Dollhouse Decorating

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I have had a life-long love affair with dollhouse miniatures, and careers in art education and interior design. I hope to combine these life experiences to help other miniature enthusiasts get more out of this wonderful hobby we enjoy, a hobby that often reaches the level of an art form. Susan Downing

Posted on 20 August, 2016

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Colleen Moore and the Fairy Castle, found on Last Looks: With Myke The Makeup Guy

Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle

Consider this a belated birthday card to Colleen Moore. Kathleen Savage Browning reminded us on her Facebook Page that Moore was born August 19, 1899. I’m glad Kathleen is keeping track, and hope she is doing it for other notable figures in the dollhouse miniature universe. It gives us all a greater appreciation of the individuals that have elevated the hobby to an art form when the work is at its best.

Following is the story of Colleen Moore’s the Fairy Castle, which I found on the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry website:

Colleen Moore

Silent film star Colleen Moore was always fascinated by dolls and doll houses. She owned several elaborate doll houses as a child, but later in life her father, Charles Morrison, suggested that she should pursue her passion for miniatures and doll houses by creating the “doll house” of her dreams. Her position as one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood gave her the resources to produce a miniature home of fantastic proportions. Beginning in 1928, Moore enlisted the help of many talented professionals to help her realize her vision.

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Fairy Castle Towers and Great Hall, found on Victor Lastitch blog

Creating the Fairy Castle

Horace Jackson, an architect and set designer who worked for First National Studios, created the floor plan and layout of the castle with the basic idea that “the architecture must have no sense of reality. We must invent a structure that is everybody’s conception of an enchanted castle.

Moore also enlisted the help of art director and interior designer Harold Grieve. Grieve had designed the interiors for Moore’s actual mansion, so he was a natural to create the interiors of her fantasy castle.

By 1935, approximately 100 people worked on the Fairy Castle. The price tag for this 8’7″ x 8’2″ x 7’7″ foot palace, containing more than 1,500 miniatures, was nearly $500,000.

All the hard work and expense of creating the Fairy Castle becomes even more impressive when one realizes that the entire structure can be broken down into 200 individual pieces. All of the rooms are modular units that can be packed into the drawers of specially designed shipping crates.

On Tour

In 1935 Colleen Moore’s child-like fascination with her Fairy Castle was transformed by the Great Depression into a passion for helping children. She organized a national tour of the Fairy Castle to raise money for children’s charities. The tour stopped in most major cities of the United States and was often exhibited in the toy departments of prominent department stores such as Macy’s in New York City, The Fair in Chicago and May Co. in Los Angeles. A brochure from The Fair in Chicago promotes it: “A museum in itself―it awaits you―starting November 15th in our Eighth Floor Toyland. You will want to see it again and again.” The tour was a huge success and raised more than $650,000 between 1935 and 1939.

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Fairy Castle Prince’s Bedroom

Coming “Home” to the Museum

In 1949 Major Lenox Lohr, director of the Museum of Science and Industry, convinced Colleen Moore to have the Fairy Castle make one final journey. She described their encounter as follows: “When I was seated next to Major Lohr at a dinner recently in the directors’ coach at the Chicago Railroad fair, he mentioned the doll house while we were having soup, and by the time dessert was served, he had the doll house!”

Today the “doll house” has been renamed the “Fairy Castle” and has its permanent home at the Museum of Science and Industry. The Fairy Castle is displayed behind glass, and the light, temperature and humidity in its environment are carefully controlled to ensure that the artifacts will be preserved for generations to come. Millions of guests have enjoyed their visit to the castle since it first arrived at the Museum, and it remains a timeless reminder of the imagination, ingenuity and craftsmanship of cultures and artisans all over the world.

*****

I wrote a post last year about the Fairy Castle’s $200k renovations. It features two outstanding videos. One features the curators doing the work; the other is an amazing time-lapse sequence show the crew putting it all back together again.  Click here to see it.

Susan

Posted by Susan Downing

Categories: amazing miniatures


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