Fairytale of York County

Sian
Monday 04 Oct 2010

Shoe-shaped advertising gimmick transformed into kitsch dwelling by US couple

It is no secret that many women endure lifelong love affairs with their shoes. Far be it from a simple lust for fashion, in some circles the humble shoe can be a symbol of a woman's professional success or social status, in others sparking conversations that blossom into lasting friendships. Carleen Farabaugh has taken this fervour for footwear one stage further, turning the fairytale into reality and moving into a shoe-shaped house in York County, Pennsylvania.

Originally built by millionaire shoe maestro Colonel Mahlon N. Haines in 1948-9 the 25ft tall, 48ft long inhabited structure was initially modelled as an advertising gimmick. Positioned close to the highway for easy viewing by the travelling masses, the gigantic boot solidified Haines' status as the go-to-guy for twinkling toes. Rumour has it that the footwear mogul simply handed an old work boot to an unnamed architect with the words ‘Build me a house like this'!

Over the years the quirky entrepreneur invited many honeymooning couples to stay in the shoe for a week at a time, waited on hand and foot by a butler and maid, and it was during this period that Carleen and her husband Ronald first stepped foot in the building. After his death in 1962, Haines left the building to an employee; it has since been used as an ice cream parlour and museum, but was never far from Carleen's mind.

The couple snapped the building up in 2003 and spent over $40,000 restoring it to its former glory, with the every last detail kept to theme; shoes-shaped dog kennel, windows, wooden fence and mailbox. It may be an unusual shape but Haines managed to squeeze a total of eight rooms into this structure - three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, utility room and 17ft wide living room in the toe.

Carleen confesses: "I love it but it can be challenging at times because all of the rooms are obviously strange shapes. I can't imagine ever moving out, though. Everyone always compliments us on what we've done with it. People might think I'm crazy but I don't care. This is every woman's dream home."

Sian Disson
News Editor

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