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Dollhouse collection displayed at Sophienburg

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Don’t we all love the feeling of an old-fashioned Christmas? Once again, the Sophienburg has decorated for the Christmas season, but this year wins the prize.

The collection and exhibit ladies have put together a dollhouse display of 14 different dollhouses plus small doll collections.

Entering the foyer is a large dollhouse at one time belonging to the late Bill and Nan Dillon. The house is decorated with furniture representing the 1870s to present day. Furniture includes Bentwood chairs from the 1900s and handmade furniture. Immediately across from this house is a unique “garden home” from the 1800s. The table and chairs are set with a tiny tea set.

Also in the foyer, a nine-foot tree holds a collection of 90 plus small dolls from around the world. This collection was given to the Sophienburg years ago by the late Thekla Wright. She and her husband, Dr. Rennie Wright, collected these dolls in their vast travels.

Next is a three-storied Victorian style house built by Richard and Merlene Hitz for Allison Humphries, daughter of Mike and Linda Dietert.  This house with its furnishings dating from 1990 to 2000 can be viewed from the front and the back.

Enter the Museum where there is a replica of an early cabin showing an old fashioned pioneer home.  Christmas at the Waisenhaus (orphanage) of Rev. Louis and Luise Ervendberg has been recreated. For many years, the Timmermann sisters of Geronimo, who were descendants of the Ervendbergs, created this scene at Christmastime for many to see. Underneath the cedar tree decorated with candy and cookies is an elaborate Nativity at Bethlehem. The tree is surrounded by honeycomb rocks, which was a common practice in New Braunfels.

Inside the “Newspaper” display area is a folding paper dollhouse, a 1990 reproduction of an 1890 Victorian house belonging to archivist Keva Boardman. This dollhouse is easily moved from one place to another.

Perhaps the most unusual of all the displayed houses is in the museum’s “Pharmacy” section. It is a house made of a packing crate containing packages of coconut. After the packages were sold, the remaining crate revealed lithographs of the inside of a house. The crate, when stood on end, represented four rooms. Shelley Weidner owns the Coconut House, at one time belonging to twins Carmen (Lee) and Cosima (Langwell) Schnable.

In the “Saloon” is a model of the old Sophienburg Museum made by a student and in the “Barbershop” is a boy’s version of a dollhouse – a metal 1960s barn and silo from the Jerome Bodeman collection. Moving on to the “Doctor’s Office” you see a Dura-craft 1970s dollhouse made from a kit furnished with items from 1980s and ’90s.

In the 1960s, the trend in dollhouses was to make them of metal. One displayed belongs to Yvonne Rahe and one belongs to Meredeth Neiman. Plastic and metal furniture became popular at this time. In the “General Store” there is a plywood house made from a kit.

My dollhouse given to me in 1934 by my grandfather, builder A.C. Moeller, actually has electric lights (Christmas tree lights from the ’30s). The dollhouse was constructed by Richard Ikels, who was the cabinetmaker for him. Patterned in the bungalow style of the time, it contains arches separating the six rooms plus stucco walls and hardwood floors. The original wooden furniture remains in my memory only. Present furnishings were collected by Goff daughters and granddaughters.

Upon exiting the Museum, one sees a two-room 1920s house owned by Betty Stobaugh. The house was constructed by Betty’s father and all the furnishings were ordered from Germany.

Finally a wardrobe from the museum collection is filled with small dolls and next to it a feather tree holding a tiny baby doll collection.

The exhibit will be open all of December. The price is $5 per person; or you could come to The St. Nick celebration on Dec. 5 for $5 a family.

Sophie Paige Kelly, daughter of Cate Kelly and Ryan Kelly, admires the doll houses in the Sophienburg's exhibit. Michael and Bette Spain, as well as her great-grandmother, Marie Offerman, are active volunteers and supporters of the Sophienburg Museum and Archives.