Sometimes you can walk by someone or something a dozen times before you notice the beauty that lies beneath. The beauty in the story.
That’s what it was like for me with the dollhouse at The Urbana Free Library. I’ve been there a handful of times, and I never really examined what was behind the Plexiglas cover.
Urbana resident, Marny Ennis Elliott, lent the library her handmade creation.
Ms. Elliott designed a dozen rooms. They are all set in a house that is 3 feet by 4 feet. The house is made to look like a home from the 1930s. You’ll even find a period typewriter and phone. Each piece was carefully selected/created to represent the era. In fact, the pride in her craft is obvious. Occasionally she even changes out pieces, and she even used to decorate it for different seasons.
Ms. Elliott was inspired to start creating dollhouses and miniature rooms by the Thorne Miniature Rooms. These were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago around 1932-1940. After researching Mrs. Thorne’s creations, it’s easy to understand why Ms. Elliott’s house is under glass. She wants to keep the integrity of the inspiration intact. Not to mention the hundreds of hours that went into creating the precious pieces inside.
In the dollhouse, you’ll find a plethora of detailed furniture, trinkets, and rugs. Elliott made many of the items in the dollhouse. She paid special attention to the details in the rugs.
In each of the rooms, you’ll find a handmade rug. There are 18 to 24 stitches per inch. One inch takes an hour to complete. She creates all the original designs as she goes. The rug design in one bedroom matches the wallpaper. This is real wallpaper cut from a wallpaper catalog.
In one of the bedrooms, you’ll find a handmade quilt. Elliott says her years as a quilter and experience with needlepoint comes in handy when making everything.
If you look carefully, you’ll even find a miniature dollhouse in the dollhouse.
Every wood scrap is a potential piece of furniture. “The dresser and typewriter stand are wood scraps from a home in Evanston that my parents built,” said Ms. Elliott.
Over the years she has provided the Decatur Public Library with a dollhouse that also features beautiful furniture and rugs. She also used to teach classes though local park districts while instructing students on how to design and assemble dollhouse furniture. She’s also given rugs and whole dollhouses for various auctions and raffles.
The Library says the dollhouse is a popular feature of the children’s area. The dollhouse sits by the bathrooms. It’s a perfect spot where there’s lots of foot traffic.
Visit this great library, and you can see Ms. Elliott’s dollhouse for yourself—Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday/Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.
In addition to the dollhouse, there are lots of opportunities to play in the children’s area. You’ll find a Lego and train table, a play area with toys and a special cozy room.
The next time you are there—sit or kneel at a kid’s level. Really look at what’s behind the glass. Lose yourself in the details. Appreciate the work and love that went into creating it—so your kids can enjoy the miniature world.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie. She left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job in communications so that she could be a 24/7 mom to two busy boys. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Emily usually finds herself engulfed in balls, blue and belly laughs.