Ernest Helm, creator of Tiny World in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, died in October of 2015 at the age of 91. He had been working on Tiny World since after he retired in the early '80s. His first tiny building was a Victorian-style “cat house” for the multiple cats that (still) roam his property. Tiny World includes everything you'd need in a town, inspired by buildings from Helm's life—a gas station, church, mill, general store, water tower, outhouses, a school, log cabins, a restaurant, a barn, fire station and several tiny homes.
Since his death, Tiny World has been maintained by Helm's daughter and son-in-law, Wendell Myers. It's a bit overgrown, the plexiglass windows have clouded. It's a shame because each structure has an equally detailed interior to match its exterior, complete with tiny versions of furniture, food and artwork. Myers worked on the village with Helm, and the two added electricity to the buildings.
For someone who wasn't trained in carpentry or the arts, Helm certainly had an eye for creating miniatures. I particularly love the tiny shingles (presumably cut down from real shingles), the teeny shutters and decorative railings. I've always had a soft spot for miniatures and I once spent a summer making furnishings for a dollhouse (found in this book) that I never had. I also like things that are bigger than they should be, but miniatures are significantly easier to make and collect.
I don't know if Tiny World gets much day traffic since Helm is no longer creating new structures, but the Christmas lights, decorations and train display still attract a large crowd at the end of each year. In addition to several (very friendly) cats, the property is also home to a few peacocks. Tiny World doesn't charge an entrance fee and although our visit was brief, I made sure to drop a small donation in the box. "We're not doing it to make money, we're doing it because we enjoy it and we like to see people enjoying it," Myers said.
Roadside America has a great article about visiting Helm and his creations—my favorite part is the reason Helm gave for building Tiny World: "It was something to do." I love novelty architecture and big roadside statues, but my favorite part about these road trips is rapidly becoming places like Tiny World. Ernest Helm didn't create Tiny World to become Instagram famous or to please anyone but his cats. He needed a way to fill time and he ended up creating a perfect little place that people can continue to enjoy—even if Helm is no longer a part of our tiny world.
6720 Rice Road
Shippensburg, Pennsylvania 17257