Vintage Dollhouse made from kit

How it broke: The dollhouse my Grandma built, its similarities to my new house, and how I’m fixing it

It’s not the first time it’s broke, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The dollhouse my grandma built has had quite the journey over the years, to which it’s landed at my new house I just moved into back in Wisconsin. I say “back” because I grew up in Wisconsin, Madison to be exact, and then moved to Minnesota to go to college. After just about 19 years in Minnesota, living in or just outside the Twin Cities, I’m looking forward to my making my new house in Wisconsin feel like, “home.”

Now before I tell you more about how the dollhouse my grandma built broke, I must first just say my blog posts have changed slightly since I first started. In the beginning, I’d take a keepsake and recall stories and memories while holding it in my hands. I did that for quite a while. But more recently, I had to take pictures of items that needed to be packed away to make sure I could still blog about them during the moving process. Then the last few posts I’ve incorporated current outings and experiences into my posts that have sparked memories. This oftentimes has made me either search for an something I have or find another source, like a picture, if no object exists. Either way, the end goal has always been to tell the nostalgic story that I’m inspired to tell at the moment.

The story I’m about to tell is a combination of all of this, but this is the first time I’m going to tell things in reverse. I’ll start my story from the end and work my way back in time. Did you ever see that movie Memento? Okay, here it goes!

The dollhouse front porch broke off during our move.

This is the dollhouse my grandma built as it sits currently in the basement at our new house.

Vintage Dollhouse made from kit
The Dollhouse, missing its front porch.

There used to be a front porch. It broke off during our recent move.

Here are all the pieces:

Vintage Dollhouse front porch pieces
broken off front porch pieces

I think I have my work cut out for me. But I just bought some super glue. I hope I don’t glue my fingers together!

This past weekend I set up two folding tables in my basement so I have a space to fix the dollhouse my Grandma built. We’ll see what I can do to make it look as good as it used to look.

Dollhouse hobby table set up
Where I’m fixing up the Dollhouse

How the dollhouse broke is not what you’d expect.

I actually made a special trip moving this dollhouse down from Minnesota to Wisconsin. It didn’t break then. It was all on its own in the back of my “sports wagon.” (okay, I drive something that looks like a minivan but I refuse to call it that) I didn’t even have my two kiddos along. I was actually coming down to pick them up from my Mom and Dad’s house, and because the car seats were out I had extra room to put the seats down. That’s the only way it fit. It arrived in tact and unharmed at that time.

Then it sat at my parents’ house for a couple months in their basement until moving day arrived. My Dad helped me carry it down the steps and find a spot for it out of the way.

We actually had two moving days. The first was getting everything out of our Minnesota home into two trucks and into three storage units. The second was getting everything out of storage, into a truck again and making multiple trips to our new house. This included picking up random things we stored at my parents’, including the dollhouse.

It was on that moving day it broke. We placed the dollhouse into the back of a U-Haul moving truck on the floor and during the short trip to our house, about 8 miles, it got knocked into by a couple of snow tires we had stacked next to it. Why’d we do that? Guess we weren’t thinking. Darn railroad tracks! Anyway, it was more than a tad upsetting to say the least. It had made it so far. My pops heard me drop a few words I’m glad my mom wasn’t around for. But my brother-in-law was right… it broke fairly clean and can be glued. So that’s what I plan to do.

From guest room to closet to basement at our old house it’s been.

It spent about three to four years in closets at my house in Minnesota. We had large closets! It was in our basement closet covered up with plastic for quite a while, since right before I had my second child I think. It had been in the closet of our guest room before that. When we needed the space for a “big boy room” we had to figure out another place to put it. When my oldest was just a baby, I still had it out in the room set up. I even sort of played with it on occasion, especially when his older cousins would come over to visit us.

From Wisconsin to Minnesota the dollhouse came in my Dad’s Prius

Before that, my parents brought it up after my grandpa passed away. At the time, my grandma was still alive but living in a nursing home. When they were cleaning out the house he lived in, right next to where she was being cared for, I said I’d be interested in taking it. At the time I had the space for it and I really wanted it. I knew grandma would want it to be taken care of too.

My parents drove it up to my house, probably in my Dad’s Prius. He’s had two!

It broke during my grandparents move too.

My grandparents moved to Madison after my grandma had a stroke. They had been living in the Milwaukee area for my entire life before that. The dollhouse had broke from that move a bit here and there too. It wasn’t as badly bashed up as it is now, but it definitely didn’t look that great. My grandpa had tried to fix it, but it wasn’t super easy to do or much of a priority I’m sure. Grandma had pretty much always been the one to “putz” with it, as she’d put it.

When I’d visit them in Madison I’d try to help him keep it up looking nice. Grandma would try to set things up too, but her dexterity was not what it used to be and things would fall down or sometimes get broken worse. I didn’t mind keeping track of the pieces and trying my best to maintain it when I could. She always used this little, red, round plastic container filled of a wax you could use to hold things in place. I remember finding that and using it. I always hated scrapping the wax out because it was kind of messy and stuck under my fingernails, but I used it anyway because that’s what she used.

The Dollhouse Room

When my grandparents lived in Milwaukee the dollhouse had its own room. This was the room we all called “The Dollhouse Room.” Usually my sister Jenny got to stay in that room. It had just a twin bed. Sarah and I stayed across the hall in “The Car Room” I wrote another post about that. Have you read it? (The Car Room)

I just found some pictures of the dollhouse in its “hay day.” Grandma made the curtains and table cover you see herself. Take a look:

The Dollhouse Room
The Dollhouse Room

Do you see the desk on the left? I’m typing at that desk right now! It’s painted white now, but it’s the same one. It was my Grandma’s vanity in high school. I believe she got it when she turned sixteen. (Side note: I have my other grandma’s vanity too!)

Here’s a close up of the dollhouse:

Vintage Dollhouse with front porch
The Dollhouse in its prime

The front porch is all in place and there’s even flowers in the window boxes! Oh, and you can’t forget about the cute pair of rocking chairs and white wood patio furniture. I actually have a brick patio at my new house, and a white front porch with a railing like this! Just noticing that. Crazy! Guess this dollhouse and my new house have some similarities.

Oh, here’s a picture of my desk I’m working at since I mentioned it too:

Annie Lynn Club Blog Desk
My Annie Lynn Club Blog Desk

It needs a bit of touch up paint since it got bumped in the move, but I do love the lighter paint. Thanks Dad! (He did that a few years ago)

We used to decorate the dollhouse for Christmas.

I’m not sure if you can see it, but there is a Christmas tree in the yard of the dollhouse in one of the pictures above. There’s a wreath hanging on the siding too. But this looks like the picture was taken when there was just a few Christmas things left out still. I see green grass out the window, probably not December. Maybe it got left that way until spring?

Normally we’d put fake white snow over the grass. We’d put tiny miniature skis, iceskates and a sled propped up on the porch railing even. The spring flowers in the window boxes would be swapped out for Christmas greenery with little red birds, tucked in between delicate dried baby’s breath. Grandma used a green craft styrofoam to keep everything together, which I always thought was really clever. You’d just pop out the styrofoam holding the flowers or greenery with red birds and it transformed the look just like that.

Inside the house there was of course a miniature Christmas tree we could add. It had a tree skirt, presents for under the tree, and a wooden rocking horse and tiny train we’d place around it like Santa had just arrived. Oh, the tree had tiny little candy canes too!

It was tons of fun. My sisters and I loved helping Grandma decorate her dollhouse and it’s really one of my favorite memories growing up and spending time there. I guess that’s why I wanted to take the dollhouse, why I’ve tried to help keep it up over the years, and why I hope to fix it again here soon.

Here’s a close up of the Christmas tree. I put a magnifying tool on the photo:

Decorating a dollhouse for Chrismas
The start of decorating the dollhouse for Christmas

There was a swivel table to help it spin.

Another cool thing about the dollhouse was that it could move from being viewed by the front or the back. Grandpa put a wooden swivel board underneath its base that allowed it to move back and forth. It made it so much easier to get around it to play. I have the board with the dollhouse still, so I plan to get that up and running once I fix the porch.

The dollhouse had electricity!

I say “had” because I’m not sure if it still is working exactly. But another thing my Grandpa did was hide wires throughout the walls of the dollhouse that connected to a switch you could turn on or off if it was plugged in. Sometimes the lights worked, sometimes they didn’t, and sometimes only some of them worked. Over the years they got so much use I think they just wore out. But it was truly one of the coolest things being a little girl and seeing how the house looked so real with lights!

It started out as a kit in their basement.

I’m not sure when Grandma got into miniatures or when she got the supplies to make the dollhouse. But I do have some memory of it being set up in their basement. Her basement was unfinished like mine currently is. She’d work on it under a long fluorescent light back in the corner as you’d walk down the steps to the right.

She’d have a glue gun next to her. I remember hearing her say “ouch!” too many times getting burned by the hot glue from it. She’d work quickly, pulling her hands up into the air, a long dangling piece of hot glue that looked like hair would be sticking to everything. Sometimes she’d forget a piece and I’d pull it from whatever she had been working on, after it was cool of course. I always knew if other things around the house had been made by Grandma because I’d often find more of the dried, hair-like glue on random things like a wreath or ribbon around something.

My Dad reminds me that Grandpa was a tad “pulled” into the project of building and fixing up the dollhouse at various times, not all that enthused. But she loved it. She told me she loved picking out the blue carpet for it, and the different wall papers for each room when she helped me redo my dollhouse as a little girl. We went shopping in a miniatures shop and I remember looking at all the choices with her. I wrote about that time I stayed at Grandma’s to do that in a previous post called: How I learned to ride a bike.

She also made a bathroom in hers with white tile floors and assembled furniture kits like a little claw foot tub and old fashion toilet. That toilet had a little string that you could pretend to pull down to flush it from above. When we did my dollhouse I made sure we added a bathroom even though there wasn’t really a good spot for one. I wanted it to look just like hers.

I do have all of the furniture to her dollhouse too, but I’m not including them in this post. They’re still packed. I thought I had photos of the house all set up from long ago, but unfortunately I can’t find them. If I come across those I’ll include them at a later date. I promise. Or, I’ll do a follow up once I’m done fixing everything. That’d be fun.

Here’s a picture of the inside as it is today, furniture-less:

Inside the rooms of a vintage dollhouse
Inside the rooms of the dollhouse, minus the furniture

You can see a couple of the lights laying flat, and the cords attached to them. Also, the old-time phone on the kitchen wall, and one of the lacy curtains she made for the little girl’s room. The attic was reserved for the boy of the house. If you look carefully you’ll see the red of that window’s curtain.

All empty, it’s like the house is all moved out of, isn’t it?

I wish the dollhouse my Grandma made didn’t break in our move. I couldn’t believe it had made it all that way from Minnesota to Wisconsin unharmed only to get nearly destroyed in such a short trip to my new house. But perhaps if it hadn’t gotten broken I wouldn’t be writing about it right now. I’m not always sure what my next story will be, but this time it just sorta landed in my lap right in front of me. I love when that happens.

Not that I need another hobby right now, I’d like to get back to my songwriting… but what’s a little super glue here and there every now and again? I’ve got the space once more, and it seems this dollhouse is right back to where it sort of started in the beginning. It’s in an unfinished basement under not so great of light, just waiting to be “fixed.” Except this time, I’m the one who’s gonna be…as Grandma would have said: “putzing.”

 

Did you have a dollhouse growing up? Or a miniature toy of any sort? Did something you loved to play with ever get broke and you tried to fix it? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below.

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