Nostalgia on different levels in doll house at Hist. Soc.
A high-profile Italian Renaissance style house in Warren is welcoming visitors to a Victorian-styled house inside.
A doll house created in 1974 by Beaty-Warren Middle School seventh-graders Kathy Metzgar and Debbie Sowers is on display in the Warren County Historical Society’s second floor Putnam Room.
Metzgar, now Kathy Lang, returned to the Historical Society on Wednesday to see the house.
The house was initially created as an entry into Beaty’s history fair. The judging at the event was very particular, so entries had to be well-researched and -crafted to win honors.
“Part of the history fair was you had to do your research,” Lang said.
They enlisted the help of local historian and artist Quinn Smith. “Having the help of a historian helped us immensely,” Lang said.
Lang’s father, Robert Metzgar, brought a heavy wooden packing box home from work at Sylvania.
The girls turned that box into the frame of the first two stories of the house. Inside are six rooms. With Smith’s help, the girls included the proper spaces befitting a Victorian home – including a parlor and a reception room. “Every grand Victorian home had a reception room,” Lang explained.
The doll house was a semi-permanent fixture at Sowers’ house. “They were willing to let their dining room become a work room for three months,” Lang said. “I remember trudging in the winter over to my friend’s house to work on it.”
“It was fun,” she said.
That’s what her mother, Sally Metzgar, remembers.
“Just watching you with the box and the interest that you had and the excitement…” she said.
Lang reminisced over some of the features. “It was so much fun doing the draperies,” she said. Although the process was simple, the curtains still have an elegant look about them.
The furniture was made by hand, though some of the details – a mirror frame and a chandelier, for example – were bought.
The rooms feature carpet – made of fabric selected by Lang and Sowers with some direction from Smith – and wallpaper. One room features paper provided by Smith. “The wallpaper in this room was 120 years old in ’74,” Lang said. Smith’s patterns are on larger walls nearby. He hand painted the walls in the historical society room next to the Putnam Room, Lang said.
Sally Metzgar pointed out a different detail. “I think the fireplaces in the bedrooms are marvelous,” she said.
The efforts that went into the house were not wasted.
“We won grand prize,” Lang said. When it was time to receive the award and have their picture taken, the girls dressed up, trying to look as though they were in Victorian garb.
They donated the house to the historical society shortly after the fair and it was put on display for a few years.
Despite the fact that Lang was president of the historical society board in 1989 and 1990, until Wednesday she hadn’t seen the doll house for more than 35 years.
“Back when I was on the board I asked where the doll house was,” Lang said. She was told it could not be found and that it could have been deaccessioned – sold or otherwise removed from the society’s collection.
Volunteers – David Winner in particular – and interns at the historical society unwrapped the house and moved it down from storage on the third floor a few months ago. Managing Director Michelle Gray said the doll house will remain on display at least until June.
“It’s awesome to see it,” Lang said. “What a fun surprise. It really brings back memories.”