ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA 

Florida’s fourth-largest city and the second in importance as a winter resort, occupies a semi-isolated area of 58 square miles on the southern tip of the Pinellas peninsula, a 25-mile projection between Tampa Bay and Boca Ciega Bay. US 19, entering from the North, is its only free trunk highway.

St. Petersburg’s front yard is a series of landscaped parks and driveways paralleling Tampa Bay, a filled-in stretch of two miles embracing the city’s harbor, yacht basin, municipal pier, and major recreational attractions.

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Jordan Smith is the guide to ephemeral America for The American Guide. He currently works for the University of Notre Dame during the day and scans at night. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and you can find him on Flickr, his blog, or one of several Tumblr sites.

SILVER SPRINGS, FLORIDA 

Timucuan Indians settled around Silver Springs in the early 1500s. They were soon invaded by the Spaniards and eventually succeeded by Seminole Indians. In turn, the Seminoles, led by Chief Osceola, then retreated to southern swamps when pressed by the US Government in 1835. By the 1850s, barges carried cotton, lumber and nonperishables up the river to the growing community of Ocala. 

Paddlewheel steamboats made their way up the Silver River to the main spring and in the 1880s railroad cars began bringing even 
more tourists. Silver Springs and the Silver River have been tourist attractions ever since. In addition, the spring’s crystalline water has provided the perfect underwater backdrop for many Hollywood films and television programs including six Tarzan films, Sea Hunt, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and many others.

Silver Springs, will become a state park in October, following $4 million in renovation that includes the removal of exotic animals and amusement rides. Its famous glass-bottom boat tours, which started there in 1878, and the popular concert series will remain, but several exhibits and structures will be dismantled to convert the attraction into a more natural park. The park will remain open during the transition.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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Jordan Smith is the guide to ephemeral America for The American Guide. He currently works for the University of Notre Dame during the day and scans at night. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and you can find him on Flickr, his blog, or one of several Tumblr sites.

FOURTH OF JULY, USA

The village…has not forgotten how to celebrate the Fourth of July in the old-time way. Early on the morning of the holiday, a crowd gathers from the hills as if by magic: old folk who remember when the big lumber mills operated and there was an abundance of money; young people who know only that the land has been washing away ever since the mills “cut out,” and that the crops are poor; and, of course, a speaker who addresses the milling crowd from a flag-draped platform. The speaker knows that his listeners believe emphatically, as did their fathers before them, in democracy and individualism, and it is of these he talks. After the speech, there is a barbecue, at which everyone helps himself to anything he wants. The women visit, discussing rural news or exchanging recipes, and the men engage in hog-calling contests and horse-shoe tournaments. The boys try to win the admiration of the girls by climbing a larded pole or catching a greased pig.

Missouri, A Guide To the Show Me State (WPA, 1941)

In the afterglow of the fireworks, we here at A/G HQ are wiping our hands from the larded pole and greased pig contests and wanted to share a big thanks to all the folks who are our Guides to the US of A. We are constantly amazed, astounded, and awestricken by their work and feel privileged to be able to share it with our audience. (Audience, we hope you’re following each and every one of their respective Tumblrs. Seriously, get on that.)

Above—Independence Day through the lenses of some of our A/G guides (from top to bottom, left to right):

Tammy Mercure 

Amadee Ricketts 

Jon Creamer 

Brandon Getty

Stephen Dyer

Tara Wray

James Orndorf

KC O’Connor

Jordan Smith

Ken Kornacki

You can find the rest of our unbelievably fantastic Guides and their respective Tumblrs, Flickr pages and various other websites on our Guides pageLearn how to be a guide yourself here.

FRANKENMUTH, MICHIGAN

A German settlement known throughout the State for its chicken dinners, served harvester style, and its Frankenmuth beer. It was settled in 1845 by a group of Franconians from Bavaria and, later, by refugees from the unsuccessful German revolution of 1848.

The neat village, spread out for some distance, has retained its German flavor; most of the inhabitants are descendants of the original settlers and speak the German language.

—Michigan: A Guide to the Wolverine State (WPA,1941)

Postcard Key:

1. Maypole 2-4. Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn 5. The Fischer Opera Haus 6. Schnitzelbank Shop 7. Bavarian Festival 8. Bodenbender’s Apfel Haus 9. Bronner’s 10. The Edelweiss Trio

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Jordan Smith is the guide to ephemeral America for The American Guide. He currently works for the University of Notre Dame during the day and scans at night. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and you can find him on Flickr, his blog, or one of several Tumblr sites.

Flintstones Bedrock City - Custer, South Dakota

Bedrock City, located on 30 acres, just outside of Custer, South Dakota, opened in 1966 by two local cement plant owners with an idea to build a replica of the popular Flintstones town of Bedrock.

The town features all the popular characters, their houses, Main Street, a City Hall, a Fire House, a working Cimena, a radio station, grocery store, police department and a Flintstones version of Mt. Rushmore (located nearby) called Mt. Rockmore.

Originally, the town and characters were made of cement but the majority of them have been replaced by fiberglass replicas of the original.

There is also a campground located behind the park that features an arcade, laundry, swimming pool, playground and putt-putt golf course.

Guide Note: Check out Roadside America and the Bedrock City website for more information.

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Jordan Smith is the guide to ephemeral America for The American Guide. He currently works for the University of Notre Dame during the day and scans at night. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and you can find him on Flickr, his blog, or one of several Tumblr sites.

RENAISSANCE PLEASURE FAIRE - VARIOUS PLACES IN CALIFORNIA

Begun in 1963 in Agoura, near Malibu, to create “living history” for schoolchildren and their families, the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire has grown into an annual interactive playground and gallery for over 200,000 participants and guests. It has given birth to an industry nationwide and this year is more fun and exciting than ever.

This Southern California Faire has traveled a bit since Agoura. The Glen Helen Pavilion provided two different settings in Devore (in San Bernadino County) where the Faire spent many years. Shortly after the turn of the Century, the Faire moved back to Los Angeles County, to its current home at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, a United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Facility and a unit of County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation System in Irwindale, CA.

Since its inception, more than 5 million people from around the world have visited Southern California’s Renaissance Pleasure Faire, averaging approximately 20,000 each weekend.

The Original Renaissance Faire website

Guide NoteAll photos taken from the 1970 event that took place in Agoura Hills. You can see 44 different Kodachrome photos in my collection right here.

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Jordan Smith is the guide to ephemeral America for The American Guide. He currently works for the University of Notre Dame during the day and scans at night. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and you can find him on Flickr, his blog, or one of several Tumblr sites, including colortransparency.tumblr.com.

THE MYSTERY SPOT - ST. IGNACE, MICHIGAN 

In the early 1950’s, three surveyors named Clarence, Fred and McCray came from California to explore the Upper Peninsula. They stumbled across an area of land where their surveying equipment didn’t seem to work properly. For instance, no matter how many times they tried to level their tripod, through the use of a plum-bob or level, the plum-bob would always be drawn far to the east, even as the level was reading level. As they continued their research of this land, they noticed a constant feeling of being light-headed. Later, realizing their queasiness and problems with the surveying equipment only occurred in an area about 300 feet in diameter, they felt they had discovered a “Mystery Spot”.

Millions have visited their Mystery Spot and many return year after year to experience the unusual sensations that occur within its boundaries. Where else can a tall person seem smaller by comparison or a visitor climb a wall and tilt precariously into the air but not fall? The laws of gravity seem uneasy while sitting in a chair with its back legs balanced on a beam and front legs suspended in the air. You will without a doubt remember your visit to the Mystery Spot for years to come.

The Mystery Spot Website

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Jordan Smith is the guide to ephemeral America for The American Guide. He currently works for the University of Notre Dame during the day and scans at night. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and you can find him on Flickr, his blog, or one of several Tumblr sites.

ROADSIDE AMERICA - SHARTLESVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA

Laurence Gieringer founded Roadside America. The story goes that young Gieringer’s love of miniature models began around 1899, when he was five years old. From his bedroom window, the young Gieringer could see the lights of the Highland Hotel at the crest of nearby Neversink Mountain. From his distant vantage point the building looked like a toy he could snatch from the mountain and add to his toy collection. One day he set out to get that seemingly miniature building, not realizing how far away it really was. Soon he was hopelessly lost in the woods and was not found until the next morning.

Fortunately that experience did not dampen his love for miniatures. In his adult life Mr. Gieringer became a carpenter and painter. Over his sixty-year career Gieringer amassed quite a collection of tiny, detailed buildings and accessories that became one of the worlds most famous and amazing miniature villages.

Roadside America is a boyhood dream realized. The idea was born in June of 1903 and has, from day to day and almost without interruption, grown to be the largest and most beautiful indoor miniature village of its type. It is housed in a new, modern, comfortable air conditioned building, designed especially for the display, and covers over 8000 square feet of space. There is unusually large free parking lot, a fast developing zoo, and gift shop featuring the products of this celebrated Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Noted for its historic surroundings, this entire area is a natural beauty spot outdoors, and Roadside America continues these beauties with man-made creations of a half century of tireless and productive labor.

Newspapers and magazines the world over have given their unanimous verdict and now people from all over the nation come to see this fantastic, educational and appealing display, which has been called a museum both historical and religious. There is nothing like it in all the country and it is truly, in its new setting, well worth your visit.

- from Welcome to Roadside America, 1964 & the Roadside America website

Roadside America is still around and still owned and operated by the Geiringer family. Their OUR STORY page provides some more history and some neat videos featuring the miniature village in action. 

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Jordan Smith is the guide to ephemeral America for The American Guide. He currently works for the University of Notre Dame during the day and scans at night. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and you can find him on Flickr, his blog, or one of several Tumblr sites.

Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida

If you thought mermaids were just the lively imaginings of lonely sailors, think again — and come to Weeki Wachee Springs, the City of Live Mermaids, on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Located about an hour north of Tampa at the crossroads of U.S. 19 and State Road 50, Weeki Wachee is more than just a mark on a road map. Weeki Wachee is an enchanted spring — the only one of its kind in the world — and one of Florida’s oldest and most unique roadside attractions. For almost 60 years, the fun, family oriented park has lured in visitors with beautiful mermaids who swim in the cool, clear spring waters. Weeki Wachee Springs is a magical entrance into a mysterious blue underwater world of mermaids, manatees, turtles and bubbles. Sitting in the Mermaid Theater, visitors feel like they are inside the flowing spring, and are transported back to simpler times, before super theme parks and super highways appeared. So come to Weeki Wachee Springs and see a splendid side of Florida lore, where dreams really do come true.

Weeki Wachee Springs Website

For more City of Live Mermaids images, follow the link here.

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Jordan Smith is the guide to ephemeral America for The American Guide. He currently works for the University of Notre Dame during the day and scans at night. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and you can find him on Flickr, his blog, or one of several Tumblr sites.

Nebraska, a guide to the cornhusker state for #AmericanGuideWeek by way of our very own Guide to Ephemera, thepieshops:

Harold Warp’s Pioneer Village - Linden, Nebraska

Located 130 miles west of Lincoln on U.S. 6 and U.S. 34, or 13 miles south of U.S. 30 near Kearney. It covers 10 acres. There are 22 buildings that house 30,000 items of historical interest.

Harold Warp was born in a sod house in Nebraska in 1903. His hard-working immigrant parents passed away when he was quite young.

When he was 20 years old, he set out to the big city to make his fortune. There’s a photo on this page: http://www.warpbros.com/company.asp

He was quite successful, making “Warp’s Flex-O-Glass” and other plastic sheeting (which you can still buy today).

In the 1950s, Mr. Warp began buying all sorts of things from the “vanishing old days”… tools, farm equipment, cars, airplanes, bicycles, entire buildings, etc, etc, etc… and his collection is now all in the museum: http://www.pioneervillage.org/

Harold Warp passed away in 1994. His museum lives on, it’s open every day of the year except Christmas.

Thanks to Paul Zucchini for the information/description

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Jordan Smith is the guide to ephemeral America for The American Guide. He currently works for the University of Notre Dame during the day and scans at night. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and you can find him on Flickr, his blog, or one of several Tumblr sites.