A dollhouse, like our own homes, acquires a personality. Those which were hand-built have been gifted with the tenderness of the builder, who’s loving attention to detail speaks directly to the recipient. A store bought house is no less special, as each added splash of color and delicate trim makes the house unique and irreplaceable. For those lucky few who are fortunate enough to have inherited a dollhouse from a grandmother or a great aunt, the dollhouse becomes a repository of dreams spanning generations, often with a mix of love-worn furnishings to be cherished alongside the new. These dollhouses are by far the most delightful to the eye – no pristine and glossy décor can compare with the palpable affection of childhood’s frayed playthings. The antique dollhouses in our museum’s collection each manifest a certain glow, their wood worn to a shine from decades – in some cases, centuries – of perpetual loving hands. Although their age and craftsmanship lend them remarkable value, it is the residual warmth of bygone youth that draws our visitors in. Truly, our History Gallery seems at times to quietly whisper – unsung stories from glory days, when bones were new and alive with play.
One piece which whispers louder than most is Just Suits, a three-story Victorian created circa 1900 by an unknown craftsman in Malden, Massachusetts. Constructed entirely of cigar boxes, Just Suits reflects the ingenuity of the period. The popularity of cigars, packed in wooden boxes, created an abundant supply of diverse craft wood including mahogany, elm, and rosewood; our Just Suits is comprised of dozens of walnut cigar boxes. The stamped logos of the Buchanan & Lyall tobacco company can be seen on the interior of the house, but it was the discovery of an unused Just Suits brand box lid laying discarded in the attic which gave the piece its name. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>