16 Roadside Architectural Wonders

Famous Landmarks Image Gallery Prabhupada's Palace of Gold in New Vrindaban, West Virginia. See more pictures of famous landmarks.
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To be sure, many Americans never wanted that cozy little house on Main Street with the white picket fence. These mavericks wanted something entirely different -- a home that doubled as an affirmation of their individuality.

Maybe they coveted an over-the-top mansion they could keep expanding for the rest of their life, a perpetual work in progress. Or their bent might have involved construction materials from which nobody in their right mind would build a house.


Or the finished product could have been a Space Age-style image of the home of the future -- usually an off-the-mark prophecy of what 21st-century housing might come to look like, but certainly hasn't yet.

Many of the oddball buildings that dot the American roadside aren't actually residences, but offices, shops, museums, or reproductions of famed edifices on the other side of the world.

The thread that ties them all together? They stand out from everything else in the immediate vicinity. No matter when they were built, and no matter what their surroundings are, these one-of-a-kind architectural anomalies generally can't be pigeonholed as part of a broader movement. These buildings are in a category all by themselves.

By and large, the minds behind these structures never received a formal education in the traditions and tenets of architecture. Their vision comes from an entirely different plane of thought that owes more to fairy tales and comic books than academia.

Their motivation is usually the result of an obsessive drive that knows no middle ground, and formal study, thus, would only get in the way.

But this doesn't mean that their creations aren't true architectural gems. They are. In some ways, they outdo the more traditional buildings now renowned for their architectural importance, as excellent representations of a given style. But the American roadside's landmark buildings are usually one-of-a-kind, or something close to it.

Plus, it takes a ton of guts to go through the pricey process of building a house shaped like an elephant or a shoe, and the bank certainly won't be inclined to sign off on a mortgage -- not to mention that resale might be a bear. And you might alienate the neighbors forever.

Also, you're going to have to personally live with what you create -- every single day.

Not that these minuscule details deterred the owners, builders, and residents of the buildings featured in this chapter. They knew what they were getting into, listened to countless people advising them not to build anything of the sort, and then dove in headfirst.

Years later, they might still be hammering away, or else working on a new addition for the umpteenth time, but one thing remains constant: They still have the most recognizable place on the block.

A wonderful example of a work in progress is Solomon's Castle in Florida. Continue reading to learn about the evolution of this unusual home made from recycled materials.