Taber Museum Acquires Significant Artifact: “The Manor Hall House”
The Manor Hall House
The Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society, Williamsport, PA., has recently acquired a significant artifact for its permanent collection through the generosity of donors Dr. Michael and Mrs. Mary (Rickie) Gross of Hughesville. It is a large dollhouse complete with electricity and running water.
The dollhouse was built circa 1930 by the Reverend H. Mowbray-Finnis, Headmaster of a co-educational school in New Zealand. It is based on the Tudor style of architecture which flourished circa 1400-1537, and is characterized by well-defined straight lines, a great Central Hall, and dark timbering. It is built to the scale of 7/8 of an inch to the foot, with dimensions of 3 feet high, 3 feet 9 inches wide, and 2 feet 6 inches deep.
The Central Hall is paneled throughout with over 2,000 pieces of mahogany. All the rooms (except for the baths) have parquet floors and beveled glass windows. The Dining Room is paneled in padouk with an old timbered ceiling, the Drawing Room is half-panelled in mahogany, and the Library is paneled in English Oak. The Kitchen features a parquet floor and blue and white tiled walls. The Bedrooms depict ‘wall’papering techniques, while the Nursery design provides a release for the imagination. The house is outfitted with electricity and running water. The accompanying landscaping is complete with tennis courts, fountains and a greenhouse!
When Reverend Mowbray-Finnis returned to his native England, he brought the dollhouse with him. It was exhibited throughout England, primarily in department stores, with the intention to raise monies for children’s hospitals. The dollhouse was on display at Harrod’s Store in London when the Royal Family, including Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret, came to view it.
The dollhouse was auctioned in New York City by the maker’s widow. The buyer was Ruth Gross, who spent the next few years refurbishing and amending the interior of the house. When Mrs. Gross died, the house came into the possession of her son and his wife Dr. Michael and Mrs. Mary (Rickie) Gross of Hughesville, Pennsylvania.
For the holiday season 2011, the Historical Society produced an exhibit of dolls selected from its permanent collection and accepted on loan several significant doll houses and putz houses (buildings situated under the Christmas tree, forming a village) from private collectors and friends of the museum. Among those loaned items, this wonderful dollhouse made its way to the museum, courtesy of Dr. and Mrs. Gross. It was the intention of the Grosses that the dollhouse become a permanent part of the Society’s collection. Dr Gross felt that a house of this ‘stature’ would fit perfectly into the architecture of Williamsport’s West Fourth Street, nicknamed ‘Millionaire’s Row’. During the 19th Century, Lycoming County witnessed the rise of fortunes due to the logging and lumbering boom. Williamsport boasts that there were more milionaires per capita than any other location in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century. Indeed, entrepreneur Mahlon Fisher’s home was nicknamed ‘the Million Dollar House’ and enterprising capitalist Peter Herdic built an elaborate four-story railway hotel which boasted gas lighting throughout.
With the approval of the Collections Committee and the Board of Governors, the dollhouse was accepted into the collection and will be placed on permanent view.
The dollhouse will be featured in an upcoming issue of Miniature Collector, a national magazine devoted to dollhouses and miniature furniture.
The Lycoming County Historical Society was founded in 1907 with museum, library and archival repositories which receive materials related to the Society’s mission to “discover, collect, preserve and interpret the pre-history, history and cultural heritage of north central Pennsylvania.” For more information, regarding the museum and our hours of operation, please see our website at www.tabermuseum.org.
For more information, please call 570.326.3326