I'm not sure when I first became interested in miniatures. As a child I had always had small toys, and sometime during my early teens I started building little things out of paper and scrap wood. At about the same time I was introduced to a very kind old gentleman whose name, shamefully, escapes me now. My mother had stayed with his family during her teen years, when she had met my father... and anyway, we were introduced and I got to spend quite a bit of time down in his basement shop. I loved it. While he was busy making sure we didn't get hurt, and my brother was making small bits of wood out of larger ones, I was gluing scraps into tables and chairs.
Seeing my interest, he went on one afternoon to make me a whole set of small furniture cut with a band saw out of scrap blocks of wood. It wasn't in any particular size, and most of it didn't agree in scale with anything else, but it was, perhaps, one of the most influential gifts of my formative years. I know those rare afternoons in the basement were the reason I went on to take wood shop in high school. I treasure a small mahogany box he made, and it is probably the reason I now collect small boxes... But you didn't come here for my life story, you came to see the dollhouses.
This is what the Greenleaf "Pierce" looks like in the catalogs. (When Tyco bought Greenleaf the kit was re-released under the name "Annabelle".) The exterior is modelled in approximately 3/4 inch scale (3/4 of an inch = 1 foot) making it appear deceptively large. In reality it's not much bigger than any other 6-7 room kit house.
During the winter of 1985 my mom brought this kit home for me. I'm still not sure why, as such expensive diplays of affection were a true oddity in that household. But, there it was, and I was eager to build it. Being a teenager I had meager resources, and things like sandpaper, paint, and wood filler were not among my assets. I knew what they were, having aced shop through high school, I just couldn't get them. I think I had one dull craft knife, a small bottle of white glue, and a piece of sandpaper about 3 inches square.
So I built the house. I must have managed to find some wood filler, because there were lumps of it filling some of the joints and tab holes, but I certainly never got to sand them out. Part of the interior was finished with a few sheets of wallpaper and some thin paint. I was able to paint the exterior doors, and I had bought some miniature hinges, doorknobs and a knocker from the hobby shop. My prize, at the time, was the parquet flooring, which cost most of my saved birthday and Christmas money. I laid it in the dining room and used the leftovers in the attic tower.
A couple of years later, when I left for college in another part of the country, the house, along with everything else I left behind, got moved into the garage so my mom could remodel my bedroom.
And there it stayed for about 8 years, the subject of many assaults by GI Joe and who knows what else. My youger brothers had a lot of fun punching out the windows, breaking off the trim, and pouring assorted fluids on the structure. The south Texas heat did amazing things to the wallpapers and other attached funishings, and the bugs had a great time with it.
Meanwhile, I had aquired the Sweetheart kit (Duracraft?) and the Harrison (also Greenleaf) and been working on those. The Sweetheart is a tiny two-room cottage, I'm not even sure what the scale is supposed to be. The rooms are about 8 inches high but only 6 inches square. The Harrison is a Victorian interpretation of the Tudor style...and I'll get into what I did with that one later.
A couple of years ago my mom proudly hauled the Pierce out of the garage with her "look what we saved for you" glee. You're wondering, as I did at the time, why she bothered, and why I brought the thing home. I don't know. Maybe the challenge of it overwhelmed me. Well, I pretty quickly figured out that a 3 foot high dollhouse was NOT going to fit in the back of the tiny sports car I was driving, and that some of it was going to have to come apart if I was going to get it home. As it turned out, a few good kicks at the joints and the walls came down easily. Good thing I hadn't used much glue when I originally assembled it.
So I got it home, and started re-building the house on the table next to the Harrison (which I haven't touched since...) Some of the exterior walls had warped (probably due to the unidentified liquids it was exposed to) and I sucessfully damped them down and weighted the pieces on the garage floor until they were dry. Over the course of about two weeks I got the house to the stage you see here. I used spray primer on most of the pieces after they were sanded (first to remove dirt and stains, second to smooth and finish) fully expecting to cover all the wood surfaces. I mean, this is pretty low grade plywood, here, not the kind of stuff you stain and display. Most of the roof pieces are untouched, still showing discoloration and lumps of wood putty.
In the background is my partially assembled Harrison with a few rows of shingles on the roof. Note that the Pierce is being wired for electricity. We never did get the tape kit to function properly, sadly. It worked the first few times and died. At this point the stairway is in, but as unfinished as the rest of the house. I KNEW at the time I should finish it, but I was so far from beginning to imagine interior decorating that I passed on the opportunity.
Right around this time we were also being faced with eviction, as our landlady decided she wanted to sell the house, and since we had lived there long enough to know why we weren't going to buy it, we started planning to move. We did eventually find a place, but it had NO work space, and I pretty much had to leave both houses in a dark corner of the dining room for close to a year before anything more was done to them. During that time my housemates managed to periodically slam into the Harrison while walking through the room (tell me how grown men "accidentally" walk through a table with a huge model house on it), and ripped off most of the trim pieces.
Later that same year we moved again, this time to our own home, where I now have a big, well-lighted work area. I have re-purchased all the tools that got lost or "borrowed" in the moves, and started in on the houses again.
This is what it looks like now, from the outside. I have painted it dusty blue and it will have white trim around the windows. Most of the tab holes are patched, but some still need work. In this picture you can see the new shapes of the front and dining-room doors, where I will install standard commercially made products instead of the ones that came with the kit. The new doors make it obvious that the scale of the exterior detailing is not 1:12. This house is not so much a mansion as it is a summer cottage in size.
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