This Magic (Doll)house

First, some family history.

My father’s mother, “Granny Murphy” (née Hazel Ricketson), passed away from cancer at the age of 68 in 1979. I was 5 years old. Most of the family possessions remained in the house she had shared with her sister Ethelind, who we called simply “Aunty”.

The dollhouse stands on a wheeled base. The light switch is on the base between the front door and bay window.

When Ethelind passed away 9 years later, the contents of the house were divided up between my dad and his brothers (Ethelind, had been married briefly – scandalously divorced in the 1930s – and never remarried nor had children of her own). One of the things my father received was the dollhouse that had been one of his toys as a boy in the early to mid 1940s. I thought is quite fancy, with its wheeled base, four walls that opened, and – most impressive of all – electric light!

The house has two stories, but no stairs.

At 14, I had outgrown playing with dollhouses, but not interior decorating. My father and I began restoring the house together. We bought new lights for some of the rooms, painted the exterior, and repapered the first floor. But the project stalled out eventually as all the little things a miniature house needs became expensive and we both drifted into different hobbies.

The dollhouse moved out to my father’s woodshop in the garage and not much happened beyond accumulating dust for the next three decades.

The fireplace in the foyer was removed to repaper the walls in the 1980s. Luckily it was not lost.

My father passed last May at the age of 83. The dollhouse still sat in his shop. A shop that for the past two decades has been primarily used for my sister’s furniture refinishing business. This fall she was clearing out things she didn’t need and asked if I wanted Dad’s old dollhouse. It’s funny to think it’s almost twice as old now as it was in ’88 when we first tried to “restore” it.

When the house was put into storage, an oval rug was left in the living room, leaving a section of dust-free floor. The lace curtains may be original to the house. This one covers the window seat looking to the front of the house.

And, yeah, “restore” is in quotes because we did a pretty crap job of it. I have to assume the white paint was meant to be primer only because it is crazy streaky. A hole was cut into the attic floor to get at the wiring instead of properly dismantling the house. The exterior paint is clearly an amateur job. Etc. Etc. I don’t really remember doing any of the specific work, but I do remember working on it with my dad. It was a fun bonding experience at a time when I was pulling away from my parents in so many ways.

Now that the dollhouse lives in my house, I intend to bring it back to its former glory. I’ll probably change the paper again and repaint. The wiring all needs to be redone, but I think the fixtures should still be OK. Some of the wood trim needs to be replaced. As do the cardboard walls in the attic. The practical side of me wants to add a stairway to make the house more “functional” but I’ve decided not to make any structural changes. Although not quite an antique, I think there is value in keeping it as close to original as I can.

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