One house on Greenwood St will probably never be on the Corn Hill Holiday House Tour. Yet the neighbors and friends of the owner describe it as a marvelous construction, a two-story traditional home with steel blue exterior, black shutters and white trim, a red front door, a balcony, and beautiful interior finishes.
This impressive residence was built in record time. In February of this year, Barbara Kennedy purchased the basic plan and materials and got to work. As with most big construction projects, it involved frequent consultations with others about best building practices and many trips to the hardware store. Once the foundation was set, Barb raised the outer walls and roof, painting and securing each shingle, clapboard, shutter, and porch rail. She then tackled the rough interior work. By summer, the home was ready for interior decorating. And by October, the dollhouse was finished. She hopes her granddaughters enjoy it as much as she enjoyed the one her family made for her as a child.
Growing up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Barbara was given her own dollhouse at around age 4. Her great-uncle Floyd and her father John built the dollhouse, and her mother and great-aunt Mary decorated it with wallpaper, curtains, tiny furniture, and even stitched needlepoint covers for the chairs. She remembers it well: upstairs were two bedrooms, one a baby’s room with a sunporch off it, a parents’ bedroom, an upstairs bathroom, and a ladder in the hallway that led to the attic. The downstairs included a living room with fireplace and stairs, and a dining room that connected to the kitchen with swinging doors. In addition, it had an attached one-car garage. There were miniature people to fit in the dollhouse, but Barb said these figures weren’t nearly as memorable as the décor. She remembers stores where one could buy the kits and other items for dollhouses. She remembers inviting friends to join her playing, but not whether her sister, younger by four years, played with it or not.
That dollhouse, the work of her family’s effort and source of so many happy memories of childhood play, was of such importance that when Barbara grew up, moved away, and had a family of her own, she kept it with her. The family moved many times across the country. She remembers where it sat in the basement when they lived in Naperville, Illinois in the 1980s, and it was then and there that she decided the dollhouse was due for an update. She said her son John, then age 10, would certainly remember her replacing wallpaper, furniture and cross-stitching a new bedspread for the bedroom. Most of the work was done all at once, in a burst of energy, as she does everything.
Things changed when she moved to Greenwood St in 2000. At the time, she didn’t think her new home was big enough to include a place for the dollhouse, and she decided to give it to cousins in Pennsylvania, a decision she later regretted.
Years passed, and in 2016 her first granddaughter Avery Scarlett was born, followed in 2018 by sister Pfeiffer Grace, who live with their parents John and Julia in East Aurora, and visit often. “When Avery was a year or so old I guess,” Barbara said she began thinking again about the old dollhouse, and about maybe building one herself. She began the project in earnest in February 2021, and it provided her with a considerable diversion during the end of the first wave of the pandemic. She purchased the kit from Real Good Toy, an old family-owned business located in Vermont. “You can buy a kit yourself, or pay a lot more for them to completely build it for you,” she said. Packaged in one big heavy, flat box, the kit included literally hundreds of individual pieces to assemble, and twenty-five pages of detailed instructions.
So, Barb added a folding table to her home office and set up shop. The office desk, table, and floor were soon covered with tools: tapes and rulers, hammers and nails, and pliers and glue guns, paint and paintbrushes. When she had trouble figuring out some part of the project that didn’t quite go as easily as the instructions suggested it would, she was able to call and talk with the kit designer, who was very available and happy to help. Many impromptu in-process showings to friends over eight months culminated in a dollhouse celebration party for neighbors and friends in November. The impressive, finished house was worthy of celebrating, and for Barb worth celebrating that she was finally done with it and could get her office back!
Barb said of her granddaughters, “they saw some of it as I was working on it, but at their age couldn’t make much of it” until it was finished – and are now beginning to really appreciate it. Eventually, it will leave Barb’s office and be moved to their house, but Barb is leaving that time and task up to their parents.
When asked if she’d recommend such a project to others, she said, “well, if they like building things and have a lot of patience.” She insisted that since she merely followed the instructions, making it was to her not really a ‘creative’ effort, though it was a very satisfying one.