Roadside America: End Of An Era, Part II

Renaissance Auction Group Liquidates Shartlesville, Pa., Landmark

February 19, 2021

“As an auctioneer, we love to have an estate and have five or six of the relatives show up and bid. Well, this was like having 500 or 600 relatives show up and bid,” stated Bill Howze after the online sale of Roadside America. A network of devoted people who wanted a piece of it stepped up, something the prices realized validates.
“We had 1,300 registered bidders and 363 successful bidders. It exceeded expectations, and yet I knew it was going to be a stellar event,” said Howze.
Winning bidders were from California, Washington, Nevada, Texas, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and Illinois, among several other states. “Many items went to people who strongly identified with Roadside America,” said Howze. “I’d say about 70 percent went to buyers here in the Mid-Atlantic.”
National travel magazines covered the destination in the 1950s and ’60s. And while the visitation ceased, and the decision to call it quits was finialized, a lot of nostagic collectors wanted something to own from the once popular iconic stop.
Material sold from both Roadside America and the PA Dutch Gift Haus included more than the deconstructed handcrafted scale model buildings, bridges, tracks, and accessories. Painted scenic panels, signs, display cabinets, counters, benches, a vintage Pepsi trash can, and outdoor decor were all sold.
Memorabilia from the gift shop included Pennsylvania German paint decorated items such as hex signs, milk cans, advertising, vintage garden urns, and much more. The highest selling hex sign was one by Kutztown artist Bill Schuster depicting a cow, pig, rooster, tulips, and heart on white ground, selling for $5,487. A Johnny Claypoole, dated 1991, hex sign with barn star, fancy border, barn red on white ground, brought $354; one from 1985 of distlefinks, lovebirds, heart, tulip, and fancy border, signed "Johnny Claypoole" sold for $1,445. Claypoole, of Lenhartsville, Pa., died in 2004 at age 83. He is credited as being an infuential revivalist in hex sign painting. A hex sign with distlefinks, hearts, tulips with brown border on white ground, signed "By J. Ott," sold for $684. Ott, also of Lenhartsville, Pa., was also a well-known hex sign revivialist. One by Jeff Marks of a cow, pig, rooster, tulips, with red border on white ground, went for $448. The handpainted hex-style welcome sign displayed on the front of Roadside America from 1950s-2010s, in good condition overall, 25.5 inches diameter, with some age-related weathering, sold for $1,917. A nearly identical one for the “Penna. Dutch Gift Haus” went for $1,325.
A large 48-by-96-inch oil or acrylic on board mural depicting Laurence and Paul Gieringer as children standing atop Mt. Penn in June 1903, looking out over Reading and the Summit Hotel in the background sold for $3,215. This scene, with artistic license, was done between 1953-61 and depicts the occasion/catalyst that inspired Laurence's lifelong devotion to scale model and railroad building that ultimately resulted in Roadside America. Research suggests that it was likely executed by E. Huffman, who illustrated the short biography of Laurence Gieringer that was published in 1961, two years prior to Gieringer's death. It hung over the door inside main display room.
It certainly isn’t the same driving along Route 78 and not seeing the two landmarks anymore. It had its time. The captions outline some of the items sold and prices realized.
To learn more, call the Renaissance Auction Group at 610-370-2879.


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