My family memories are intertwined with a house that sat on 30 acres of farmland in northeast Ohio. It had a trap door in the dining room leading to an underground railway tunnel in the basement. It sheltered New Year's day gatherings highlighted by "talent shows" and in summer opened its doors to exuberant family reunions. I recall life there in the 40's when my grandfather and his siblings were still alive. Since they're all gone now, I wanted my children and grandchildren to be able to envision all the warmth and family closeness I remembered.
From a box of old photographs, letters from Great-aunt Emma (who lived to 103) and a family tree on 9 feet of shelf paper, I wrote a family history. It wasn't enough. Then I became a miniaturist, and when I looked at those sepia-toned pictures of the family gathered in front of the sprawling house, it was the architecture that caught my eye.
Norman, Aunt Emma's grandson in California, provided a floor plan, since he'd lived in the house. A retired carpenter who loved a challenge built the 30" by 54" house shell in 1/2th scale, with walls opening out on piano hinges. I then began to shingle the roof, paint clap-board siding, install 30 windows and 18 doors, electrify, wallpaper, and trim out 13 rooms of the homestead. In it are special pieces I remember - Shaker chairs like the ones my great-grandparents sat in for the 50th anniversary picture, Windsor chairs that Uncle Jack crafted in his shop nearby, a pot-belly stove in the dining room, a pumporgan in the parlor.It is the first Saturday in August - reunion day.
The back screen door is open; pies, cakes, salads and a ham are being prepared in the kitchen, and the picnic hamper is partially packed. There's a suitcase open on the floor of the guest room and a gown hanging on the door - there was always a semi-formal dance at night. Iced tea waits in the parlor and horse shoes lie on the back porch.
There are no people in the house - as you look into each room its occupants seem to have just stepped out for a moment, but miniaturized framed pictures of the family are on walls and bureaus. I've made much of the furniture and accessories. Some pieces are by fine artisans. Aunt Emma's fiddle lies on a chair in the family room.
When our grandchildren were young, they'd find a stool, climb up and say "Turn on the lights, Grandma. Tell us about great-great-grandpa's house!" It was then that the love and warmth in that old house was felt by all of us so many years later.
The following images are from the left side of the house.
The Sewing room:
The Center Bedroom:
The Trunk Room:
The Front Bedroom:
The Family Dining Room:
The Formal Dining Room:
The Family Room:
The following images are from the right side of the house.
The Front Bedroom:
The Hall and Bathroom: