A Very Tiny Dollhouse with Very Big Treasures


I hate dolls. They just creep me out. But, as I’ve mentioned before on the _floss, I have a bizarre fascination with dollhouses.

I’m in good company, though. Included amongst the millions of people interested in miniatures was Colleen Moore, a silent film star whose career fizzled a bit when the talkies came out. But movies weren’t her only passion: a love of miniatures was passed down to her from her father, and in 1928, she enlisted the help of a set designer friend to make a remarkably detailed eight-foot miniature “fairy castle.”

This is not your average dollhouse, folks. Here’s a small sampling of the massive treasures contained inside:

A mural of Cinderella painted by Walt Disney himself. You can see it in the first color photo above.

An interior constructed by famed designer Harold Grieve.

Tiny books with signatures and inscriptions from authors and composers including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, William Randolph Hearst and Edward Albee.

Chandeliers dripping with real diamonds, emeralds and pearls.

  • A set of Royal Doulton china. Only two copies of this set were made; the other set resides in Queen Mary’s dollhouse.
  • Suits of armor made of real silver, given to Colleen by Rudolph Valentino.

    A sliver of the True Cross. Colleen received this from her friend Clare Booth Luce, the Ambassador to Italy, who received the relic from the Pope.

    The smallest Bible in the world, printed in 1840.

    Moore's mother's engagement ring, left to Moore by her mother to be repurposed as a vigil light in the chapel of the dollhouse.

    Needless to say, though it cost about $500,000 to construct, it’s a priceless treasure. During the Great Depression, Moore’s dollhouse toured the country to raise money for children’s charities. Stops in most major U.S. cities raised nearly $700,000 between 1935 and 1939. You might wonder how an 8’7” x 8’2” x 7’7” foot palace could travel so easily, but Moore had that covered: she had the fairy castle designed to be broken down into 200 pieces. Each of the rooms have a drawer in specially-designed shipping crates.

    Though the tiny palace no longer tours, you can see the castle at its permanent home in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

    Photos from the Museum of Science and Industry