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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Vassall Craigie House

The original of this dolls house, c. 1759, is located at 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The names shown above were previous owners of the full size house and it is currenly known as the Longfellow House, after the famous poet who lived there. I chose to freeze it to the time that George and Martha Washington were residents of the Vassall-Craigie House. They celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary there and stayed nearly one year during the American Revolution (1775).

I worked very closely with the maker of the dolls house, Robert Louis Bartlett of Saratoga Springs, New York. Unfortunately, this was the last miniature house that he built as he changed careers shortly after completing it. I first saw his work in Ridgewood, New Jersey at a men's clothing store called McHugh's. It was a model of Abraham Lincoln's house in Springfield, Illinois and I thought his work was brilliant.

I lived quite a distance away from Robert and this was in the days before emailing existed, so we wrote frequently and designed the house with input from both of us. I sent him fabrics and matching paint for the rooms and bought him a copy of the various research books I was using. This way, he was able to see the particular fireplace I wanted in each room, or I sent him a post card purchased at the many restorations I visited. I researched all the 18th century houses that I knew of and was leaning toward a real beauty in Litchfield, Connecticut, but fell in love with this one. I found the Litchfield house had been reproduced a number of times in miniature and that was not what I wanted. I drove up to Cambridge, Massachusetts to see the Longfellow House in person.

I loved the exterior, little changed during the Victorian period except for two porches that had been added on the sides of the house, which I left off. The interior floorplan was not suitable for a dolls house, so I created my own layout. I wanted it as authentic as possible and found a chip of exterior paint on the porch. It was a wonderful shade of gold and I was able to have it matched exactly.

The Drawing Room:
The Drawing Room, located at the lower left front, is decorated with matching yellow silk upholstered Duncan Phyfe sofa and recamier by Denis E. W. Hillman of the U.K. In 1975, I found these when I visited his home in Surrey, England. This was in Denis' early days of making miniatures when he made a Tudor refectory table and matching chairs (pieces I later acquired for my Elizabethan Manor House). More recently, Denis Hillman became known for his Louis XIV furnishings with bronze ormulu trim made for Ede & Ravenscroft, the cloak makers to the Queen. These pieces are in the permanent collection of the Naples Museum of Art, in Naples, Florida.
Oil portraits of Martha and George Washington are by George Schlosser and sterling silver pieces by Cini and a Myer Myers Coffee Set by Obadiah Fisher. The silver kettle by Eugene Kupjack rests on a stand by Terry Rogal. The brass fire fender is by William H. Bowen and the brass andirons by Don Buttfield. Harry Cooke made the piecrust table. Gold edged china is by Deborah McKnight and Priscilla Lance. As I got my start with miniatures through needlework, I flame-stitched (also known as Bargello) a pair of side chairs for the room. The chairs frames were made by Betty Valentine of Viriginia. I stitched the carpets throughout the house using DMC floss, this one is a Savonnerie pattern on 22 mesh. These carpets were the basis for my miniature rug business I launched at that time. I sold them as kits at the White Plains Miniature Show and the International Guild of Miniature Artisans show (I.G.M.A.) in the 1980's.

The Music Room:
On the lower right front of the house is the Music Room with a harpsichord by Roger Gutheil and a Betty Valentine sofa upholstered in silk. Joe Murter made the two Hepplewhite chairs set around a pie crust table The figure of Sally Fairfax was made by Silvia Mobley and I costumed her. As it turns out, Sally Fairfax is a relation to the residents of Mansion House!

Martha Washington's Bedroom:
The walls of Mrs. Washington's room are covered with a blue and white floral fabric. Betty Valentine chose the same fabric for a wing chair and I knew it had to go home with me when I saw it at the Molly Brody show in 1979. I dressed the Roger Gutheil tester bed to blend with the room. I dressed the Sylvia Mobley figure of Martha Washington and she stands beside a tambour frame that she has been embroidering. The tambour frame was custom made for me by Harry Cooke after I wrote to Woodlawn Plantation, the home of Nelly Custis and requested a photo and particulars about the piece. I had to sign a letter stating I was not planning to reproduce it for sale and it was being made for my own use. The chest on chest, made of a lovely old cherry wood, was made by Richard Rooney in England with exquisite detail and craftsmanship.

George Washington's Bedroom:
General Washington's bed in his deep red room was also dressed by me, as was the bargello day bed, crewel wing chair and the carpet, which only took three weeks to stitch. Notice the grimace on the General's face...his wooden teeth are on the dresser to his right!

Upper and Lower Hallways:
Photos of the front to back hallway on both floors of the house.

This is a two sided house and the following pictures are on the back side of the house:

The Dining Salon:
The built-in corner shell top cupboards are by Roger Gutheil with Debbie McKnight pottery on the shelves. The large dining table is by Joe Andrews. These tables were made by hand as gifts for all attendees to the VME (Virginia Miniature Enthusiasts) show in the 1970's. Joe was partially losing his eyesight and thereafter had his furniture made in Asia. Joe also made the 8 dining chairs. The rug here is an Aubusson pattern that I created and stitched on 22 mesh to the inch. The figures are by Sue Atkinson of Sunday Dolls and were just visiting this house, awaiting delivery of the dolls houses they currently reside in. Look for the gentleman and lady and in the Mansion House Drawing Room and the children are located elsewhere in that house.

The Kitchen:
Warren Dick made the spice chest on the left side of the picture. It contains 9 tiny drawers to hold the precious spices brought back to America from Asia, at great expense. The mistress of the house would hold on to the key to the chest, not trusting the servants to have access.

Nelly Custis's Room (Mrs. Washington's daughter):
I stitched the tiny cross stitch sampler on the left, crewel embroidered the coverlet, and folk art painted the chest at the foot of the bed.

Patsy and Jackie's room (the Washington's relatives):
The figures are by Amanda Skinner, including the sleeping baby on the chair. The 1/144th scale house is by the Gudgels, a part of a series of charming little houses and are now quite collectible. I made the chest at the foot of the bed. That sneaky old Tooth Fairy dropped off my children's teeth in this chest as she flew through our house!