As I was perusing the store room for an artifact to spotlight, I discovered a delightful treasure. Perched atop the highest shelf like a grand old dame, the sheer presence of the dollhouse immediately drew me in. It was the dollhouse I always wanted and never had growing up.
Given to the museum by Sybill Tillman in 2000, this house is believed to be the original prototype for a production model dollhouse called the “Shadowcliff” made by the Lawbre Company in Mundelein, Illinois. Indeed, it is one of perhaps a dozen models handcrafted by Lawbre himself. This house was a departure from the company’s usual mass-produced toy houses and helped to establish the firm as a leader in manufacturing miniature houses for collectors. It is modeled in late nineteenth century Queen Ann style with charming details like the marble tile flooring and stained glass windows.
Being three-stories high with nine rooms, this house is not only gigantic, but also has some unusual features. It has finished exterior walls on all four sides with two-story hinged panels at front and rear of house and includes a rare interior hallways on the second floor. What really sets this miniature apart is the attention to detail (working lights, crown moldings and other period-esque decorative arts). The house is in excellent condition and although not currently on display, it remains a treasured piece in the permanent collection.