Six Amazing Dollhouses (and Where You Can See Five of Them)
It’s All in the Details
Ever since my childhood, I’ve been a little fascinated with dollhouses. There is something magical about seeing a slice of everyday life shrunk down into miniature. And the more details there are, the more magical it becomes. Here are five amazing dollhouses from around the world that are on my bucket list to see, plus one I’ve already seen.
Tara’s Palace, Ireland
Our first notable dollhouse gives such an authentic display of life in a bygone era that its full name is Tara’s Palace Museum of Childhood. The dollhouse has 22 rooms done on a 1:12 scale, set in the Georgian era. The rooms contain miniature masterpieces, hand painted ceilings and hand crafted wooden and marble floors.
It took over 20 years to build and furnish this dollhouse! A collection of items made by Napoleonic prisoners of war is especially noteworthy. The prisoners carved figures from bone pieces that they kept from their scarce rations.
Tara’s Palace is part of the Powerscourt House & Gardens, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, Ireland. Telephone +353 1 2748090. Hours are Monday to Saturday 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday and Bank Holidays noon to 5 pm.
Fairy Castle, Chicago
Colleen Moore was a silent film star who enjoyed dollhouses as a child, then decided as an adult to design the dollhouse of her dreams. Beginning in 1928, she set about enlisting the services of talented individuals who could bring her dream dollhouse to life. She started with Horace Jackson, an architect and movie set designer who wanted the dollhouse to “have no sense of reality.” This was because the dollhouse was going to be not just an ordinary dwelling, but rather an enchanted castle.
She also brought on her own interior designer, Harold Grieve. All told, over the next seven years, over 100 people worked on making Moore’s dollhouse dream become a reality. As dollhouses go, it’s pretty big, measuring 8’7″ x 8’2″ x 7’7″ and containing over 1500 miniatures. As impressive as the size is, however, it is not at all cumbersome. The castle breaks down into 200 separate modular units for easy storage and/or shipment.
When the Fairy Castle was finished in 1935, it was valued at $500,000. Its current worth is estimated to be about $7,000,000.
You can see Colleen Moore’s fairy castle at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, located at 5700 S Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60637. Telephone: 773–684–1414.
Queen Mary’s Doll’s House, England
Queen Mary’s Doll’s House was made in the early 1920s for Queen Mary, wife of King George V. Because the intention was to show the doll’s house at the Empire Exhibition in 1924, it also served as a magnificent showcase for British workmanship. Craftsmen from all over the country, including many royal warrant holders, created the contents of the house to show off the best arts and crafts of the day.
The designers of the house recreated every detail as if building a real home — dovetailed joints on the furniture, the royal cipher embroidered on sheets, properly upholstered chairs and sprung beds. My favorite room in the house is the library, filled with original works by the top literary names of the day. Other features include a fully stocked wine cellar and a landscaped garden. The Dolls’ House even includes electricity, running hot and cold water, working elevators and flushing toilets.
Lest anyone forget, the House incorporates many reminders that it was made for a royal family — the Strong Room contains a complete set of miniature crown jewels; a flowery trellis on the ceiling of the King’s Bedroom includes the opening bars of the National Anthem in its design; and the Saloon holds a pair of miniature throne chairs. The Queen added her own items to the House, too, including a miniature dolls’ tea service in copper (presented to Queen Mary by her mother) and a small model of a mouse made by the firm of Faberge.
Queen Mary’s Doll’s House is on display at Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ. Telephone: +44 (0)303 123 7334. Hours vary by season; check the web site or call when planning your visit.
Astolat Dollhouse Castle, USA
Not to be outdone by Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, the Astolat Dollhouse Castle features over 10,000 items, towers nine feet above the ground, weighs 800 pounds and has a value of $8.5 million. It’s the best dollhouse you’ll probably never see.
The Astolat Dollhouse Castle, took 13 years to build, finally finished in 1987. It weighs roughly 800 pounds and takes a team of twelve people two full days to put it together for exhibit or break it down for storage. Not all of the items belonging to the Dollhouse Castle are displayed at the same time — the collection rotates and varies, and continues to grow with new items all the time. Unlike the other dollhouses, which are displayed in museums, the Astolat Dollhouse Castle is privately owned. The owners said that they bought it not because they thought it was the most beautiful miniature structure ever made, but because it was the most beautiful thing they had ever seen, miniature or not.
The house has 29 rooms on seven levels, and the layout is such that it enables 360 degree viewing. The detail and construction of the house contains some of the most marvelous examples of architecture, engineering, and interior design in the world including working fireplaces, stained glass panels, and parquet floors. A collection of over 10,000 handcrafted miniature pieces includes original works of art, gold chandeliers, tapestries, and the smallest antique Bible in the world.
The dollhouse was last publicly displayed at the Time Warner Center in 2015. No one knows if the Astolat Dollhouse Castle will go on display again any time soon.
Titiana’s Palace, Denmark
If it weren’t for Titiana’s Palace, Tara’s Palace in all probability would not exist. This miniature castle was hand-built in Ireland by James Hicks & Sons, Irish Cabinet Makers, who were commissioned by Sir Nevile Wilkinson from 1907 to 1922. Wilkinson’s daughter Guendolen claimed to have seen a fairy running under the roots of a tree, in a wood beside their home at Mount Merrion House. Guendolen felt sorry for the fairies, who have to live in underground caves. Titiana’s Palace provided them with much more favorable accommodations.
The palace consists of 18 rooms and salons, is 4’1″ tall, is built in 1:12 scale. It contains hand-carved mahogany furniture and 3000 tiny works of art and miniatures from around the world, including the world’s smallest working church organ.
In 1978, Titania’s Palace sold at auction at Christie’s England, lost in a bidding war to Legoland in Denmark. It stayed on display at Legoland until 2007, when it moved to Egeskov, Denmark. Due to the bitter loss of Titiana’s Palace to Denmark, Tara’s Palace was built. Now there are two grand dollhouses where there once was just one.
Visitors to Egeskov Castle may see Titiana’s Palace at Egeskov Gade 18, DK-5772 Kvaerndrup, Denmark. Telephone: +45 6227 1016
America’s Dollhouse, Washington DC
The 23-room house at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is the residence of the Doll family. The house was lovingly created by a girl named Faith Bradford, who even made many of the miniature items herself.
She imagined the dwelling as the turn-of-the century household of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Doll, their 10 children, two visiting grandparents, five servants, and 20 pets. She used buttons as dinner plates and matchsticks as book spines. She also kept a very detailed scrapbook with notes about fabrics and layout. This dollhouse that started out as a young girl’s hobby, over time, has become a national treasure.
America’s Dollhouse is on display at the National Museum of American History, 14th St and Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001. Telephone 202–633–1000. Admission to the museum is free. Hours are 10:00 am to 5:30 pm every day of the year except for Christmas.
In conclusion, I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some of the biggest and best dollhouses that are out there. Why not plan a trip to see them all?
Also, if you ever hear that the Astolat Dollhouse Castle is ever on display again, please let me know!
(This article was also published on travelasmuch.com)