FEDERAL DOLL HOUSE RESORATION

Federal Doll House

Doll House with a Federal five bay facade

Doll House with a Federal five bay facade

  • Origin: Found in Massachusetts.
  • Maker: Unknown.
  • Size: 36 ½ “W x 20”H to underside of roof overhang, 28 ½” top of chimney to base of house, x 18” D case of house, 20 ½” W roof with overhang. The first floor ceiling height is 10 ½” and the second floor room height is 9 ½”.
  • Circa: 1790-1820
  • Materials: Mortised white pine painted case with stained mahogany door and window opening trim mouldings. Brass screws were used in construction. Original paper wall and floor coverings remain intact some rooms.
  • Architectural style: Federal 1780-1820

The term doll house was not in general use in England or America until close to the middle of the 19th century. Prior to that time, a large toy house with furnishings and dolls was known as a baby house. In 18th century England, dolls were called babies. So, a furnished toy house for babies (dolls) was known as a baby house. An American doll house made prior to the middle of the 19th century is unusual.

This large Federal doll house was built by a cabinet maker. It is a period toy replication of a grand house, which would have been built in Massachusetts, between 1790 and 1820. It is a fine toy version of a residence built for an affluent family. The original and early paint colors, paper floor and wall coverings indicate a construction date between 1790 and 1820. The doll house was probably designed and constructed to replicate the home of the child it was made for. There is a small brass plate attached above the front door with an illegible number, possibly the street number of the family residence.

Kitchen with furnishings and early wall paper floor covering.
Kitchen with furnishings and early wall paper floor covering.
Second floor bedroom and kitchen
Second floor bedroom and kitchen
First floor parlor with furnishings, dolls and early wall and floor papers
First floor parlor with furnishings, dolls and early wall and floor papers

FEDERAL ARCHITECTRURAL FEATURES, CONSTRUCTION AND MATERIALS:

Charles Bulfinch of Boston (1763-1844), Samuel McIntyre of Salem (1757-1811), William Thorton of Washington (1759-1828), and Asher Benjamin were notable architects who produced Federal architecture in America. Asher Benjamin was born in Hartland, Connecticut about 1773. He was a dominant influence on Massachusetts and New England architectural design. Benjamin’s first book, AMERICAN BUILDER’S COMPANION, was published in 1806. The first edition was followed by revised editions in 1811,1816,1820,1826 and 1827. His architectural design books set the standard for early New England architecture. The baby house builder was definitely familiar with the architectural proportions and designs shown and described in Benjamin’s books. The doll house is designed and constructed with Asher Benjamin’s architectural design proportions, and details. This toy house is a superb example of New England architectural preservation. It is an historic house, built for a child to play with dolls, and small household furnishings.

  • The exterior walls are constructed with mortise and tenon joints (dovetailed). The front facade is removable for access to the interior. It is held in place with handmade brass hooks and screw eyes.
  • Large chimneys are set into the ends of the hipped roof ridge.
  • Five bay facade with Federal design proportions.
  • The doll house originally sat on a raised wooden foundation. Dressed stone foundations are typical of Federal Massachusetts/New England houses. It was raised from ground level by 5 risers. The original steps survive with the house. The base has not survived. It will be replicated.
  • Six light first floor window openings are taller than the second floor window openings. The original exterior window opening trim is stained mahogany. Original window sash were missing and have been fitted with replication period 6/6 sash.
  • The entrance opens into a center stair hall, a typical Federal floor plan feature.
  • First floor ceiling height is greater than the second floor ceiling height. 1st floor is 10 ½” H and the 2nd floor is 9 ½”H.
  • Windows are set close to the corners of the facade, proportionally, a typical feature of New England and Massachusetts Federal houses.
  • A two light transom is located over the front door. The glazed sash of the transom over the door is cut from white cardboard.
  • The front door was missing. One set of hinges remain in place. Originally there was a second set of hinges, which indicates the door opening had two leaves. Since one set of hinges was removed, and one set remains, apparently, double doors were replaced with a single door at some point in time.
  • Period original paper wall and floor coverings and borders are still in place in some of the rooms. A record of the various layers of wall paper is attached.
  • A coat of white paint circa 1930-40 was removed to reveal the original neutral tint paint on house exterior.
The Sargent Family, artist unknown, c. 1800, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Gift of Edgar W. & Bernice C. Garbisch  Family of Elias Hasket Derby Jr. In the parlor of the Derby mansion, Salem, Mass., c. 1808, attributed to Michele Fekice Corne` Period folk art paintings provide authentic furnished interiors and clothing design. These water colors depict interiors with wall and floor coverings that were in vogue in New England at the time the doll house was built. The water colors ‘set the stage’ for the doll house. Observe the shades of blue and floor and wall paper motifs in the lower interior. The upper painting has pale green wall paper and a rectangular pattern in the floor covering similar to the doll house finishes. A diaper pattern is shown on the pale green background of the wall paper. The children in the paintings could have played with a similar doll house.
The Sargent Family, artist unknown, c. 1800, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Gift of Edgar W. & Bernice C. Garbisch
The Sargent Family, artist unknown, c. 1800, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Gift of Edgar W. & Bernice C. Garbisch.

Family of Elias Hasket Derby Jr. In the parlor of the Derby mansion, Salem, Mass., c. 1808, attributed to Michele Fekice Corne.

Period folk art paintings provide authentic furnished interiors and clothing design. These water colors depict interiors with wall and floor coverings that were in vogue in New England at the time the doll house was built. The water colors ‘set the stage’ for the doll house. Observe the shades of blue and floor and wall paper motifs in the lower interior. The upper painting has pale green wall paper and a rectangular pattern in the floor covering similar to the doll house finishes. A diaper pattern is shown on the pale green background of the wall paper. The children in the paintings could have played with a similar doll house. 
1st Floor Parlor
1st Floor Parlor

INTERIOR WITH FURNISHINGS:

1st Floor Parlor: Removal of later wall papers revealed early wall and floor coverings and borders at juncture of walls and ceiling.

2nd Floor Parlor: A wonderful geometric square design alternated with a floral design square is preserved on the floor. The paper design and the colors are typical for the time period of 1790-1820.
2nd Floor Parlor
2nd Floor Parlor

Entrance hall and stairway to second floor have early block printed red cochineal wall paper. The paper floor coverings in the kitchen on the left and the parlor on the right have early original papers

Entrance hall and stairway to second floor
Entrance hall and stairway to second floor

Blue wall paper remnants are the same color and share similar motifs with the Derby water color interior. Compare the floor coverings in both water colors with the paper floor covering in this room and the kitchen.

Paper floor covering.
Paper floor covering.

This outstanding original paper floor covering is a rectangular geometric square alternated with a floral patterned square. The designs are similar to examples seen in paintings of period interiors. In homes, floors were painted or stencilled, had painted floor cloths, carpet, needlework rugs, or hooked rugs. Remnants of earlier layers of wall paper are preserved in place under the foam core wall liners.

DESCRIPTION & DOCUMENTATION FOR BABY HOUSE (DOLL HOUSE) ORIGINAL PAPER WALL AND FLOOR COVERINGS

  • Three layers of wall coverings had been previously installed in some rooms. The top two layers were removed to reveal the first paper.
    Second FloorSecond Floor room on the left: A previous owner had removed the wall and floor papers. This room was papered on three occasions. Remnants of a wonderful early cobalt blue paper are present. The cobalt blue paper was printed by Moses Grant (circa 1805-1817 Boston). Moses Grant Jr. Was listed as working in Boston from 1811-1817. It is a quatrefoil diaper pattern and was hung with a narrow 2 ¼” border. I copied the design of the remnants and reproduced the paper that is installed in the room. White and gold were applied to the designs on the blue background. To preserve original wall covering remnants, I lined the walls with foam core board and applied the reproduction paper to the foam core board linings. Borders were originally applied at the juncture of the wall and ceilings in all of the rooms. In the book, WALLPAPERS, by Richard Nylander, on page 58, he illustrated the Salem Stripe (1790-1815) which is similar to the ceiling borders in place in this house. Remnants of a dark blue paper are evident on the floor. The floor papers were removed by a previous owner.
    Second Floor room on the right: The earliest wall paper in this room is a delicate diaper floral pattern with a light gray background and pastel flowers. About 1930-1940 someone repapered the doll house, and installed clumsy, out of scale wood fireplaces. When the fireplace in this room was removed, I found the diaper floral in place under it. The second layer of wall covering was the same cobalt blue Moses Grant quatrefoil diaper pattern found in the second floor room on the left. This room was also lined with foam core board to preserve wall covering remnants. A reproduction of a Janes and Bolles, “Ornament & Stripe” pattern hand printed at Cooperstown museum is installed on the walls. A Moses Grant Stripe (1811-1817) abstract geometric reproduced by Adelphi is similar to the cobalt wall paper. Moses Grant was working in Boston 1811-1817. The original paper floor covering is preserved intact. Later wall paper was removed and the blue and white coffered pattern with flowers remains intact. It was probably made by Janes and Bolles who operated from 1824 1827 in Hartford, Connecticut, or Bolles, Isaac & Co. (1812). Other partnerships included Janes, Adrian (1821-1838), Janes & Bolles ( 1822-18--), and Janes & Robbins (1834-1844).Federal Doll HouseSecond floor parlor on the right
    

    Second Floor Stair Hall and stairway: The first paper wall covering was a plain pale blue. The second early wall paper is in place. It is a diaper pattern, printed with distemper colors. Diaper patterns were based on a diagonal grid. Distemper colors are pigments carried in a water-based medium of glue or sizing. Distemper colors are matte, and create an opaque, thick-bodied opaque effect. The colors frequently contained whiting chalks. The designs were printed on the paper with wood blocks. Red cochaniel color was made from the cochaniel bug, an insect. Simple foliate, floral and geometric forms were printed in solid flat colors with no shading. The 1930-1940 wall paper that was removed was a stylized star burst pattern printed in green on an off white ground.

    First Floor room on the left: The first wall covering layer was a pale green paper. The second layer was a large scale ashlar brick pattern with a textured surface. In 1800, pale green and blue plain wall papers were popular. They were accented with borders around a room’s architectural features.

    image13First floor room on the left, the kitchen

    First Floor room on the right: A colourful paper floor covering with an Oriental rug type design is preserved in place. The design might be compared to a paisley or oriental carpet. The design has an early dotted background. Series of dots in the background are found in early papers. Scraps of a dark green paper floor covering are visible in a few tiny areas were the floor paper had peeled away. An unattractive brown wood grained paper circa 1930-1940, covered the early paper and has been removed. Three layers of wall paper had to be removed to expose the cochineal hand block printed wall covering. Remnants of light blue wallpaper are evident as the original wall covering. Pale blue was fashionable between 1790 and 1820. The dark red striped border at the juncture of the walls and ceiling is still in place.

    image14Entrance hall with stairs to second floor

    First Floor Entrance hall: One layer of a circa 1930-1940 white stylized floral motif on a tan background covered the earlier diaper paper. The distemper red cochineal hand block printed paper’s diaper pattern is based on a diamond grid. The central motif is a quatrefoil (stylized open cut leaf). Early wall papers were frequently derived from textile designs. This design is similar to fabrics of the period.
    First Floor Entrance hall: One layer of a circa 1930-1940 white stylized floral motif on a tan background covered the earlier diaper paper. The distemper red cochineal hand block printed paper’s diaper pattern is based on a diamond grid. The central motif is a quatrefoil (stylized open cut leaf). Early wall papers were frequently derived from textile designs. This design is similar to fabrics of the period.
    Interior of the house during exploratory removal of small areas of wall and floor papers to determine where original and early papers could be preserved.
    Interior of the house during exploratory removal of small areas of wall and floor papers to determine where original and early papers could be preserved.
    • The deep red cochineal paper with a block printed diapered pattern was printed with distemper colors. Distemper colors were created with pigments carried in a water based medium of glue and sizing. Color printing was done with wooden blocks. A matt, thick-bodied opaque effect was achieved. Frequently the colors had a chalky appearance, because the mixture contained whiting chalk.
    • Diaper patterns were based on a diamond grid. Wall papers with floral motifs in a diamond or square were popular. Small remnants of a beautiful cobalt blue diaper pattern wall paper remain in two locations. Blue was more expensive than other colors. At the time this house was constructed, blue and green were the most popular colors.

    First Floor Entrance hall: One layer of a circa 1930-1940 white stylized floral motif on a tan background covered the earlier diaper paper. The distemper red cochineal hand block printed paper’s diaper pattern is based on a diamond grid. The central motif is a quatrefoil (stylized open cut leaf). Early wall papers were frequently derived from textile designs. This design is similar to fabrics of the period.

  • Close up of cochineal wall paper during restoration.
    Close up of cochineal wall paper during restoration.

     Room borders installed at the juncture of the walls and ceilings are similar to the Salem Stripe (1790-1815) shown on page 58, in Wallpapers by Richard Nylander. Borders installed around architectural features and at the wall and ceiling junctures were in vogue between 1790 and 1820.

As a practicing architect, I researched and completed historic restoration of commercial and residential properties. So I am familiar with many of the problems encountered during preservation work. This Federal doll house restoration presented a series of unique and difficult challenges. It was a test of my patience and dedicated resolve to complete the project. There were days when I was pushed to the limit. Hand scraping the exterior to remove the white paint circa 1930-1940 took forever. Removing wall paper, a square inch at a time, by dissolving glue with warm water, was unbelievably time consuming – definitely tasks that ‘try men’s souls’.

Well, here it is – the New England Federal house. And yes, it was worth the untold hours of work to save this grand, historically and architecturally significant doll house.

First floor parlor with furnishings, dolls and early wall and floor papers
First floor parlor with furnishings, dolls and early wall and floor papers