World’s greatest indoor ‘miniature village’ shutting down after nearly 9 decades – lehighvalleylive.com
Roadside America, touted as the world’s greatest indoor “miniature village,” is shutting down after 85 years in business.
The owners announced the closure Saturday on the attraction’s Facebook page, stating they did try to find a potential buyer for the past few years, but nothing came to fruition that was suitable for the Shartlesville, Berks County site. They thanked patrons for their patience over the past eight months during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the permanent closure of Roadside America after 85 years of business,” the posting states. “Nearly 3 years ago, we decided to place the display for sale, hoping to find a buyer who would continue business operations. Despite meeting with multiple interested parties over the last 2 years, each with their own unique vision, none committed to moving forward with the village.”
Owners said when Roadside America, 109 Roadside Drive and off Interstate 78, was forced to shut down in March when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, they remained hopeful a buyer would come forward and commit. As the months passed, the future remained uncertain, the posting stated.
“We ultimately made the difficult decision to do what is best for our family and pursue other options,” it stated.
By 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Roadside America’s Facebook post was shared 2,500 times and had more than 925 comments. Folks reminisced about the miniature hand-crafted village, which became a tourist site throughout the decades.
“This news makes me very sad,” commented Lori Robbins. “I hope you will always remember that you provided an experience that entertained, fascinated, and moved many thousands of people over eight decades.”
“Very sad news. I have visited multiple times over the years, first as a child myself, then with children and grandchildren,” commented Wendy Dietrich. “I enjoyed every time.”
“This is such heartbreaking news,” commented Tracie Soliday. “I am so grateful that I was able to take my children to see this amazing display last year. The nostalgia of my childhood was so overwhelming when I entered the building, that I had hope it would become an annual visit.”
Owners said they are planning an auction of all display pieces, including the exhibit’s buildings, bridges, figures and animations. Auction details will be posted on the business’ Facebook page over the next few weeks, the post stated.
“This decision was not made without extensive thought and consideration, and was ultimately the result of multiple factors and circumstances,” owners stated. “We ask that you please be respectful and understanding of our choices during this difficult time, as this has been indescribably heartbreaking for our family.”
Owners added there are no words to express how grateful they are for valued customers and supporters, whom they have been part of their family traditions, memories and treasured moments.
“It was a blessing to remain a family-owned business for so many years,” they said.
The 6,000-square-foot exhibit showed off a panorama of life in the rural United States. It spanned more than 200 years of history and included more than 300 small buildings, countless parked trains filling packed train yards and nine fully-operational railroads. Visitors were able to control three of the railroads with the push of a button, and other push buttons allowed them to control a plethora of animations, bringing the village to life. There also were real water-flowing waterways, hilltop fountains and a huge canyon waterfall, according to its website.
Guests were told to take their time and explore every inch of the display, “as the attention to detail is simply phenomenal.”
“No matter how many times you visit, you’ll always be able to spot something new,” the owners had said.