Reality in miniature at ‘The Manor Hall House’
WILLIAMSPORT – This holiday season, a visit to the Thomas Taber Museum will feature a special selection of dolls, miniature furniture, dollhouses and toys. “This is a very unique collection,” said director, Gary Parks who worked with doll collector, Beatriz Parker of Lewisburg selecting the dolls and putting them on display.
A very exciting addition to the doll exhibit is the loan of two dollhouses, announced Parks. One belonged to Jane Watkins Ingersoll as a child and the other is from the home of Dr. and Mrs. Michael Gross from Hughesville.
The tudor-style dollhouse belonged to Dr. Gross’s mother, Ruth who purchased it at an auction in the early 1960’s. It was built in New Zealand, displayed in London, and ultimately came to rest in the Gross family’s residence. Dr. Gross recalls, “She installed it in a spare room in her attic and spent many hours restoring various pieces and completing the collection of furnishings.”
The doll house is equipped with miniature portraits, dolls reading the newspaper or books, parquet floors, electricity, outdoor landscaping, and even outfitted with running water.
According to its history, this marvelous doll house was built by the Reverend H. Mowbray-Finnis, Headmaster of a co-educational school in New Zealand. Based on the Tudor style architecture which flourished from 1400 to the mid 1500’s, the dollhouse is characterized by well-defined straight lines, a great Central Hall, and dark timbering. It is built to the scale of 7/8 of an inch to the foot, with dimensions of 3 feet high, 3 feet 9 inches wide, and 2 feet, 6 inches deep.
It is noted that the Central Hall is paneled with over 2,000 pieces of mahogany. All the rooms, except the baths, have parquet floors and beveled glass windows. Nearby is the dining room which is paneled in padouk with an old timbered ceiling. There is a drawing room fashioned with mahogany panelling and the library has english oak. Blue and white tiles adorn the kitchen and the wall papered bedrooms are tastefully decorated with period furnishings and a nursery sparked with imagination.
Visitors will be able to view the extensive landscaping, complete with tennis courts and a greenhouse.
Parks takes delight in the tale of the dollhouse’s history as he tells how the Reverend Mowbray-Finnis left New Zealand and returned to his native England taking the dollhouse with him. It was on exhibit throughout England, primarily in department stores and helped to raise funds for children’s hospitals.
The dollhouse was on display at Harrod’s store in London when the Royal Family, including Princess Elizabeth, today known as Queen Elizabeth II, and her sister, Margaret, came to view it.
Sometime later the dollhouse was auctioned off in New York City by the maker’s widow. The buyer was Ruth Gross, who spent the next few years refurbishing it and amending the interior. When she passed away, the house was acquired by her son, Dr. Michael Gross and Mrs. Rickie Gross of Hughesville.
Gary Parks said that it took him several hours to set up the display at the museum which included hundreds of tiny pieces.
The dollhouses, doll and toy collection will be on display until January 27, 2012 at the Thomas Taber Museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society, Williamsport. For more information call the museum at 326-3326.