But America also has some truly bizarre buildings.
There are giant inhabitable dinosaurs in California and a dog-shaped bed and breakfast in Idaho. New Yorkers can visit a huge duck on Long Island while Denverites frequently eat ice cream out of a 14,000-pound cream can. Many of these buildings have been around for decades and are now popular roadside attractions.
While they seem bizarre now, the country’s most unique buildings are often mimetic architecture, also known as “novelty” or “programmatic” architecture. The mimetic style was popular in the early 1900s as a form of advertising; the building designs “mimic” the purpose or function of the structure or the product that the owner is trying to sell. Fruit stands were built in the shape of oranges, for example, and a footwear peddler would sell his shoes out of a giant boot.
Although the mimetic style has fallen out of favor, the buildings remain, most of them now serving as tourist destinations. We’ve rounded up 13 of America’s most bizarre buildings from coast to coast. Know of one that we missed? Let us know in the comments.
The Big Duck in Flanders, New York
Located on Long Island not far from the Hamptons, the Big Duck was built in 1931 by Riverhead duck farmer Martin Maurer. Maurer used a wooden frame and concrete to create the 20-foot tall structure, and added taillights from a Model T Ford to create the duck’s signature glowing red eyes.
Maurer originally sold ducks and eggs from the shop’s belly, but now it operates as a tourism center selling duck souvenirs.
Eli’s Florida Orange World
Billed as the world’s largest orange—even if it’s only actually half of an orange—this 60-foot tall structure in Kissimmee, Florida, has been selling oranges, honeybells, grapefruit, tangerines, and gifts for decades.
California Cabazon Dinosaurs
Located in Cabazon, California, these gigantic roadside structures can be seen from Interstate 10, not far from Palm Springs. Construction for Dinny the Dinosaur—an 150-ton building shaped like a Brontosaurus—and his partner, a 100-ton Tyrannosaurus Rex, started in 1964 and took years to complete using a steel framework and shotcrete.
Idaho’s Dog Bark Park Inn
A functioning bed and breakfast in rural Idaho, the Dog Bark Park Inn claims to be the world’s largest beagle. Guests enter through the body to access a second-story deck, two bedrooms, and a bathroom.
Bondurant’s Pharmacy in Kentucky
Built in the shape of a giant mortar and pestle—a common tool for pharmacists—this business in Lexington, Kentucky, operated as a pharmacy from 1974 to 2011. The building has been painted green to look like some sort of exotic cocktail and is now a liquor store.
Denver’s Little Man Ice Cream
One of Denver’s most popular ice cream stores, Little Man Ice Cream, functions out of a 28 foot tall, 14,000-pound cream can in the Lower Highland neighborhood.
Lucy the Elephant in New Jersey
Located along the beach in Margate, New Jersey, Lucy is a six-story elephant originally constructed in 1881 as a way to help sell real estate and remains the oldest surviving roadside tourist attraction in America. Today, people can take tours of the building and check out the views from the observation deck.
The Longaberger Company Building in Ohio
Built in 1997 as the headquarters of the Longaberger Company—an American manufacturer and distributor of maple wood baskets—the building takes the shape of the company’s biggest seller, the “Medium Market Basket.” This basket is huge, measuring seven stories and 180,000 square feet.
Haines Shoe House in Pennsylvania
Built in 1948 by a shoe salesman to help advertise his products, this building in Hellam Township, Pennsylvania, is modeled after a work boot. It’s larger than it looks: At over five stories tall, the building has a living room in the toe, a kitchen in the heel, and two bedrooms located in the ankle. It’s open for tours from spring to fall.
South Dakota’s Corn Palace
Located in Mitchell, South Dakota, the Corn Palace is a Moorish Revival building that opened in 1892 and now sees hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The building is decorated with crop art—murals made from corn and other grains cover the exterior walls and a new design is added each year.
World’s Biggest Happy Meal in Dallas, Texas
This McDonald’s—located at Montfort Drive and LBJ Freeway in Dallas—was built as the World’s Biggest Happy Meal and also includes giant sculptures of Ronald McDonald, a cheeseburger, coke, and fries. Inside, you’ll find Ralph Lauren wallpaper, granite floors, and mahogany booths.
Tennessee Spaceship House
This three-bedroom, two-bath flying saucer house in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, was built in 1972 and features a drop-down staircase to enter the elevated building. The 2,000-square-foot building was made using steel and concrete and is a private residence.
The Big Chicken Marietta, Georgia
Not every Kentucky Fried Chicken features a 56-foot tall red chicken, but this building in Marietta, Georgia, has been standing tall since 1956. The steel structure was damaged in a storm in 1993, but locals rallied to have it rebuilt.