash and other found materials. The museum's contents were recently donated to the Wakarusa Historical Society which is raising funds to build a new home to display them. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2.|
|Tiny World is the creation of Ernest Helm. He began building the miniature buildings when he retired in the late 1980s. There are about 20 buildings. They are decorated on the inside and lit on the outside during the Christmas season. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, and 3.|
|Safety City is located in Druid Hill Park. It is used to teach children about traffic rules and includes small scale buildings (a farm house, landmark skyscrapers), scaled down roads with painted lines and signs, as well as functioning traffic lights.|
|Safety Town is operated by the Lorain Police Department. It is used as part of a program which teaches things like how to cross streets, bicycle safety, use of seat belts, etc.|
|Frisco Fire Safety Town
|The Frisco Fire Safety Town was built around 2003. It features 17 buildings which are replicas of local businesses. There is also a toll booth, railroad tracks with working crossing arms, and functioning traffic signals. Children ride bicycles and drive battery-powered jeeps through the streets to learn about safety. Safety Town is located at the Central Fire Station. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, and 3.|
More Safety Cities:
Tampa, FL [vintage]
Oregon, OH: 1, 2
Red Deer, AB
Hong Kong, China [vintage]
Mitiwanga, OH [gone]
Detroit, MI [gone]
Midget City was moved to Orlando, FL in the 1960s and apparently no longer exists. The entire city was built by one man. For more, see this website.
The Midget City in Detroit was located in what is now known as Redford, MI. It was built in 1939 and gone by the end of World War II. For more, see this website. [scans thanks Michael Venture]
More Mini Cities:
Tiny Town (Hot Springs, AR)
Tiny Town (Tiny Town, CO)
Miniature Dutch Village (Pella, IA)
Littleville: 1, 2 (Chesterton, IN) [gone]
Northlandz (Flemington, NJ): 1, 2, 3
New York City Panorama (Queens, NY): 1, 2, 3
Cincinnati in Motion (Cincinnati, OH): 1, 2
Miniature Graceland (Roanoke, VA)
Cockington Green Gardens (Canberra, Australia): 1, 2
Also worth noting, is Progress City, which was created in the mid-1960s. It was part of Disneyland’s Carousel of Progress and was later moved to Epcot Center. The giant model was a fantasy city complete with working traffic lights, moving cars, flying airplanes, etc. Lighting changed to represent different times of day just as the display at Roadside America does.