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Mahlon Nathaniel Haines (March 5, 1875 – October 31, 1962) was a well-known businessman and philanthropist in York, Pennsylvania. Haines arrived in York in 1905 where he became very successful at selling shoes. Referred to as the "Shoe Wizard", Haines shared his wealth with his community and employees. A local residential subdivision and adjacent road are named after him. His most evident legacy is the Haines Shoe House in Hallam, which is readily visible from U.S. Route 30 east of York.

Mahlon N. Haines
John Morrison Haines[1]

March 5, 1875
DiedOctober 31, 1962(1962-10-31) (aged 87)
Alma materMaryland Agricultural College
Known forShoe sales, philanthropy
June Brown Irwin
(m. 1909; d. 1951)
Grace Marianne Churchill (m. 1957–1962)
Children3, with first wife


Early lifeEdit

Haines was born in Old Washington, Ohio on March 5, 1875. His father died a few months later.[2] His widowed mother, Elizabeth Ann Morrison Haines, changed his name to that of his father.[1] The family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1882 and lived above a store she owned on 11th Street SE;[3] it was there that Haines worked for much of his early life. The store's profits helped pay for his education and Haines enrolled at Maryland Agricultural College (now known as the University of Maryland) in 1892.[2] That same year, his mother built a much larger department store in Washington, advertised as "the largest store in the world, built, owned and controlled by a woman".[3]

Haines left college in 1894 to begin his adult life.[2] After his mother denied his request at age 28 to become a business partner, he went to California and was a sales representative for several clothing stores in the West. Becoming engaged, Haines moved to Ohio to get married. When the relationship was broken off, he began a bicycle trip back to Washington to get his old job back.[4] Haines later summarized his status then as "single, penniless and alone".[5]


1920s hand fan promoting Haines' business

Arriving in York, Pennsylvania in 1905 – the year he turned 30[5] – Haines' bicycle broke down. He reportedly sold his engagement ring, bought ten pairs of shoes, and sold them at a farmers market.[4] Haines initially rented a 3rd-floor apartment at 473 W. Market Street.[6] After borrowing money to begin a business, he was bankrupt within two years. He then obtained a consignment of shoes for $127 from the local D.S. Peterman & Co. warehouse. With a combination of hard work and gimmickry, Haines became very successful in the shoe business.[5] A particular gimmick for which he was known was his use of a customized Ford as a mobile retail store, which he would drive to the outer edges of town to show his products.[2][7] By December 1917, Haines had saved enough to buy 199 acres (0.311 sq mi; 81 ha)[8] of what became a 211-acre (13 sq mi; 85 13 ha) farm east of York in Springettsbury Township.[9] Named Haines Acres,[7] along what would later be named Haines Road,[9] he built his home on the farm in 1922,[7] the year he accumulated 30 stores.[5] By 1931, Haines had the largest shoe store chain in the United States,[7] and there were 50 Haines Shoe Co. stores across Pennsylvania and northern Maryland by 1935.[2][5]

Six of Haines' stores were within the city of York (117 South George, 231 North George, 101 East Market, 241 West Market, 725 East Market, and 13 West Philadelphia Streets), with three of them in buildings he owned, all designed by John A. Dempwolf.[10] The three-story "Haines Building", opened in 1915 on North George Street, also served as headquarters for his shoe company;[11][12] it was torn down in the 1960s for off-street parking spaces.[10] He built another four-story Haines Building at 101 East Market Street in 1922 and sold it in 1954 after having donated the shoe store space to organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Bundles for Britain; as of April 2017, the building was being renovated for business use with ten new apartments on the upper floors.[10] Haines had the five-story building on West Philadelphia Street built in 1925 as a 45-room hotel; he converted it to an apartment building in 1940 and it endures as of 2016 with its "Haines" name across the original main entrance threshold.[11]

Philanthropy and legacyEdit

A depiction of Haines in the shoe house's door glass

Haines regularly gave back to his customers and community. In 1922, Haines ran as the Republican candidate from Pennsylvania's 22nd District to the U.S. House of Representatives, though he lost to Democratic challenger Samuel F. Glatfelter.[13]


In October and November 1924, Haines bought 318 adjoining acres (0.497 sq mi; 129 ha) of land which became known as Yorkshire Ranch. After the Great Depression in 1929, he built streets through this ranch land and offered free housing lots to those unemployed who agreed to build homes there, as he began developing the Yorkshire neighborhood.[8] Haines built a 2-room brick schoolhouse in the development in 1930, initially leased for $1 per year to the township's Independent School District. Expanded over the years since, these original school buildings were torn down to create playgrounds for the new Yorkshire Elementary School build adjacently in 2010.[14] In the late 1920s, he donated a plot of land which became part payment for the first permanent Springetts Fire Company station.[15]

Haines hosted a celebration in September 1938 to commemorate his 33 years in York. Applying his "Shoe Wizard" nickname, Haines placed a half-page ad in newspapers throughout York County announcing a week-long series of evening entertainment for the public at his expense.[5]

Boy ScoutsEdit

Haines owned 300 acres (0.47 sq mi; 120 ha) of fields and woodlands in eastern York County and beginning in 1941, he hosted a special "Haines Safari" gathering of area Boy Scouts there about every five years to celebrate his birthday. After the fifth such gathering in 1960, Haines donated the land to the York-Adams Area Council of Boy Scouts. Known as "Wizard Ranch", the scouts have year-round camping on the grounds and continue to organize "Wizard Safari" events there every four to five years, drawing thousands of attendees.[16][17] Haines received the Silver Antelope Award from the scouts in 1944.[18]

Haines Shoe House in 1999

Shoe HouseEdit

It was in 1948 that he began construction of the Haines Shoe House in Hallam with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. Via a newspaper ad in July 1949, he publicly thanked 20 local businesses that had a part in the project. Its exterior modeled after a work boot, Haines lived in the house briefly before using it to host older couples and honeymooners affiliated with his shoe stores, providing them with a free weekend in the house, the service of his staff, and a free pair of shoes.[2][19] The house was offered to the public for rent in the 1950s.[12]

Alma materEdit

In late 1948, Haines "took a very active part in the Chapter meeting of Agricultural alumni" at his Maryland alma mater and stated "he would personally pay the subscription cost for any agricultural alumnus who did not feel financially able" to request the alumni publication.[20]

Haines AcresEdit

Haines sold his York home to a local surgeon in 1952. The surrounding farm was sold to local real estate firm Epstein & Sons in November 1953, and it was developed into the Haines Acres subdivision. He gave $2,500 to the Boy Scouts in exchange for the housing development being named after him. The farm buildings were ultimately demolished and their land became part of the development in the 1970s.[7] Haines' home remains as part of a Presbyterian church at 311 Haines Road.[21] Haines Acres Shopping Center, constructed beginning in 1962 in the southwest corner of the subdivision, also bears his name.[7]

Employees and othersEdit

After selling a 4,000-acre (6.3 sq mi; 1,600 ha) cattle ranch in South Dakota in 1960, Haines gave his shoe business to 28 key employees. He also gave substantial gifts to farmers of his land, boy and girl scouts, YMCA, YWCA, his church, and York Hospital.[1][22]

Upon dying, Haines gave his "shoe house" to his employees.[1][22] The house has since had a series of owners and is currently a museum and gift shop open on weekends from March to October.[23]

Personal lifeEdit

Haines married June Brown Irwin (1885–1951) of Union County in 1909. They had three children: Stanley Emerson (1910–1966), Mahlon Nathaniel II (1912–1960), and June Irwin (1916–1918). Haines married Grace Marianne Churchill of London, England in 1957.

In 1953, Haines was featured in the short Paramount film The Spirit of Seventy, which promoted the value of physical exercise. Haines founded a "Three Quarter Century Baseball Team" for senior citizens in St. Petersburg, Florida, near a winter home he had in Snell Isle. He attributed his own success at the game to staying fit and abstaining from alcohol and tobacco. The film was shown before featured attractions nationally to 1955, and first in York at the Elmwood Theatre.[24]

Haines died on October 31, 1962 while under intensive care after collapsing with a "heart ailment" a few days after undergoing "a successful operation". In addition to his son Stanley and second wife Grace, he was survived by "three grandchildren and a number of nieces and nephews".[1][25]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Mahlon Nathaniel 'Shoe Wizard' Haines". The Evening Sun. Hanover, Pennsylvania. October 31, 1962. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f rhopman (October 27, 2011). "There was an alum who lived in a shoe ..." Special Collections at the University of Maryland. Archived from the original on December 29, 2013. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Barracks Row Heritage Trail: The Crossroads". Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Umble, Chad (April 19, 2015). "How Mahlon Haines grew his shoe business". Lancaster Online. Retrieved May 14, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Stephen H. (April 25, 2014). "The Shoe Wizard celebrates 33 Years as a Yorker". York Daily Record. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  6. ^ Otto, Chris (April 11, 2011). "More about F.W. Behler from current owner David Yates". Retrieved May 2, 2016. Mahlon Haines rented the 3rd floor apartment at 473 [W. Market St.] when he first moved to York.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Haas, Shauna J. (August 5, 2008). "Pennsylvania Historical Resources Survey Form: Haines Acres" (PDF). Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau for Historic Preservation. Continuation sheet 9. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Smith, Stephen H. (August 3, 2016). "Mahlon Haines' Yorkshire Ranch". York Daily Record. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Location of Strickler's Cemetery in Springettsbury Township". York Daily Record. September 22, 2015. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c Smith, Stephen H. (April 5, 2017). "Mahlon Haines built Haines Building at 101 E. Market St". York Daily Record. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Smith, Stephen H. (June 29, 2016). "Mahlon Haines Hotel endures on North George Street". York Daily Record. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Smith, Stephen H. (June 28, 2016). "Haines Building on North George Street". York Daily Record. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  13. ^ Page, William Tyler (1923). "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 7, 1922" (PDF). Washington: Government Printing Office. p. 14. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  14. ^ Smith, Stephen H. (July 27, 2016). "Exercising Buffaloes via Airplane in Springettsbury". York Daily Record. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  15. ^ Smith, Stephen H. (July 14, 2013). "What do Fire House, Woozy Moose and Casablanca have in Common?". York Daily Record. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  16. ^ "Wizard Ranch". New Birth of Freedom Council, Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  17. ^ Dunn, Chris (October 24, 2015). "Words and Light". Retrieved May 9, 2016. The safari [is] held approximately every four years... Organizers estimated total attendance would be 3,000, with 1,100 Scouts.
  18. ^ "2015 Silver Antelope Awards" (PDF). Atlanta: Boy Scouts of America. May 22, 2015. p. 14. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  19. ^ Smith, Stephen H. (August 13, 2013). "20 York Businesses that Built the Haines Shoe House". York Daily Record. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  20. ^ "Homecoming and Silver Threads: From 1897". Maryland. Vol. XX no. 1. University of Maryland. November–December 1948. p. 2. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  21. ^ Smith, Stephen H. (April 15, 2018). "'Shoe Wizard' Haines, Dempfolf were great friends". York Daily Record. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  22. ^ a b Raffaele, Martha (October 19, 2003). "There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe ..." Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  23. ^ Smith, Stephen H. (March 23, 2015). "The Shoe House Is OPEN". York Daily Record. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  24. ^ Smith, Stephen H. (November 25, 2017). "Mahlon Haines movie at the Elmwood Theatre". York Daily Record. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  25. ^ "Mahlon Haines, Merchant, Dies". The New York Times. October 31, 1962. Retrieved May 7, 2016. Mahlon N. Haines ... died this morning in York Hospital.