If you’re visiting North Carolina anywhere near Winston-Salem, you’ll notice the roadside attractions – and you’ll definitely see them because they’re too big to miss.
I only stayed in the area a few days, but by the end of the second, I’d spotted a theme: BIG novelty architecture objects on the side of the road. There are several that I stumbled upon and maybe more that I didn’t. Here’s what I found.
1 BIG COFFEE POT
In Old Salem, the Winston-Salem historic district centers around a former Moravian village settled in 1766. These people were followers of John Huss in Moravia (now the Czech Republic) and founded the Protestant Moravian Church.
The district – now National Historic Landmark – showcases preserved communal buildings, churches, houses and a living history museum, which is what I went to see. But a giant coffee pot at the front of the village caught my attention as soon as I arrived.
The giant silver percolator sits on a wood pedestal and is over 7 feet tall. A sign says it can hold up to 740 gallons of coffee. That’s nearly 12,000 cups, so I hope you’re thirsty.
The coffee pot is made entirely of silver tin and is shaped almost like a triangle with a long curved spout and small handle. Tinsmith brothers Julius and Samuel Mickey built the kettle in the 1850s to promote their coffee shop across the street. It was an immediate sensation and the brothers hosted events around the pot and said they even once filled it with coffee, but it’s unclear how they would have poured it once inside the pot. It’s a Monrovian mystery for the ages!
Find it in Old Salem Moravian Village in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
2 THE SUPERSIZED SHELL STATION
Curious about the coffee pot, I looked it up on the internet and there I stumbled upon information leading me to even bigger attractions in Winston-Salem, so I followed the trail. It led me to the Shell-Shaped Shell Station.
This oversized historic landmark looked too good to be true. Surely this is something I’d seen on a SpongeBob SquarePants episode? But this shell station existed long before SpongeBob, Mr. Krabs and Squidward lived in Bikini Bottom.
Instead of the standard steel square box, this filling station is a bright yellow clam shell flanked by two red and yellow gas pumps. The “shell station” has a door, two windows, and a small extension off the back with an office and a bathroom, just like any other gas station. Now it’s a museum, but it wasn’t open when I visited.
In the 1920s and 30s, the Quality Oil Co., which distributed Shell gasoline, created eight of these shell stations in the area to bring awareness to the brand. This station stayed open until the 1950s and is the last of its kind. It’s now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Find it on the corner of Sprague and Peachtree Streets in Winston-Salem.
3 THE WORLD’S LARGEST CHEST OF DRAWERS
One thing led to another, as they tend to do and before I knew it, I found myself standing in front of the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers. I’m not being facetious; this dresser holds a world record for its size.
Since High Point, North Carolina, is known as the furniture capital of the world, members of the furniture industry had the 38 feet high “Big Bureau” built in 1926. Since the drawers don’t open, it’s not a real piece of furniture but a building. Yep, it’s the attention-getting furniture industry welcome center. All buildings should be so much fun!
In 1996 the dresser, er, building received an update changing it from a bureau into a chest of drawers. What’s the difference? A bureau has a mirror and is built so you can sit at it. A chest is a piece of furniture with drawers fitted into it. When the “dresser” was updated, the mirror was removed, changing it from a bureau into a chest.
The building now looks like an 18th-century Goddard-Townsend block-and-shell chest with ornate brass handles. Along with the new look, two pairs of giant socks dangle from one partly-opened drawer.
Find it on Hamilton St, High Point, North Carolina.
4 THE WORLD’S LARGEST HIGHBOY CHEST
Since big novelty architecture is a tourism draw in North Carolina, why stop with just one dresser? As I was driving down the highway a few miles from the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers, I couldn’t help but notice a giant highboy chest on the road. Talk about a roadside attraction!
This giant chest is 85 feet tall and covers the entrance of the Furnitureland South furniture store. They built it in the late 1990s to draw attention to their store (it does!) and they say it’s the biggest 18th-century Highboy chest in the world. I have no reason to suspect otherwise.
I know what you’re wondering now: “What a highboy?” A highboy chest is a tall chest of drawers with carved legs.
Find it on Riverdale Drive in Jamestown, North Carolina
I’m from Michigan and our biggest claim to fame as far as novelty architecture goes was the old Michigan Stove. It was a giant replica of an 1890s Garland kitchen stove. The world’s largest, in case you were wondering. It was built in the 1890s and lived in infamy until being struck by lightning and destroyed by fire in 2011. RIP, big stove. Oh, and let’s not forget the GIANT Uniroyal tire on I-94 in Allen Park. It used to be a Ferris wheel!
What novelty roadside attractions does your state have?
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