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A Special Tynietoy House - A Preview

When I gave some presentations at the Handicraft Club in Providence in September 2014, I shared some pictures of a special custom Tynietoy house for which I was still in the process of negotiating its purchase. I am pleased to report that the house was purchased and made its journey to New Jersey for much needed restoration. I will be writing a magazine article about the house once the restoration is complete, but I want to share a little bit about it here as I get started.

The story of the house and how it ended up in a Westchester County, NY condo is a slightly complicated one, while the house itself is more straightforward. It was built in 1921 at the request of a lady who owned a bookshop in Boston. It was built for a specific doll that resided in the bookshop and the scale is a monumental 2" to 1', so the house is five feet tall! The family from whom I purchased the house had owned it for over 40 years and in that time, it had seen a lot of play. The children could actually climb into the principal rooms and curl up in them, and over the years, all that platy took its toll, but it was so fortunate that no one ever painted over the two Sidney Burleigh murals that made me fall in love with this house. I have done a lot of research on the house, its murals and the lady who commissioned it, which I will share at a later time, but I thought you might enjoy seeing a few photos of Greenaway House as it looks before restoration.

The house is just two rooms plus the staircase hall. The woodwork has been painted over several times but the murals on the side wall of the lower room are intact. The architectural details are quite impressive even in this condition.

If not for the brass plaque found on the side of the house, the owners would never have known about the connection to Tynietoy and would never have found me on the internet. I was SO meant to have this dollhouse!

The mural on the right side of the parlor is titled "The Old White Mill" and again, it seems so appropriate that this house has come to me because I have a special fondness for paintings of sheep and timber-framed English houses, as visitors to my home can attest.

This is the mural that really got me excited when I saw the house. It is titled "Boylston House" which is a real historic home outside Boston. In this painting, one can see some similarities to the painting style used to decorate the Tynietoy Mansion's music room murals. In the closer version below, one can make out the intials of the one and only Sidney Burleigh and his fleur-de-lis trademark.

Burleigh's mark is located ^ in the lower left-hand corner - I was so excited when I saw this! And then I noticed the A and H worked into the design of the wrought iron gate in front of the house. The initials stand for Alice-Heidi, the name of the doll that lived at the bookshop and they also appear on some archival drawings of 2" scale furniture from Tynietoy's archival drawings. It turned out that Bertha Mahoney Miller, the lady who owned the bookshop and commissioned the dollhouse, knew Sidney Burleigh. In a biography about this lady who ended up selling the bookshop after she founded "The Hornbook", a monthly periodical devoted to children's literature, it says she ordered the house from Sidney Burleigh. Through his connection with Tynietoy, it was natural that the construction and furnishings were handled at The Toy Furniture Shop, then located within the confines of the Handicraft Club on College Street. It is just so wonderful to see his own painting on these murals in this truly unique, one-of-a-kind doll's house.

My plan is to not only restore the house but to also replace the missing furniture based on an old photograph of how the house was originally furnished, and from the archival drawings that survive. And after I enjoy the house for a few years, I plan to donate it to one of the artistic institutions connected to Burleigh in Providence. Sometimes things just fall into place the way they are meant to, wouldn't you agree? (4.24.2015)

  A Survey of Tynietoy Houses and Structures

I've been asked to post something to help people identify the different tollhouse models made by Tynietoy.  I thought this had been addressed adequately by several books in print, but I agree it would be helpful to do a survey of all the different model houses in some depth in one place so I'll try to address that here and I encourage anyone who would like to email me photos of their own Tynietoy houses to share here - I'm always happy to share other people's pictures here.

The Colonial Mansion

For some folks, the Colonial Mansion is the Holy Grail of Tynietoy house. While a few other houses are actually more rare, the Mansion is deemed most desirable because its impressive size offers the best opportunity to display the most furnishings in one single house, and frankly, it is the most elegant house with pleasing proportions and evocative New England character.

I often hear people speculate about how many examples of the Mansion exist today. From the earliest catalogues, the Mansion was always the most expensive house, initially selling for $200 and increasing in cost over the years. By the mid-1930's the house cost $250 unfurnished, which is the equivalent of about $4000 in today's money. How many people would spend $4000 on an empty dollhouse for a child today? For half as much, you can buy a top-quality commercial house from Lawbre or Real Good Toys today, but one could debate if the artistic quality is really comparable. I think we can agree that at such a high cost, a good number of those original houses were purchased for adult collectors, but I know of several that belong to the families of women who received them when they were little girls.

I know of just over a dozen Mansions in private and museum collections and I have to assume there are a few more out there tucked away in attics or long-empty nurseries. In fact, I recently heard from someone who rescued a dilapidated specimen from the basement of a Long Island estate and is restoring it for future generations, so it proves there are still a few treasures out there waiting to be unearthed. Most Mansions seem to have been built and sold int eh late 1920's up to the mid 1930's. A former employee recalled that during the year or so that he worked there, he remembered only one was made to order and shipped. The Mansion wasn't even offered in the last catalogues. 

There are so few Mansions that when one comes on the market, it is most often an example previously known to belong to a museum or prominent collector. I've had the privilege of owning two Mansions and both belonged to fairly well-known collectors. I was lucky to buy both of them privately and fully furnished. When a Mansion appears for sale at auction, it's almost always sold emptied of it contents. My advice to someone who wants to acquire a Mansion is to let people know you want one by contacting dealers you may meet at shows or find online, and keep track of houses coming to auction by checking auction web sites frequently. I got my first Mansion by letting the people who owned it know that when they were ready to sell, to please call me first and they did! My second house came out of the blue from someone who found my website and contacted me. When I recognized the name of the owner, I didn't hesitate to make a competitive offer for it.

What should you pay for a Mansion? Everyone has their own threshold for pain. Flora Gill Jacobs sold her Mansion at auction, right out of her museum. With a lot of publicity, it sold for well over $30,000 with buyer's premium. Why so much? The dealer who bought it had customers waiting for one to come to market and the underbidder was somewhat new to antique doll houses and had deep pockets and little patience so she pushed up the bids for the house well past the estimate. This particular house had Flora's provenance in its favor and had been well publicized in books and magazines and when the house sold in 2004, all things Tynietoy were commanding strong prices. I very much doubt one would see such prices today. Now, I would say the market is somewhere between 8 and 15K, depending on condition and other factors. Dealers don't want to tell the public what they've sold houses for, and buyers don't like to admit what they've paid for them! Since I bought my houses furnished, my numbers can't really help paint an accurate picture. I probably overpaid for the first one and then got a really nice deal on the second one although I had to pay $3000 to get it shipped from California to New Jersey - ouch! But it came with some truly rare furnishings and an oustanding documented provenance so I have no regrets. Both houses were purchased with my heart and not as investments. When people ask me if they should buy a certain dollhouse as a good investment, I steer them to mutual funds.

Tynietoy was incorporated in 1920 and that November, a variation of the design for the Nantucket Cottage appeared in an article in the Ladies' Home Journal - it was probably the "first" Tynietoy house, but the Mansion appears alongside the New England Townhouse in the first catalogues, so it was certainly in production for most of the 1920's, the decade when Tynietoy was most prosperous and offered the most merchandise for sale in their catalogues. The house as presented in the catalogue was just over 5 feet long, and with the optional garden, one needed at least 6 feet of space to display it. My first Tynietoy Mansion is not a "standard" version and is just slightly smaller - for photos of my first Colonial mansion, click on the Archives tab at the bottom of this page.

The typical Mansion differs from the more common Townhouse because it has a spacious third floor of rooms under a gambrel roof and a second flight of stairs to access them. Also, the kitchen ell contains four rooms instead of two: a kitchen and butler's pantry downstairs and both a nursery and bathroom upstairs. With ten rooms and wider staircase halls, it is very commodious and allows one to decorate the bedrooms with a satisfying variety of different bedroom sets.

This is how the Colonial mansion was shown in the catalogue. When the house was purchased with a garden, as shown in this photo, the garden features form a base for the house and the front can open without disturbing the walkways. But when purchased separately, the gardens and walkways slide up to the house and the semicircular steps to the house's doorways can't fit and the walkway must be removed to open the front of the house. The solution is to raise the house alone up on a piece of plywood or MDF the same thickness as the garden.

The catalogue interior photo shows the house furnished with a parlor upstairs and the room below furnished as a music room, and that is how Flora Gill Jacobs' mansion was furnished. For this photo, the hinged roof sections were removed so you can see the roofs and chimneys, but they normally swing up and are held upright rather cleverly with thin metal rods attached to eye screws. This photo also shows that the bathroom furniture sold a this time was the painted plaster set made by Wisconsin Toy Co. A cast iron Alaska refrigerator in the pantry and a commercial cast iron range in the kitchen are also from other manufacturers - Tynietoy did not manufacture these items and so they sold such necessities as manufactured by others. The rest is pure Tynietoy.

Of course, in addition to its outstanding size, a feature that really sets the Mansion apart from all the other Tynietoy houses is the hand-painted mural in what the company called the music room on the ground floor. Herb Hosmer used to say that the mural was copied from one in an historic house in Haverhill, MA that he saw advertised for sale in Yankee Magazine. Haverhill is indeed home to some houses with Rufus Porter-style murals, but the documented houses I have researched don't have anything that really looks that much like the Tynietoy mural. Nor does the mural look anything like the gorgeous wallpaper in the Beckwith Mansion where the Handicraft Club provided space for Marion Perkins to make the first Tynietoy furniture. Based on signed murals I have seen in another, very special custom-designed and built Tynietoy house, I'm quite comfortable conjecturing that Sidney Burleigh designed a prototype mural for the Mansion and his "pattern" was used by other artists to decorate the Mansions offered in the catalogue. The design does borrow some themes from Porter school murals, but I think it is an original composition just for Tynietoy.

The other wonderful hand-painted detail that distinguishes the Mansion is the hand-painted border used in the nursery. Usually located just above the baseboard, the border featured little yellow ducks or bunnies in profile and sometimes both! The painting in both rooms was done before the Mansion was assembled and so it is pretty typical to find that the corners don't always match exactly, and sometimes it appears that the walls were painted by different artists.

The proportions of the rooms in the Mansion are particularly pleasing. While there are similarities between the Mansion and the New England Townhouse, the Mansion features more spacious hallways and, of course, the second set of stairs to reach the third floor. The third floor's gambrel roof provides comfortable space for bedrooms for children and staff, as the catalogue photo shows. While some people also furnish the attic floor of the Townhouse, it always strikes me as looking cramped and uncomfortable when attempted. And with the only access being through a hatchway reached with a ladder, I feel like the attic of the Townhouse is really not that useful. But the third floor of the Mansion offers so much more opportunity for decorating!

The Mansion features five fireplaces: two full-size ones in the dining and music rooms on the ground floor, two more full-sized ones upstairs in the library and master bedroom, and then a smaller one in the nursery that is usually painted brick red, but occasionally white. The upstairs fireplaces add a little more formality to those rooms and the chimney breasts conceal the electrical wiring going up to the third floor. Every Mansion I know of is wired for electricity, although Herb Hosmer wrote that his did nor originally have it and it was added by Tynietoy at his request.

I will be discussing the Mansion further but for now, scroll down and enjoy reading about the last Tynietoy Mansion I purchased that now belongs to the Handicraft Club in Providence, RI.

A Tynietoy Colonial Mansion from 1935

My last Tynietoy Mansion had something of an odyssey. After purchasing this beauty in the summer of 2012 from the family of the original owner, I had the wonderful and unique experience of unpacking all its contents, including some rare and unusual items, and also reading through documentation the family sent along with house. It included original correspondence and large glossy photographs from the Tynietoy company. A major reason I was keen to purchase this particular Mansion was that the house had been known to me previously from its appearance in Caye MacLaren's out-of-print book This Side of Yesteryear , and I was intrigued by its provenance, its music room mural and interesting contents.

When the Mansion arrived from southern California, the roof, doors and window shutters had been over-painted with black paint during the 1970's by the previous owner's son. For several days, I spent hours stripping the repainted roof while the house was perched on my kitchen table, and I worked on the doors and shutters in my studio. Using an original painted shutter from another Tynietoy house, I matched the original color and "refreshed" the color in areas that had faded or been damaged earlier. The exterior walls had also been repainted around the same time, but I noticed that under the white latex paint, the original paint had cracked and flaked so I left that paint as I found it. The Mansion came with all its original marbled steps and chimneys, so once the paint issues were addressed, I could play!

This is how the interior was furnished when the house was displayed by the original owner's family. It was furnished with a combination of original Tynietoy furniture purchased by the owner's mother and grandmother and augmented with items of American, German, and British manufacture including a rather sweet yellow nursery set and various pieces of English Westacre furniture that didn't quite match the scale of the house and its other furnishings. The dolls were German and some needlepoint rugs were added in the 1970's. All the rooms retained their original paint except for some areas where the white trim was touched up.

While I had intended to keep the house just as it was, I gradually decided that I already owned so much Tynietoy furniture that the house would be more satisfying to me if I replaced the non-Tynietoy furnishings with authentic Tynietoy. Also, a few of the rugs were over-scaled and some accessories were of more recent vintage and didn't seem to belong. All the furnishings were in excellent overall condition and had obviously been treated with care the entire time Ariel owned them. Many things were in incredibly good condition, which is such a refreshing change from what I usually encounter!

Before I share photos of the rooms as I have redecorated them, I thought I would share some of the original details of the interior with the rooms empty so you can see the entire mural in the music room, and the hand-painted border in the nursery.

Here is a straight-on shot of the music room mural with its classic Rufus Porter style simplicity. While the trees and foreground have the look of being somewhat quickly executed, time was clearly spent on the details of the sailing vessels and garden pavilion. The murals were typically painted before the walls were assembled which explains why the shorelines often don't quite match up in the corners. In this room, you can also see the floors are nicely polished.

The trees look a little different in color and shading on this side wall. Many people easily recognize that back wall from published photos, but the side walls are not shown as often. There is a lovely and romantic little Greek dome-roofed gazebo or folly in the foreground. Curiously, no details of the landscape have been extended to the other side of the doorway. I love the graceful curves of the door pediments .

The fireplace wall shows signs of paint touch-up in some trim areas and a noticeable difference in the perspective where the corners meet - it's almost as though different people painted each wall! But I truly appreciate the individual character of every wall in this room and because it is so obvious that the murals are painted before assembly, I am very dubious indeed about murals I have seen in a privately owned Tynietoy house where all the corners aligned perfectly and the paint had clearly "pooled" towards the bottom of each brush stroke indicating the murals had been painted while the walls were vertical and after the house was constructed - perhaps many years after the house was constructed. With only one previous owner, I have no doubts at all about the authenticity of this example.

The nursery located over the kitchen features a hand-painted border above the baseboard. The floor is painted and there is a small window besides the chimney.

Again, the walls were painted before assembly and in this case, the borders are different on the adjacent walls. The rear wall features ducks exclusively while the border on the fireplace wall depicts brown and white bunnies. I love this quirky oddity!

Before peeking inside, a view of the exterior from the kitchen end of the house as it looked in its previous home. The hook and eyelet fasteners are typical and original in this case. It's important to keep the facades fastened when the house in not being viewed, to prevent warping. I have seen serious warping occur in neglected houses, and once a facade warps, the layers of the plywood are prone to separation.

Although the focus is not the best, this overall view allows one to appreciate the spaciousness of the rooms and the hallways and how the rooms relate to one another. The attic rooms boast generous ceiling heights and reasonable freedom to arrange the furniture realistically. The primary rooms are quite spacious and the turning staircases are very satisfying in their realism and detail.

The elegant formality of the Mansion's entry hall is the result of the pedimented entablatures over the doors and the spaciousness of a hall measuring 9" wide. The Mansion also features dimensional door casings and baseboard moldings, polished stairs and mahogany stained stair rails and newels. My earlier house has all the woodwork painted white and the stair treads are also painted. The later, standardized finishes are much nicer.

The formal parlor was described as a music room in the catalogues and it is probably the only room of all the houses big enough to accommodate the rare Nellie Custis harpsichord shown here. There is no need to hang paintings on the walls as the hand-painted mural actually looks better without any additional decoration. The secretary with tombstone doors is also a rare piece.

One of the things I like so much about this dining room is the soft shade of gray on the walls that is so 1930's. In some ways austere, it allows the furnishings and decorations to really take center stage and the beautifully finished floors in this room, as in the others, sets off the jewel-like colors of the fine petit point carpet to great advantage. The classic Tynietoy candlesticks in the dining room are all plated with silver.

The upper hallway features a second staircase just as nice as the one below and is roomy enough for both a lowboy on the wall and telephone table tucked into the corner in front of the bannister. The woven carpets are Tynietoy and the folding screen in the background is exceptional.

I love the room over the parlor furnished as the bedroom for the grandparents. A number of rare pieces decorate this room including the rare Chippendale chest of drawers, very rare Mt. Vernon wing chair and several pieces painted with a faux maple finish. The small lamp is also quite unusual. The very fine floral rug is made from French knots. It is interesting that this second floor room came with a built-in fireplace, but the room across the hall did not.

The master bedroom is furnished with a rare Mt.Vernon canopy bed with original fringed canopy and candlewick bedspread. The high boy with scrolled pediment is far less common that the version with the flat top, and the four-drawer chest is marked Tynietoy but never appeared in any catalogues. The fireplace is freestanding. My earlier Mansion has a built-in fireplace in this room.

The top of the stairs to the attic level opens to this modest but spacious hallway. The corner chair is a rare Tynietoy piece. All the rooms on the attic level contain electric fans since it must get really warm up there in the summertime.

When I first received this house, this room was furnished with bright yellow painted German furniture. It was a very darling set but I preferred to use predominantly Tynietoy furniture while staying with the same dominant color. Two of the framed paintings in this room are by American illustrator, Grace Drayton. The small painted chest is by Roger Williams, another Rhode Island toy company devoted to making Early American furniture. They were not in business as long as Tynietoy was so the furniture is actually more rare than Tynietoy.

This room has a special feeling for me. The French cottage bedroom furniture is painted a soft grey with delicate floral decoration rather than the very common blue or pink and I've added some other furnishings with green paint complimenting the green accents in the finely braided rug. The sailor's chest on the right is an unusual piece and the floor lamp features a hand-painted rendering of Betsey Ross's house on the shade. The pink blanket folded at the foot of the bed is a rare Tynietoy accessory.

The kitchen ell is so distinctive on the Colonial Mansion. Where the New England Townhouse features only a kitchen with upstairs bath in the ell, the typical Mansion is configured with a smaller kitchen and a butler's pantry downstairs and both a small nursery and bath above. In some houses, the tile floor may extend into the pantry, but most of the houses I have seen are finished like this one. The kitchen tile floors are usually black and white. I found this ktichen a bit cramped and hard to decorate with insufficuent room for the open dresser, but kitchens in the 1920's and '30's tended to be a bit small and cramped.

The nursery features a fireplace painted a solid brick color and one tiny window just above the mantel. My earlier house has two windows in this room. The floor is painted a solid gray while the bathroom has a blue and white painted tile floor. Some houses have green and white tiles. The German cast metal hair dryer is a wonderful accessory.

In another view, the bathroom is fitted with a Tynietoy mirrored medicine cabinet and a small kerosene room heater - those tiles can be so cold in the winter, you know!

The house came with some things that one does not often encounter within a Tynietoy house, including some rare furniture pieces made by Tynietoy that did not appear in the catalogues, and some accessories that are listed in the catalogues but not often seen. Some examples follow:

Tynietoy sold silver tea sets and some have supposed that the ones they sold were the familiar Edwardian style sets made in early 20th century Birmingham, with fluted sides and sitting on a wooden tray with silver gallery. From the catalogues and correspondence that came with this collection, I know that this is the silver service Tynietoy sold around 1935. None of the pieces is marked and I would say the quality is not terribly fine, but an improvement over the crude Britannia sets more frequently encountered.

I am much enamored of this stately four-poster bed with fringed canopy and candle wicked bedspread. So classic, but so rare to have this bed with turned posts. Since I first posted this photo, I came across an old Tynietoy price listing that seems to describe this bed as a replica of George Washington's bed at Mt. Vernon and it was priced at $20 in the mid 1930's - quite a sum! So far, it is the most expensive individual piece of Tynietoy furniture I have seen documented in terms of original prices. Even the rare Rising Sun chair and matching desk cost less.

The canopy is easily removed to show the turned and tapered bedposts and the elegantly curved headboard with side cut-outs that differ from the usual canopy bed, but it is somewhat similar to another unusual Tynietoy bed I own. I have seen only one other example like this bed.

The Mt. Vernon wing chair was one of the reasons I purchased this house. It is so rare that I have only seen one other example in person and only a photo of one other. I placed it in the grandparents' bedroom. The legs are almost exaggerated in form but are a pretty accurate rendering of the original in Washington's bedroom. If anyone else has one, I'd love to hear from you!      (2.21.2015)


Some of the furnishings were acquired by the original owner's parents while travelling overseas and I was quite keen to have the Westacre pieces from England. Here is the folding screen:

I think this hand-painted screen is simply stunning and compares quite favorably to the work of our more recent miniaturists. For example, below is a larger screen by Linda Wexler that was recently given to me:

Here is a sampling of other Westacre pieces that came with the house:

I think of Westacre furniture as a bit like an English version of Tynietoy because the business was begun and operated by a lady of refined taste and the hand-painted details make each piece unique. And these examples have held up so well over time!


Just a few additional comments about the Tynietoy Colonial Mansion before examining the other house models:

The Mansion's exterior was painted Antique White with an enamel paint. Many houses have seen their paint split and chip with time, and the peacock blue paint used to outline the front door can become worn away. It can be difficult to decide when things are so bad they need to be addressed. Professionals say preserve and conserve before you "restore", and renovate only as a last option. The Mansion is so rare that a conservative approach should be used when possible, but when the condition is so bad that it seriously detracts from the overall impression of the house, I feel it is okay to touch up and in rare cases, to completely restore. With the closure of so many museums devoted to toys and dollhouses, there just aren't that many original houses on public display, so it is important to try and keep your house as close to original as you can. A coat of bright white latex paint on a "restored" Mansion is not a pretty sight. So use a gentle touch when attempting to restore.

The roof and shutters were typically painted a deep green but some houses feature a green with a bit of a blue tinge. My house's roof had been overpainted with a glossy black that was pretty easy to remove and well worth doing. The roof on my earlier house was originally painted grey and then over-painted Spanish brown. I preferred the brown as it reminds me of cedar shingling, so I left it that way. Part of my roof was missing when I got it so I went with the brown when I replaced the missing parts. It's a tough call, but I did preserve the original gray under the removable chimneys in case a later owner wants to go that way.

The celluloid used for the windows typically yellows with age, sometimes to the degree that it looks like the house is inhabited by heavy smokers! It is not at all uncommon to find a house with damaged or missing windows. You won't find the right replacement at your local dollhouse shop, so what I do is use the heavy plastic that comes with report covers and paint the mullion lines myself. First I make a template by drawing and inking the grid pattern with wide margins on an index card or piece of graph paper and I tack it to a piece of soft scrap wood. Then I cut a piece of plastic and tape it over the grid with blue painter's masking tape and use a cream-colored acrylic paint and a small round paintbrush to copy over the grid. It usually takes at least two coats to achieve enough paint coverage, but I take my time and allow the first coat to dry thoroughly and end up with a pretty good substitute window. The first windows made by Tynietoy were handpainted and they later employed a silk-screen process.

The stained and varnished floors impart so much character to these houses. Sometimes the varnish dries out and cracks or chips off and in serious cases, the plywood may start to buckle and lift. I advocate a slightly more aggressive approah when it comes to maintain the floors as a badly danaged floor not only detracts from the appearance of a house but may even threaten the structure integrity while making it hard to place furnishings. I think it is okay to repair lifting floors by splitting the top layer with a very sharp blade along the grain, injecting glue into the split and after cleaning off any residual glue, I use old flat irons to weigh down the floor while the glue dries. Then a gentle sanding, a light application of stain and a new coat of varnish can make a huge difference. Otherwise, a gentle cleaning followed by a little polish of Butcher's Wax is all that is normally needed.

Many houses have experienced a well-meant re-painting of the interiors. Sometimes it's not too intrusive and can be left as is, but when it's clearly a case of removing something inappropriate, go for it. You may find the original paint in good condition underneath, otherwise you may need to paint again in original colors. Just remember to use an eggshell finish on the walls and satin on the trim as modern glass paint looks too shiny in an old doll house.

As for window treatments, Tynietoy used a unique system for hanging curtains. They used small brass wall hooks and tiny springs rather than curtain rods. The hooks catch the tiny loops at each end of the spring and the tension of the spring creates a straight line through the header of the curtains. You can see the wall hooks in the photos of the Mansion shown above and a close-up is provided below. The hooks are very rare and usually only to be found already attached to houses. My last Mansion came with a little baggie with extra hooks and springs.


The New Model House

In 1929, Rhode Island artist Sidney Burleigh designed the line of Spanish colonial furniture that was produced by Tynietoy for a brief time in the 1930's. Designed to appeal to collectors in California and the American southwest, it enjoyed very limited popularity and appeared in the catalogues for only a short time. It doesn't really display very well in Tynietoy's classic New England style dollhouses, and that might be part of the reason that the New Model house debuted in 1930. The most complicated Tynietoy house in terms of construction, the New Model house is the rarest house of the larger houses. It featured a hip roof and a curved, Regency style portico at the main entrance, both of which required skilled construction. The inglenook fireplace and staircase are also a bit complicated. Former employees remembered that Frank Battastini was tasked with making the more complicated parts of these houses, and the house was eventually discontinued because it was so complicated to build. I know of only three original examples and one skillful replica of this house, but there must be a few more of them out there somewhere.

The entrance to the house is located on the left side and the facade facing the viewer comprises two removable panels with double windows and hinged, folding shutters. The ell to the right is enclosed with a sliding panel behind a double-story porch. With the interior staircase located near the front door, the upstairs rooms are a little awkwardly connected and the middle room must be passed through to access the bathroom over the kitchen. Consequently, the first upper floor room functions better as a sitting room or library than a bedroom, leaving only one useful bedroom. Since the Spanish furniture included only one style of  bed, the New Model house works well with the Spanish furniture line.

The New Model house was painted yellow with blue roof and shutters, although I would not be surprised if one turned up with black details instead. The only built-in fireplace was located under the staircase, oddly enough, and there are doors leading to the two porches. The late Herb Hosmer, who did so much to popularize Tynietoy in the years after the company went out of business, recalled seeing one example without a porch.



The New Model House was priced at $98 in the early 1930's when the Mansion cost $210 and the Townhouse could be bought for only $98. Since the Townhouse had six clearly defined rooms PLUS two center hallways, it probably seemed like a better value at the time and that may explain why the Townhouse was so popular and so many have survived, especially when compared to the New Model House.

The late Letty Schwarz had one of the few authentic New Model houses I know to exist and in the above photo, one can observe the sort of railroad-car arrangement of rooms. The front door is located all the way over on the far left and the staircase with inglenook fireplace below is located in the same  room. The staircase open up to a room above that has been furnished as a child's bedroom which must be traversed to access the master bedroom and bath. The elimination of any sort of hallways is in some ways a space-saver.

A closer view of the parlor demonstrates an appropriate setting for the the rare Spanish furniture that can look awkward in other houses. The bench to the left, the table in the inglenook and the vargueno, painted chairs and small bench to the right are all from that elusive line of furnishings. The little nook under the stairs on the left is perfect for the telephone table and chair.

This view just inside the front door shows the intricate design of the sidelights with panels below - one of my favorite features of this house and its placement at the side of the open parlor allows the viewer to enjoy it more than the front doors of the Mansion and Townhouse that are centered in the removable front facades.

The middle room on the ground floor is typically furnished as a dining room but in this case, Letty used the Victorian furniture for a parlor that can rearranged as a dining room. The door to the kitchen is tucjed away toward the back behind the fireplace. This room and the one above it are quite spacious. The dolls are by Marion Winters and were sold through Tynietoy, but probably not exclusively so.

One of the things I enjoy about this room in the New Model house is the way the door to the bathroom is located toward the back of the house. So often the interior doors are quite close to the front of the house, the way the door on the left leads into the upper front hall room. The door to the bath is on the right, tucked behind the fireplace and avoids a shotgun effect so common in other houses. The pretty hooked rug in the front is from Chestnut Hill and the painted hatbox on the desk is one of my creations, custom made for Letty. Although the room appears to be repainted, it retains original Tynietoy curtain rod holders on the windows.

The New Model House is so uncommon I know of at least one replica house built for a collector who despaired at ever finding an original one. I normally see Townhouses sell for $3000 to $5000 on average - certainly some sell for far less and others sell for more. I can't tell you the cost of this house but its rarity means it should probably rival the Colonial Mansion in value these days. (3.2.2015)


The New England Townhouse

Of all the differnt models of dollhouses made by Tynietoy, the New England Townhouse was by far the most popular and its availability today is a clear indicator that the company sold more of this model than any other house. With architectural that so strongly echoes the antique houses one could walk past in any New England town, the design closely approximates a very familiar classic 18th century Georgian colonial house design so familiar to residents in Providence or Newport.

A classic New England center hall colonial of the type that inspired Tynietoy's New England Townhouse. In order to provide easy access to a kitchen and bathroom that was likely located to the rear in a real house, the dollhouse was designed to have an ell to one side, like the Colonial Mansion, although not as large.

Because so many examples of the Townhouse survive, a number of variations have appeared in theses houses over the years with notable differences in terms of the placement of doors, windows and fireplaces, and different finishes ranging from the simplest painted architectural details to examples with nicely molded door and window trims. Over time, I have come to identify three primary types of Townhouse. The deluxe model or "Model A" features built-in fireplaces on the end walls in true Georgian fashion, nicely stained and varnished floors and interior doors and very detailed dimensional door and window trim. My first Tynietoy townhouse was this type, shown below as I originally found it.

I found my first Townhouse on the floor of the Dollhouse Factory when the first shop owners were preparing to close the business. It had spent some years in attic of the building awaiting a day when Bob Dankenics planned to open a dollhouse museum, and as the Dankenics were divorcing and selling the business, they emptied out the attic and broght all the old dollhouses intpo the shop to sell. I was fortunate to see it very soon after it arrived in the shop, before a price had been decided, and I pleaded with Judith to let me have first crack at it once a price had been determined by Bob. He wanted $2500 for it but Judith persuaded him to sell it to me for $1995 because I was a longtime customer and she knew how much I wanted the house. Up to this point I had despaired of ever owning a Tynietoy house and when she called me, I agreed immediately. I never imagined I would one day own two more Townhouses and two Mansions!

I already owned enough Tynietoy furniture to fill my first Townhouse but before I could decorate it, some restoration was in order. As you can see from the photo above, one of the chimneys was missing, but the remaining chimney provided the perfect template for a replacement. Also, you will note that the classic shutters were also missing from the facade. In the weeks following my purchase of the house, two loose shutters were discovered in some filthy boxes of German furniture that came down from the shop's attic so I was able to use them as templates for replacements and to computer-match the color. The original creamy white paint was left as it was found even though some small areas of the plywood had split or splintered with small lost fragments. I don't have a problem with an 80 year-old house, showing its age, but I was truly grateful the original windows were all still intact as was the door knocker and boot scraper.

I apologize for the poor quality of this old picture that shows how my first Townhouse looked when I first brought it home. The house was quite dirty and dusty and a previous owner had made some modifications that I needed to undo. The master bedroom had been transformed into a sitting room, I think, with the addition of a green chintz fabric on the walls and popsicle stick wainscot glued to the walls. The Tynietoy corner cupboard was locked in place by the wainscot and the floor had been painted green with yellow and red spatter work. The curtains in the kitchen and room above appeared to be original Tynietoy textiles and I kept them while the other curtains seemed dubious and were eventually replaced. Notice that the doorways off the center hall never had doors and someone installed portiers in the open doorways. In this house, the back door is almost entirely behind the staircase - the location of that doorway can vary from one house to the next with some very centered and others not so much... All the doors and windows have dimension trims both inside and out - a feature that other houses sometimes lack. The ground floor fireplaces are built in place and feature hearthstones painted directly onto the floor, while the bedroom fireplace was a later addition.

My Townhouse with the missing chimney and shutters replaced. Original Tynietoy potted shrubs, sundial and benches are sited in front of the removable facade. There are three hooks on each side of the main part of the house and two on the kitchen ell. It has always seemed a little odd to me that the facade of the Townhouse features flat giant order Ionic columns at each end, and dimensional door trim while the Mansion presents a much flatter facade with the door details painted on instead.


A full set of photos of this Townhouse can be viewed further down this page, but I include an interior view here to show how the rear door is completely behind the staircase. The Model "A" house was sold with detailed interior door and window trims, but I added baseboards and cornices to my house a more formal feeling like a Colonial Mansion. And my house was wired for lighting at the factory. Lesser quality Townhouses may be found without wiring and with painted faux moldings and photos of other houses follow. 

Another "A" model house shows the original pale yellow paint color of the major rooms, and the painted floor of the kitchen. While the kitchen and bath in the Mansion was painted in a checkered painted finish, the Townhouse floor was usually painted green, sometimes solid, sometimes with red and yellow spattered effect. Lesser quality townhouses sometimes had a grey floor. In this house, the owner added built-in shelving to the kitchen. Note the position of the kitchen door is the reverse of the previous Model "A" house, and the rear door is centered in the back wall. Unlike the Mansion, most Townhouses do not have interior doors in the main part of the house, but often have doors to the kitchen ell.

My earliest Townhouse is a "B" model featuring exterior trim and shutters, and a combination of dimension window trim and painted door trim inside. The original exterior paint is very flat and white as opposed to the glossier ivory color of my later "A" model house. Also, the roof is painted Spanish brown, like my early Mansion. This house was purchased at a local auction house and was not correctly catalogued as a Tynietoy house, so I was able to acquire it for a very modest sum. Like my early Mansion, the interior floors do not have the nice finish of later houses.

The interior of my early Townhouse features walls painted flat ivory rather than the pale yellow seen in later houses. An interesting feature is the opening in the ceiling of the upper hallway providing access to the attic. In this example, the opening is framed with routed channels on each side to hold a sliding stained wooden hatch door that is quite ingenious. In later houses, they are usually just a plain rectangular opening. Although the interior windows are finished with trim, all the doorways are outlined in paint with the familiar turquoise paint.

Since the floors had a "dry" look, after cleaning them I applied and rubbed a thin coat of butcher's wax on them and they came up very nicely. This "B" model house came with original electrical wiring and I left all the walls as I found them rather than add the embellishments I had applied to my first Townhouse. I was amazed to realize I had enough spare furniture to decorate a second entire Townhouse when I got this one home!

This kitchen shows a bit of wear, particularly around the door. I made the red gingham curtains to match the ones that came with my first Townhouse. The painted door trim replicates a design used in Greek Revival homes from the early 19th century. The angled strip of wood in the right corner is not a cornice but actually a support for the room above.

The parlor, like the entry and dining room, features painted door trims with Georgian broken arch pediments, while the kitchen and upper rooms feature the more modest Greek Revival doorways. An unusual piece in the parlor is the secretary with mullioned doors - this piece is more often found with molded tombstone style doors and this example may be an earlier version as the finish is only stained with no varnish, like other early furniture. The simple lace panels are vintage ones that came with an even older dollhouse I used to own.

The bedroom contains some unusual Tynietoy accessories including the woolen blanket with silk binding, the blue glass vase decorated with painted flowers, and the washstand features a hand-painted German pot metal pitcher and bowl. Tynietoy imported these in a standard pewter finish and then painted them to look like china. Without a fireplace, this room lends itself to a layout where the bed can fit between the windows.

The blue painted cottage bedroom suite may be the most common bedroom set found. Not all the pieces in this set came together, and I made the mirror over the dresser. The felt carpet is quite unusual to find in a room-size like this one and the colors compliment the furniture and curtains. In this version of the Townhouse, the door to the bathroom/nursery is located closer to the middle of the wall than it was in my first Townhouse so there isn't even room to place a freestanding fireplace as I did in my other house, so the electrical wiring is left rather awkwardly exposed in the upper wall.

The room above the kitchen is usually decorated as a bathroom, and is shown that way in the catalogues, but I prefer to do it up as a nursery. This bedroom suite is an early one as you can tell from the style of the chair in the corner, and the decorative painting is so delicate - this was one of my favorite sets. The painted bench is also an early one that came with my purchase of a 1922 collection described on the site. The floor is painted a pretty blue slightly darker than the same room in my first Townhouse.

While some collectors might not like an early house like this because it is simpler, perhaps even more crude than later examples but I liked the simplicity of this house and felt it had acquired a certain dignity with its advanced age.

My last Townhouse was an "A" Model that had previously been displayed at the Marion Mahoney Museum in Ontario. I include it here to show you an example of a house that needed a lot of work to bring it back to its original dignified design. In this photo, you can observe that some of the side windows never had shutters - there are no nail holes in these window moldings to indicate that they once has shutters. The exterior was repainted but I think it needed it since I can see a lot of crackling under the repaint.

Pretty ghastly, right? Hard to believe this was in a museum in this condition. The partitions in the attic were added by the previous owner, as were the unattractive wall and window treatments. It was no simple job removing all that wallpaper because she applied with with massive amounts of PVA glue instead of wallpaper paste. She also removed the original electrical wiring an did a sloppy job of filling the routed channels in the ceilings with wallboard spackle that I had to dig out and redo. It was a dreadful project but worth the effort, I think. I hope you agree!

 I felt this house had been abused by its previous owner so after all that mess had been removed, I wanted to treat the house to cornices and baseboards. I did not have it for very long as it became a wonderful Christmas surprise for someone I knew just a few months after I got it. Do note that position of the kitchen door located nearer to the back of the house, unlike the previous two examples.

I characterize this example as a "C" model house. The fireplaces are placed on the rear wall and while the interior windows feature flat wooden trim, the door trims are painted on. It is not electrified. It is still a perfectly lovely house, but may date from a time when the company was struggling financially and looking for ways to economize a little. The fireplaces may be a sign that the house was never intended to be electrified - in "A" houses, the fireplaces are located on the side wall and conceal some of the wiring. Model "B" houses may also have simpler exterior details. This particular house features painted window trim on the exterior, including the shutters.

This view of the kitchen ell shows the simple exterior with its painted details. The condition is not the best, but it is still unmistakably Tynietoy. Other Model "C" houses I have seen include an example where the facades of the house were made from recycled packing crates with the original labelling still showing on the inside. Also some examples feature windows with no interior trim at all, just celluloid windowpanes nailed in place. Other houses may feature customized details like the one shown below:

In this example, someone has added parallel lines to indicate clapboard siding and also painted the shutters to look like louvered ones. Compared to what was done to the one at the Mahoney Museum, this modification doesn't really bother me at all and in fact, I find it rather sweet. I doubt it was customized at the factory. There are enough Townhouses out there that I think it is not the end of the world when someone makes modifications as charming as this one. I do remember once seeing a Mansion that someone had Victorianized with Eastlake-style gingerbread trim - that made me wince. And check out the chimneys.

In the 1970's, a man outside Atlanta built 12 Townhouse replicas for members of a local doll club. One ended up with a noted collector, Catherine Caldecott, but she died some years ago and her house has presumably moved on. I have seen a number of houses quite clearly inspired by this classic dollhouse including one with an ell on each side, one at the RI Historical Society, some on ebay and other auction sites, but they never have the same "presence" as an authentic house.


The Nantucket Cottage

The distinctive form of the Nantucket Cottage endears it to many collectors. The saltbox shape of the roof, the little entrance hall and the under stairs alcove lend a certain coziness and informality to this house. I have not seen very many authentic examples of this house, but I have encountered a few made by former Tynietoy employee Melville Davey and some clearly made from the plans published in The Ladies' Home Journal in December 1920. My own Nantucket Cottage is a replica, but the few authentic Nantucket houses have had five rooms while most replica houses have only four and seem to be based on the magazine plans. Some very early Tynietoy houses were built using 1/4" plywood but only for a few years. Most authentic houses from the busiest years of production were made with 3/8" plywood. Replica houses tend to be made of 1/4" plywood which was specified in the magazine plans. Mel Davey's replica houses seem a little clumsy to with awkwardly scaled doors and windows, poorly painted window muntins and oversized hinges. They just look a little off, somehow. He told some people that he made some of them while still in the employ of the company, which sounds a little problematic. I find most of his work was done in the 1970's after a surge of interest in Tynietoy appeared among collectors and in magazines, so I'm doubtful that he made Nantucket Cottages while he worked for Tynietoy.

The Nantucket Cottage as shown in the catalogue features a front door on the left wall, like the New Model House, and always came with the little garden in front. The removable front facades feature hand-painted hollyhocks that were most likely painted on the floor of the factory as opposed to the way the furniture was painted offsite.

This authentic example is probably from the earlier years of manufacture and the exterior trim is painted on. The facade has cracked with age but does not diminish it the house's appeal. Notice that the kitchen lean-to has a more shallow pitch than the rest of the house, with its own separate roof.

The front of the house displays an asymmetrical window arrangement, more hand-painted hollyhocks and the classic picket fence encloses the small garden. I can't look at this picture without imagining how delighted some little girl must have been to receive this house when it was new.

This view of the Cottage shows the delightful detail of a gutter where the lean-to connects to the main house, and the very rare green painted rain barrel positioned below. The hollyhocks are very quaint and paired with some sea-grass to remind us of Nantucket and Cape Cod.

This is an original glossy publicity photo from Tynietoy which I am using here because you can see the details of the interior despite the creases. The roof extends in one piece right over the kitchen lean-to and the door to the kitchen is sited in the middle of the dining room wall. The low end of the bathroom wall is about 4" high so it can still accommodate some items of furniture. In the four-room version of the house, that wall in only about an inch high. The enclosed staircase in obscured behind the parlor wall between the two arches. IN four-room houses, the dining room does not have a window in the back wall.

In this original Cottage, the kitchen door is placed to the rear of the dining room,. It took the owner of this house years to assemble a set of rare yellow Windsor chairs in the dining room. Note the ladder in the bedroom used to access a hatchway in the roof for access to the Captain's walk.

The parlor of this Nantucket Cottage shows the owner's determination to furnish the room as it was shown in the catalogue. I love the little Nantucket basket on the floor next to the settee. .

This vintage replica house was made by Mel Davey and was formerly displayed at the Delaware Toy and Miniatures Museum. Mel's wife, Elizabeth, painted the hollyhocks and from this picture you can see the overs-sized door hinges and how the window muntins are a little crudely painted.

The interior windows have no trim and are just nailed in place. All the floors are painted and the staircase banister in the bedroom is noticeably shorter than shown in the catalogue photos, with very simple post without caps. If you look closely at the way the room dividers are attached to the floors, you'll notice that Mel did not route out a channel for the walls to rest in but inserted a separate piece of channeled wood instead - he may not have owned a router. Also, the plywood used to construct this example is only 1/4" plywood - just like the plans in the LHJ article. This house sold for only about $600 at auction, plus premiums and tax.


A Homemade Nantucket Cottage

I built this house in the Spring of 2002. The design was based on the dimensions given in the original Tynietoy catalogues and also influenced by the design published in the December 1920 issue of the Ladies' Home Journal. Its construction was described in detail in my article published in Miniature Collector's August 2003 issue and I have altered some of the furnishings since the article was published. I used 3/8" finished plywood to construct my replica house so it would look more like the one pictured in the catalogues.

I purposely positioned this house in front of a window to allow natural light into the rooms, as this house is not electrified. Even though I usually keep the facade in place, the interior gets pretty dusty because it is just up the stairs from our wood stove (the bane of my housekeeping aspirations). I particularly enjoyed painting the hollyhocks on the exterior facades. The mural painted in the background of this room depicts a large stone farmhouse across the valley from me as it would have looked in the 19th century. If there weren't so many trees around me now, it would be my view right outside my window (it still has an apple orchard beside the house).

The interior is more fully furnished than it appeared in the magazine article. The Nantucket Cottage featured in the Ladies' Home Journal had only four rooms and houses built according to those plans seem to be more numerous than authentic Tynietoy houses! Since Tynietoy made such a variety of dining sets, I wanted to make sure my house had a dining room when I built it.

The parlor is accessorized with an authentic Tynietoy map of Nantucket with an appealingly yellowed old varnish. The alcove under the stairs can be a challenge to furnish and many collectors use it as place to tuck in a telephone table and chair. The bookcase I have placed within the space is an uncommon version with an open base rather than cupboard doors. The fireplace mantel is decorated with classic Tynietoy brass candlesticks and a pair of tiny hand-carved figurines of fishing folk.

For this photo, I removed the drop leaf table and Windsor chairs to show the butterfly table, small braided rug and pretty painted fire screen. The ladies are about to share tea. The photo below shows the table in close-up with its lovely patina and 1930's treenware tea set.

This unusual lady doll is dressed in her original costume consisting of billowing silk breeches, tall boots and a boyish tie - and yet, she is wearing earrings. I've never seen another doll like her. The ceramic bowl of fruit is by Debbie McKnight and the Windsor chairs came from the Mansion previously owned by Dorothy Dixon - I felt their informality was better suited to this cottage.

The dining room features a Rufus Porter style mural hand-painted on the three walls shown here. I assembled a set of seven painted ladder back chairs to arrange around the maple trestle table and I made the petit point carpet from a kit which has been discontinued. A large treenware soup tureen is centered on the table with additional pieces stacked on the table in the background.

A close-up view of the dining room's corner cupboard with original green-painted interior which has been decorated with vintage blue and white china - these pieces date to the late 1970's. The gravy boat was in my collection for thirty years before I acquired the other matching pieces with the Mansion.

The little Scottie dog was in my grandmother's house as far back as I can recall and is so evocative of the '40's when FDR's little dog Fala was so popular. I still haven't got around yet to making curtains for this house and perhaps I prefer them as they are. Simple white swags would probably look right.

The Nantucket Cottage has a rather small kitchen and I was challenged to furnish it realistically. The only Tynietoy pieces in here are the table and the pair of charming green Windsor chairs that came from the Mary Merritt Museum (possibly my favorite purchase from that auction). I used a Wisconsin Toy Co. Hoosier cabinet, an enameled tin stove and refrigerator and a sink I refurbished. The three little kittens drinking cream from a saucer are Vienna bronze.

The vintage German sink was originally much shorter so I replaced the legs. I could have put a Tynietoy sink here but I wanted something smaller to place in front of the window. The FW Gerlach cast metal steam iron still has its cord wrapped around its handle. I love the apple green paint on the vintage refrigerator.

Many collectors furnish this small room as a bathroom, but I chose to make it a second bedroom furnished with the Victorian spool bed and matching dresser and stand. The orange Windsor chair is from the Delaware Toy and Miniatures Museum.

I just love the sweet expression on the face of this little Hertwig toddler doll, and her little jump suit.

The low wall on the right side of this room seemed perfect for displaying vintage Erzgebirge toys and a smaller scale tin stove makes a good plaything as well.

The master bedroom displays my first Tynietoy canopy bed and I painted the walls a robin's egg blue to coordinate with its fabric. The bedside table is the hard-to-find stand from the furnishings designed for a maid's room and has a painted maple finish.

From this angle, the viewer can appreciate the very rare ribbon-back chair and the light maple highboy and chest of drawers. The highboy was from Herb Hosmer's Mansion. The hooked scatter rugs are by Chestnut Hill and are slightly out of scale but lend a cozy atmosphere.

The bureau displays a tiny gold pin with an equally tiny photograph inside it - perfectly scaled for a dresser top, and a tiny antique wooden penny doll is seated beside it to create a sweet vignette. The cushion on the wing chair was made from an old embroidered hanky with vintage lace trim added.

The chair below is the very rare ribbon-backed side chair, copied from a set of such chairs at Mt. Vernon and offered in later catalogues as a special order. I've seen only two others. The intricately carved back of this chair is typical of the artistry of George LeClerc.




After the magazine article was published, a fellow collector used my drawings to make his own Nantucket Cottage, with some modifications. Here is how his turned out:

He hasn't added the hollyhocks to the front, but did add a back door to the kitchen and I like the way he painted the doors blue on his house.

The owner's photo shows a painted dado in the dining room and a rare set of maid's bedroom furniture upstairs. When I built my own house, my husband cut out a second set of pieces so I could make another house to sell. Before I could put it together, another collector bought the pieces from me but asked me to paint another mural in the dining room before I shipped it to her. She purchased a Mel Davey Nantucket Cottage at an auction so she eventually sold the pieces to yet another collector and I'm still hoping to see how that one turns out. I've also wondered if there are any more replica houses out there made from the plans in my article - if you have one, please contact me! 


The Village House

In some ways, the Village House is the least interesting of all the Tynietoy houses while also being one of the rarest. I know of only 5 authentic examples but I imagine there are others out there that have escaped notice because they are less interesting and recognizable than other houses. With only four very basic rooms and a very simple, unrealistic-looking staircase, I can imagine potential customers comparing this house to others and then finding some other option more desirable. The exterior is severe in its simplicity without any sidelights or transoms to distinguish the doors and the roofline is also quite basic. I've never seen or heard of an example with rear windows so the interiors are comparatively bland.


The catalogue photo shows the removable front facade and the side door with an arbor. The right side of the house has two windows below and one above and the back is solid. In the color photograph, the original yellow ochre color is visible and the doors are rich blue. This example features dimensional trim pieces painted white and the classic white chimney trimmed in black.

The former owner of this house thought it might have been assembled from a kit as he found some components to be a bit rough, but the catalogues never mentioned that it was available as a kit. It was a comparatively inexpensive house priced at only $28.50 in the 1930's when the Nantucket Cottage was $50 and the Townhouse was $98.

Another drawback to this house is the lack of a dining room - Tynietoy made so many different styles of dining room sets. It seems a shame to try to squeeze any sort of dining area into the two ground floor rooms and when people try to, it makes the small house look even more cramped than it already looks. So the room to the right is invariably furnished as an eat-in kitchen and the other room with the staircase serves as a parlor. The open area under the stairs is awkward and the catalogue photo suggests placing a bookcase there but I think the Astor piano looks better in that dark corner of the room....

The top of the stairs open into a room the same size as the parlor and the stairs face the doorway into the smaller room that is sometimes furnished as a bathroom. The second floor rooms are open to the roof ridge and that helps to make them feel a little more spacious than they really are. This house is only 28" wide - a Townhouse is just over 48" wide! Someone with limited space would find this house a lot easier to accomodate! Thank you to Les Payne for his photos. (6.15.2015)


Still to come: The South County Farmhouse and The Blue Door House as well as Gardens, Garages and other structures.

An Unusual Tynietoy Fireplace

Among the archival Tynietoy papers and photographs I acquired last year were several copies of this photograph showing a fireplace with unusual decorative mouldings. The other Tynietoy items in the photo are all familiar from the catalogues, although the lamp is a less common electrified version (more about that later). The fireplace I've posed in front of the photo was removed from a vintage Massachusetts dollhouse later moved to California that had been furnished with Tynietoy and other vintage furniture. The owner damaged it in removing it from the wall where it had been attached and the rear of the firebox was still painted black on the wall, so it never had a paper or cardboard backing. This fireplace is unusual in that it is stained rather than painted, it has an applied composition decorative molding and it lacks a marbleized or brick painted face around the firebox. Also, the hearth base has a brick-textured finish which may have been added by a later owner, although I see no earlier finish in the areas where the texturing has chipped off. It is the same basic size as a Tynietoy fireplace, it has the distinctive stepped mantel and it has routed fluting on each side that matches that found in some fireplaces built into later Tynietoy houses. I suspected it was Tynietoy when it came in the box with all the furnishings I bought from that house and when I later found this photo documenting an authentic fireplace with applied composition decoration, I felt more comfortable attributing this unique fireplace to Tynietoy. (2.6.09)


Tynietoy Floor Lamps

A short note about Tynietoy's proprietary wooden floor lamps. They were made in at least two versions: one was electrified and the other, which is far more common, was not. The non-electrified lamp stand was turned from a single piece of wood and finished in what Tynietoy catalogues listed as a mahogany stain (but the effect is more like walnut) or painted - often black but also in other colors such as Chinese red or gold. The electrifed lamp is shown in the photo on the left next to a copy of an original Tynietoy archival drawing dated 1927 that shows how the lamp was assembled from four separately turned components so that the interior could be hollowed out for the wiring. The lamp shown here is made from hardwood, which would have made it stonger to withstand the drilling of the interior. The lamp shade frames are very similar, with an opening in the center for the electric light bulb in the electrified version. Frames were also sometimes made from solid pieces of metal, much like the lid of a small tin can, nailed directly to the base. The electrified lamp was priced originally at $1.75 and later $1.85 in the catalogues while the non-electrified version remained at $1.00. Tynietoy lamps are moderately difficult to find and were sometimes subject to damage in vulnerable spots. When they are missing their shades, they are sometimes mistaken for coat racks by some vendors! (2.8.09)


Dating Tynietoy Houses and Furniture


There are distinct differences and subtle variations that can help collectors estimate the relative age of their Tynietoy houses and furnishings. The features discussed in the following paragraphs are based on my personal observations and on painstaking research conducted by long-time collector Letty Schwartz, who personally researched Providence city directories and interviewed former Tynietoy employees. In recent years, several individuals have published her research in magazines and on-line without properly crediting her – that's not happening here! The generalizations made here are just that, and there are almost guaranteed to be exceptions. But if your Tynietoy house or furniture displays several of the characteristics described here, you should feel comfortable assigning a probable date.  With houses, construction methods and paint finishes provide the clues.


The most commonly found Tynietoy house is the New England Townhouse. Earlier versions of this house (as well as the Mansion) feature a fairly bright white painted exterior with a chalky matte finish, almost like a primer coat, with the roof painted a dull Spanish brown or battleship grey. The kitchen wing is sometimes built as a separate structure that can be removed from the main part of the house by unscrewing small joining plates on the back of the house. Inside, the door trim is usually outlined with blue or turquoise paint, and the fireplaces may or may not have a chimney breast. The opening in the second floor ceiling for access to the attic features a sliding panel, which is usually absent in later houses. Side windows may not have exterior shutters at all and inside, the window trim is often fashioned from flat strips of wood with no contour, if they are present at all. The floors are stained a nut brown with a rather flat finish. Early multi-paned window sashes were hand-painted, and looked it, while the later houses benefited from a silk-screening production method and are uniform in appearance.


During the Depression, Tynietoy struggled to survive and some of the houses from that period seem to have been made from inferior materials. I have seen such a house where the inside of the removable front façade showed evidence that it had been made from recycled packing crates.


The later Townhouses and Mansions have a creamy hard enamel paint finish on the exterior and usually have a green or blue-green roof. Contoured interior door and window moldings probably date to later years of production, but they may be found on some early houses as well. I find that later houses also seem to weigh a bit more than early houses. Some early houses vary from the standard 3/8" thick walls with interior walls or floors made from ¼" plywood and are thus lighter in weight. The floors of later houses are finished with a warmer reddish brown stain or a lighter maple stain and more highly polished varnish.


The Nantucket Cottage can be confusing because apparently quite a few of them were made from the plans published in the November 1920 issue of The Ladies' Home Journal, and some were also made by former Tynietoy employee Mel Davey over the course of many years – in fact, most of the Nantucket houses I have encountered are Mel Davey products. One should expect an authentic Tynietoy house to be constructed of good quality 3/8” plywood, whereas the copies were usually made from ¼” plywood. Also, amateur copies frequently use over-sized hinges on the doors. Tynietoy apparently made some larger variations of the five-room cottage shown in the catalogues, perhaps as custom orders.


Aside from a few documented custom houses, perhaps the rarest of Tynietoy houses is the New Model house, which it's believed was introduced after around 1930. Few authentic examples are known to exist; at least one facsimile example has been produced by dollhouse restorer Jim Reus.


Many variations and differences distinguish early Tynietoy furniture from later examples. Among the most obvious characteristics are examples made from ¼" plywood, with little or no effort made to disguise the exposed alternating grain. Plywood furniture feels heavier than later pieces, which were primarily made from a northern New England softwood called lignum vitae, although some special pieces were made from mahogany. Early unpainted furniture was finished with a dull brown stain and usually left unvarnished, creating a somewhat unfinished appearance that some collectors find unappealing. (Plywood continued to be used for parts of the Empire style tables that were offered in the Victorian line of furniture.) Early fireplaces featured flat wood pieces with faux paneling indicated with the same blue paint used in the house interiors, while later fireplaces have carved molding along the sides.


Tynietoy's creators were very proud of their enterprise and went to some trouble to register their trademark and label their products to differentiate them from their competitors both domestic and foreign, so most early items should display a paper label or show some evidence that a label was once glued in place. Of course, items like rush-seat chairs and sewing stands didn't really have an appropriate place to affix a label, so there's nothing to look for there. A paper label on furniture usually means an item was produced before 1925. In the collection I acquired that was documented from 1922, all the furniture displayed paper labels, but the turned wooden candlesticks actually had navy blue ink-stamped trademarks underneath, so the ink stamp was used quite early on. The paper labels were printed on a cheap acidic paper that darkened with time; they should be almost the color of a paper grocery bag. I would be suspicious of a bright white paper label on anything. 

The Tynietoy paper label features a small "o" suspended above the baseline for the other letters. It is not spelled with an "s" at the end. The paper labels are often very brittle and some loss in not uncommon.

The ink stamp, which predominates for furniture between roughly 1925 and 1930, is spelled the same way as the paper labels. The stamp was also used for many years on the backs of mirrors and paintings. Usually black ink was used, but I have seen examples where dark blue ink was used and, on some very dark pieces, white, yellow and orange ink appears.

In 1930, an employee named C.I. Hayes created a die for an incised stamp that was used on larger pieces. Now the trademark was spelled with an "s" on the end, and the "o" is the same size as the other letters. More delicate items such as mirrors and pictures continued to be marked with the old ink stamp.

After the company underwent restructuring in the late 1930's, another die was created to indicate that the trademark had been patented and registered in Providence RI. They also returned to the original spelling of the company, without the "s" at the end. This is the stamp that was used through the war years until the demise of the company around 1952.

Another paper label that is occasionally encountered is for the Toy Furniture Shop, Tynietoy's retail outlet in Providence. This example, partially obscured by green paint, is from the underside of a garden bench. I have seen dubious examples of this label on some questionable items - beware!

One of the few pieces of furniture made from mahogany was the tilt-top table, which should have this paper label affixed under the top. This table is from the Mt. Vernon collection, inspired by the widely celebrated bicentennial of the first President's birth in 1932.


Finishes on the furniture can also help to date it. Tynietoy's artistic consultant, Sidney Burleigh, was reputed to have re-designed the furniture line around 1923 and at that time, we may suppose the finishes were improved from the matte look of the early years. These later 1920's - early 1930's pieces with ink stamps have the nice warm patina that appeals to many Tynietoy collectors. There may have been some difficulties procuring quality finishing products during the Depression, and these problems worsened with the onset of WWII, when the military effort took priority in acquiring materials and chemical products. Furniture from the war years suffered from shortages of things such as quality lacquers. Also, zinc and brass were reserved for military use so the andirons and candlesticks made of copper probably date to that period.


Toward the last years of production, a deep mahogany stain with an almost purple cast was sometimes used, notably on the Victorian pieces and the card table. Larger pieces appear to have been painted with the aid of a mechanical sprayer for the base coat, or even dipped in paint, but the decoration was always hand-painted. Stencils were used for painting the lattice patterns on the walls of the gardens and may have been used for some other things. Painted finishes remained fairly standard through the years.  (11.21.08)



Tynietoy Banjo Clocks

One of theTynietoy products that evidenced distinct design changes over time was the Simon Willard banjo clock. The earliest version I have seen comes from the collection I purchased this past summer which has been documented to 1922, when it was priced at $1.50. The design was presumably based on an authentic antique but is somewhat crudely rendered.

This earliest clock features a deep case of solid wood painted black with hand-painted panels on both the bottom pendulum case and on the sides. The paper clock face reads seven minutes past eight o'clock. Both the finial and the scrolls on each side are made of gilded wood and there is no bottom finial. The pastoral scenes on the painted panels are executed in a rather indistinct manner.

Another early clock, this example features a differently turned finial and now the side scrollwork is executed in a lightweight cast gilded metal. The clock is stained a warm mahogany color and there is no additional decorative paint on the sides, but the painting on the front is done more nicely. The basic shape is the same as the 1922 example, with the same clock face.

This is a shop drawing from a collection of Tynietoy archival material I purchased in 2008, showing the redesign of the clock probably executed around 1923. It is based not on an authentic antique, but apparently copied from a reproduction full-size clock offered in a commercial catalogue included in these archives - I'm trying to get a decent photograph of this catalogue listing. The design of the newer version is more refined and accurately scaled.
Three examples of later clocks. The first one features a hand-painted representation of Mt. Vernon, the second is a fairly common example with a hand-painted eagle. The last example with its slightly modified shape features a hand-painted marine scene and dates from the end of production - the wood is stained a sort of purplish mahogany. The scrolls are all made from stamped brass while the eagles, which have replaced the turned wooden finials, are cast metal with a gilt finish. Now the clock reads the typical 10:15.

The Chestnut Hill clock has a very similar shape, but the clock face is smaller, the neck is wider and the hand-painted scene is executed on a piece of paper glued to the wooden body. Also, the clock is constructed in two pieces, rather than one, the clock face is covered with a bezel and brass trim, and the ornamental scroll-work is noticeably different and was improvised from cast metal jewelry findings.
I have seen some clocks where an owner has drilled a small hole in the back of the clockface to mount it on a nail, but the usual method of hanging is a twisted loop of wire attached to the back of the clock with brown paper. The wire is frequently missing on the clocks today and one often finds clocks with enormous wads of tacky wax on the back, or evidence that the clock was glued directly to a painted or papered surface. When I find this, I scrape off what I can to get down to the bare wood and then I make a paper hanger for the back, similar to a gummed reinforcement you can buy at the stationer's for reinforcing papers that have been 3-hole punched. A tiny amount of wax toward the bottom of the clock case can help keep the clock from shifting out of alignment once it has been hung on the wall.  (11/8/08)

A Gambrel - Roof Colonial Furnished with Tynietoy


This is the vintage dollhouse my husband bought for me at a local auction house a couple of years ago. I was attracted to it at the preview because I do have a thing about gambrel-roofed houses and this one was roomy enough to furnish with some of the Tynietoy furniture I had been accumulating in storage boxes. I felt it would be a nice companion to the Tynietoy houses that are displayed in the mural room and I did some alterations to help it look the part. The roof had been covered with over-scaled shingles made from old wooden Venetian blinds and I removed those to leave the roof with a flat surface like the Tynietoy houses. The shutters were nailed to the house but were stained the same brown as the shingles, so I removed them and painted them green. All the curtains are original to the house but I did launder them as they were almost black with dirt!

The front entry is comprised of a rather narrow hallway and an elaborately constructed staircase that runs all the way up to the attic level. The parlor is through the door to the right, the dining room is to the left and the kitchen is behind the dining room with doorways to both the dining room and the hallway. When I got the house, the doorway trim was made from old mahogany cigar box wood and stained quite dark, so I decided to lighten the dark, unlit interiors a bit by painting the trim. I also added baseboards, cornices, and in the parlor, a chair rail, all made from classic, slightly over-scaled lumberyard moldings rather than modern day dollhouse moldings which I felt would be too perfectly scaled for this homemade house. I left the hallways and parlor with their original painted surfaces.

The parlor is furnished with Tynietoy Victorian furniture including a settee, armchair and several side chairs. The "upholstery" is painted black, which is the most commonly found color for this set but it can also be found painted dark green. The table in the center of the room has a tabletop painted with a faux marble effect, and the grand piano is painted with a faux rosewood finish. The banjo clock on the rear wall is an early version, and the blue painted firescreen came from Herb Hosmer's Tynietoy Mansion after his death. 

Sorry for the poor focus in this room - it is quite deep and my camera tends to auto-focus toward the front and I'm still too lazy to focus it myself! But I did want to point out a detail on the early demil-lune table in the front of the room. Later tables were made from a single piece of wood turned on a lathe and then cut in half. This early table is constructed with a separate top and small curved pieces are attached underneath forming the apron. I prefer the earlier tables because the later ones tend to warp and draw the legs inward. The fireplace in this house is a vintage homemade one found in a Quakertown, PA antiques shop and features nicely tapered Doric columns in the front.

The cozy dining room is a bit small and square, so the Tynietoy Victorian table has been positioned with the long leaves down. The kitchen is visible through the doorway in the rear and retains its original wallpaper. The original paper in the dining room was stained and unattractive so I replaced it with this vintage English full-size wallpaper I bought at a car boot sale in Worcestershire nine years ago. Some of my ebay customers may recognize the paper as that used as a backdrop in my earlier sales. I love it and I wish I had bought the other roll that was offered too, but I never thought I'd use so much of it that I'd need two rolls. I like how this room is decorated in muted shades of gold, tan and brown. The chandelier is a vintage homemade one that uses old costume jewelry for the globes.

The kitchen is a small room located directly behind the dining room and is accessed by removing a panel from he side of the house. When I first acquired the house, this entire side and the front came off, leaving the corner of the house awkwardly exposed, so I cut the side panel in half and attached one half permanently, leaving the removable half for access to the kitchen and bathroom above it. This room retains its original vintage wallpaper which I found very appropriate. Since I seldom open this side of the house, it is furnished with only one piece of Tynietoy (the chair), and the other pieces are a mixture of vintage German and American pieces.

The upstairs hallway is long and narrow like the entry, and is furnished with a colorful orange Windsor armchair with a Mt. Vernon settee against the back wall. There are no windows in the back of the house and the exterior of the back was left unfinished. I sometime think of adding windows in the back to help lighten the spaces, particularly since the layout of the rooms is more realistic than most Tynietoy houses. I sometimes wonder how many homemade dollhouses are out there with staircases made of old mahogany cigar box wood - I know I've seen lots of them!

The pale green wallpaper is a discontinued Laura Ashley pattern I bought in a sale bin in Worcester, yet it has a New England feeling to me. The canopy bed is another piece from Herb Hosmer's Tynietoy Mansion and the Tynietoy crib has an unusual stained finish rather than a typical painted one. The needlepoint carpet in this room was made from an old pillow cover found for $5 at a street fair and trimmed with green satin ribbon to fit this room. It is a little bulky but suits the character of this home-made house.

I'm quite fond of this small guest room which was originally a little bigger, but I brought the rear wall forward two inches because it bisected a side window. The pretty wallpaper is actually a recent scrap-booking paper sourced from a local craft shop. I often look for dollhouse restoration and decorating materials when I shop for other things. The mirror over the cottage dresser is not Tynietoy, but marked by another New England maker and the framed print over the bed is very similar to a Wallace Nutting print and is the same vintage. The bathroom is configured like the kitchen below, with access from this room as well as the hallway.

The bathroom's original wallpaper was also unattractive and since I moved the wall on the right (and forgot to paint the ceiling afterwards), I papered this room with another small scale Laura Ashley paper, left over from decorating my real guestroom's bath. You can see all the way through the doorway to the master bedroom. The German painted cupboard on the right holds linens.

The attic is divided into two rooms which I have reserved for the children. The carpet is another needlepoint pillow cover, and a long-coveted Tynietoy blanket chest is placed up here. I have used some other vintage non-Tynietoy furniture, including the German table for the vintage miniature German kitchen roombox. The reclining kitten on the rocker was in my grandmother's house when I was a little girl.

This close-up shows the amount of detail in this vintage toy kitchen which measures about 2" across! The wallpaper in this room is full-scale paper from the 1970's I've had for ages.

The other attic bedroom is papered with old drawer liner paper (helps this dollhouse smell nice when the front comes off) and contains a German four-poster bed with rope stringing and a related ladderback chair. This type of painted furniture often appears in old Tynietoy collections and was probably available for purchase in the Toy Furniture Shop, but it is not Tynietoy. The German crystal radio set is also a popular item in Tynietoy houses. All the yellow painted furniture came from the eighty-year-old woman whose Tynietoy collection was shown on the Antiques Roadshow two years ago in Providence, while the fuzzy bear on wheels is a not very old Hallmark Christmas ornament! The boys, like the other dolls in the house, are from Dorothy Dixon's collection.

Since Tynietoy houses are rare and not always affordable, I was happy to find a homemade dollhouse with a lot of character to provide a showcase for furniture that might otherwise remain unseen in a storage box. And since it is not exactly a museum piece, I felt comfortable doing some remodeling and more aggressive redecorating than I would in an authentic Tynietoy house. I had a great deal of fun and satisfaction fixing up this house and building on the character that was already so apparent to me in a dimly lit auction hall.  10/9/08

The Rising Sun Chair

When the Constitutional Convention met at Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, George Washington sat in an unusual mahogany chair during the three months her presided over the Federal Convention's continuous sessions. James Madison kept meticulous notes of the proceedings and they have been preserved. On Monday, September 17th, Madison wrote: 

Whilst the last members were signing [the Constitution] Doctr. FRANKLIN looking towards the Presidents Chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that Painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun. I have said he, often and often in the course of the Session, and the vicisitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.

The original chair was made by John Folwell in 1779 and has been revered by generations of Americans for its historical importance and its unusual design. A miniature replica of the chair and the desk with which it was paired were made in limited numbers by Tynietoy in a scale somewhat larger than 1:12, and similar in scale to the Sophia Smith chair. Ann Meehan recalls that perhaps ten years ago a number of them were offered for sale at Freeman's auction house in Philadelphia, but not identified as Tynietoy. I encountered the chair and desk offered on ebay about five years ago but the reserve was never met, and at the time, I did not know Tynietoy had made them and the seller apparently was equally ignorant.

The replica is made of mahogany and upholstered in fine red leather with small nails, very similar to the original. A cartoonish rising sun is painted on the crest.

I recently purchased this very rare chair when I attended an auction in Canada. The entire collection of the Mildred Mahoney Dolls' House Museum was offered with the furniture still inside all the dollhouses and roomboxes. This chair was in a large contemporary roombox and was identified as a Rising Sun chair, but not identified as Tynietoy. Another American bidder gave me some competition for it, but I still managed to attain it for what I consider a reasonable sum, particularly since the roombox also contained a fine Gerald Crawford library step-chair and other items of interest. The sale was not conducted with internet bidding, so few Tynietoy collectors even knew it was available.

Tynietoy archival measured drawings, beautifully executed, capture all the details that appear on the original chair. The drawings indicate the scale was 1.5 inches to the foot.

In at least one catalogue (probably from later production years), the chair was illustrated with the desk. At the time, the chair sold for $8.50 and the desk for $6.50. By comparison, a canopied bed was $4.75 and oil paintings were $4.50.

The same waves of patriotic sentiment that fueled the Colonial Revival movement also  inspired the designs that Tynietoy produced during the 1920's and 1930's. Tynietoy created a special lampshade to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Betsy Ross designing the American flag in 1776 (as was believed by most if not all Americans in 1926) and they similarly honored the bicentennial of George Washington's birth in 1932 by producing framed pictures of our first President and mailing them to some of their customers as a gift. The Mt. Vernon collection probably dates to this same period and it seems highly possible that the firm marked the sesquicentennial of the Constitution in 1937 by creating these pieces.

In any case, this rare chair, highly sought after by Tynietoy collectors, makes a fine companion to my set of three Sophia Smith chairs, although for the moment, I have it paired with a mahogany table in the library of my Mystery House! (8.25.10)


NOT Tynietoy!


I'm often saddened to see many items listed for sale on ebay, or offered at shows, that are represented as Tynietoy when in fact they are not. Sometimes the seller is merely uninformed, but the sad fact is that some people just think they can get more money for an item by calling it Tynietoy. I think perhaps the most egregious example I've seen on ebay was someone identifying a plastic Chrysnbon Windsor chair as a rare Tynietoy chair, and some bidders took the bait, pushing the price upwards to triple digits. In another case, I emailed a seller when I saw that the andirons he was offering on ebay were similar but not authentic, and he replied that he had been assured by the "highly reputable" dealer he bought them from, that they were indeed Tynietoy and he had paid something like $65 for them, so they had to be authentic! Over the years I've seen misattributions and outright frauds, and I feel bad for new collectors coming into this field and being victimized. So I'm compiling some examples of things that are commonly misidentified and will share them from time to time.

Perhaps the most common mistaken attributions are when people buy Chestnut Hill or Lynnfield pieces thinking they are Tynietoy. When I submitted my article about Chestnut Hill furniture to Miniature Collector Magazine, I included several photos with lengthy captions comparing the similarities and differences between Chestnut Hill and Tynietoy, only to see the article published with my photos reduced to the size of postage stamps and the captions omitted entirely in the interest of conserving space. I was so disappointed as I had hoped those photos would do a real service to collectors. Another issue is the German furniture that was reputed to have been sold by The Toy Furniture Shop, Tynietoy's retail outlet. Certainly this furniture mingled happily with authentic Tynietoy furniture in dollhouses of that period, but I feel it should be identified as a distinctly different product from Tynietoy.

It didn't help any when Miniature Collector published an article about a Tynietoy collection that included a prominent photo of a Lynnfield painted trestle table and benches erroneously identified as Tynietoy. Magazine articles are not necessarily a reliable source of instruction, nor are some books often cited as references. It often seems that as soon as a book about antique or vintage dollhouses is off the presses, new discoveries render some of the text obsolete and erroneous, and the price guidelines are virtually meaningless for reasons well known to experienced collectors. The best education probably comes from seeing things in person, preferably in the helpful company of more experienced collectors - that's how I learned!

The Tynietoy andirons on the left should be easy to identify by the small round finial on top, the slender tapered shape and the overall crispness of the turnings. The andirons on the right are frequently offered on ebay and at shows identified as Tynietoy. Both are made of turned brass, are heavy to hold in the hand, but the Tynietoy andirons are obviously more refined.

Authentic Tynietoy candlesticks on the left include silver-plated examples from my New England Townhouse, the commonly found brass example and a painted wooden example which was available in many colors. I own several black ones, and over the years have owned them in white, yellow, apple green and red, as well as stained ones. The pink is one of a pair from the 1922 collection I acquired last summer and is actually ink-stamped with a portion of the Tynietoy logo under the base. The non-Tynietoy examples on the right include a diminutive product of Clare-Bell Brassworks (who also make candlesticks with square bases and used to offer silver-plated examples as well), two over-scaled and mass-produced brass candlesticks with hollow bases dating from the 1950-70's which I have seen offered more than once on ebay as Tynietoy, and a heavy cast brass one I found in England. The silver-plated candlesticks were black with tarnish when I found them and required multiple applications of silver polish to clean them up.

The brass fenders shown above are all Tynietoy, and may be found bent into different widths and depths. One distinctive attribute of all three is the rolled base on each one. The brass accessories such as the andirons, candlesticks and fenders were made specifically for Tynietoy following their own specifications, presumably in the Providence RI area. According to former Tynietoy employee Joseph Venable (when interviewed by researcher Letty Schwartz), an employee or contractor named Bruno Wasberg made the andirons. Virtually all the gray metal accessories listed in the Tynietoy catalogues (such as coffee urns, dinner gongs, chafing dishes, etc.) were imported from Germany's F.W. Gerlach and sold by many other retail outlets besides Tynietoy. Some collectors do not class them as Tynietoy accessories, even though Tynietoy packaged many of them in their distinctive little green boxes. I would suggest that it is important to make the distinction between the very high quality accessories that were exclusive to Tynietoy and the mass-produced German items, many of which may never have passed through Providence.

The Nantucket map on the the left is an authentic Tynietoy accessory while the very derivative example on the right is from Chestnut Hill. Sorry about the glare in the photo - the map is varnished to protect the delicate hand-painted watercolors enhancing the Tynietoy map, and gives it an enviable antique look. The Tynietoy version is mounted between two square-edged pieces of painted wood while the Chestnut Hill example uses stained dowels for the edging. This is just one of several Chestnut Hill items very closely copied from Tynietoy. Other copied items were mantel and banjo clocks, pictures, demi-lune tables and fireplaces.

These painted chairs with turned components are German and were available in a number of colors including pink, mustard yellow (as shown), apple green, aqua blue, white, black and a dark wood stain. I've also seen a two-seater settee in this style. They mix easily with Tynietoy furnishings and may even have been sold by the Toy Furniture Shop, but were not offered in the catalogues. The same may be said of the bed, cheval mirror and variety of chests that often accompany these pieces.

The chair in the center of this photo is Tynietoy with a faux painted maple finish. It is from the collection previously owned by Dorothy Dixon and I have encountered only one other Tynietoy chair like it. The chair on the left is made of walnut, is slightly larger than 1" scale, and seems to be from the same manufacturer as the Windsor chair discussed below. The chair on the right is a frequently encountered mass-produced souvenir "Facsimile of the chair brought over on the Mayflower by John Carver, first Governor of the Plymouth Colony" as stated on the paper label affixed to the bottom of the seat, which is made of textured paper as opposed to the woven seats of the other two chairs. Flora Gill Jacobs referred to this last chair as an "Exposition" chair, presumably offered as a souvenir at the Columbian Exposition of 1893. I believe it was probably sold at several venues over a number of years.

Which one is Tynietoy? When I found the chair on the left, it was the first thing I unwrapped in a box tucked away under a table in Flora Gill Jacobs' basement. Yes, at first I thought it might be a rare Tynietoy Windsor chair, but it is made of walnut, feels heavier than the authentic chair on the right, and then I noticed the thickness of the identically shaped plank seat. There are subtle differences among authentic chairs, and many Tynietoy chairs have legs carved like the one on the left (see the chairs in the Mansion's kitchen, in the archive). Had I not found this chair packed with other pieces that were clearly NOT Tynietoy but obviously from the same manufacturer, I might not have figured it out until I put it next to the real McCoy. Who made all this walnut furniture, some of it so similar to Tynietoy? I've discussed it with other collectors who have encountered it and we think it might have been American-made souvenir furniture for an historical site or museum gift shop. It is not marked Germany, and one can't help but wonder if Tynietoy's craftsmen knew about these virtual copies back in the day... 

Could anyone confuse the crudely constructed 1970's Shackman chair on the right with an authentic Tynietoy chair, shown left? I don't mean to offend my readers' intelligence by showing these two chairs side by side for comparison, but I was shocked and saddened to see a set of four Shackman chairs and a Shackman drop-leaf table offered for sale as Tynietoy at the Allentown antique toy show a few years ago. I'd seen the dealer buy them in a box lot at a Rhoads auction a year earlier, and when they re-appeared in Allentown, they'd been painted red and green, and brand new Toy Furniture Shop paper labels had been glued to their bottoms (printed off a computer or photocopied, I don't know - it felt sickening simply holding them in my hand). The same dealer also offered several pictures that had been newly framed with cornice moldings manufactured today by Northeastern Scale Models, also with new labels on the backs. I think that sort of blatant fraud is indeed offensive to one's intelligence, and it's pathetic that anyone would try to take advantage of inexperienced collectors that way.

I'll be posting more photos and welcome additional photos from anyone else who'd like to share stories of mis-identified Tynietoy, intentional and otherwise.

A Tynietoy New England Townhouse

This is the first Tynietoy house in my collection. It came to me at a troubled time and provided a welcome escape as I restored and decorated it. In the autumn of 2001, the Dollhouse Factory in Lebanon, NJ was preparing to close after being in business for over 25 years. In addition to liquidating the contents of the shop, the owners brought down from the attic a collection of antique and vintage dollhouses that had been stored there, awaiting the day when they might be part of a museum related to the shop. Many things were damaged by dampness, covered with dust and bore evidence of rodent habitation. Among the dollhouses that I discovered during a routine visit, was this Tynietoy house and there was no price tag on it. I spoke to one of the owners who said she had to speak to her husband to determine the price and she'd let me know. Aware that someone else could swoop in and offer a ridiculously high price for it, I obtained a promise from her that I would be first in line for the house once they decided the price. I made a total pest of myself calling the shop daily for over a week until she was able to offer it to me for just under $2000. Her husband wanted more for it but because I was a long-time customer, she persuaded him to let me have it for what I considered a very reasonable price. I later learned there were other interested parties and she'd had to deflect other offers while keeping it safe for me. I was so grateful for this preferential treatment, I offered to work in the shop gratis for the last two weeks of operation to help her price the other dollhouses and some antique and vintage furniture that had also been in storage. She was overwhelmed with all that had to be done in those last days and was grateful for the assistance.  As readers of my first article in Miniature Collector may recall, I also purchased my large Gottschalk house at the same time, with some prodding from husband.

When I first got the house, it was missing most of its shutters and one chimney, but retained all its windows, doors and the front stoop with original bootscraper. I made replacement shutters from old cigar box wood and computer-matched the color using one of the surviving shutters. I elected to do nothing to the worn areas of the plywood facade as they represent honest wear.

This house is what some call a "deluxe" Townhouse, and what I refer to as an "A" model with applied wooden moldings around the doors and windows, electrification, and dimensional wooden shutters. The "B" model typically has painted moldings which may have broken arch pediments indicated over the ground floor doorways, and still has dimensional shutters, while the "C" model has the least amount of detail with painted moldings and shutters simply painted onto the exterior. All of the house I have seen with fireplaces placed on the back wall have been "C" model houses. There are variations between these three versions (one can never categorically use the words "always" or "never" when describing Tynietoy products!). Sometimes the kitchen door is located toward the back of the left hand wall rather than toward the front as in this example. And the back door seems to float around between different models. Mine is almost directly under the stairs while others are located more centrally on the back wall. This same variation also occurs with the Mansion.

The entrance hall was in fine condition when I got the house, but I did add baseboard and cornice moldings to some of the rooms as the door molding looked odd to me without accompanying baseboards. I believe townhouses are plentiful enough that I don't need to treat mine like a museum treasure and preserve it as found. The interior of the house had been aggressively redecorated at some point in the past, so I felt comfortable removing what had been done by others and customizing it to my taste while attempting to stay true to the Colonial Revival style I remembered so well from my grandmother's Connecticut home built in 1938. The needlepoint bell pull on the left was in the house when I purchased it, so I've kept it. The unusual Chippendale chair in the background has the same cabriole legs and construction techniques as Tynietoy chairs, but is probably an unsigned piece by George LeClerc.

Some of my favorite pieces found their way into the parlor, including a handsome needlepoint carpet from John and Ellen Krucker Blauer's Maynard Manor, original Tynietoy artwork and a rare Hepplewhite mirror on the left wall. The cloisonne vase on the Mt. Vernon drop-leaf table is one I've owned since I was a teenager. My mother found it for me at a yard sale held at the Westport, CT home of Bud Sagendorf, a famous comic book artist and father of noted collector Kit Sagendorf. She also bought me a small grocery store and some vintage furniture at this sale, and I have treasured this pretty vase with its delicately crackled glaze through all my years as a collector. The paper flowers in that vase are antiques similar to those found in antique treenware vases and other vintage bouquets appear throughout this house.

I made the pleated draperies from green silk I bought at Liberty's flagship store in London, and painted the Meissen figurines which were cast metal blanks purchased in person at Phoenix Miniatures in Northamptonshire when it was still owned by the original craftsman - what a wonderful visit that was! The painting over the mantel is a Tynietoy oil portrait in the style of Copley, while the colorful hunting scene over the Astor piano is a print enhanced with hand-painted details. The sheet music on the piano is antique, while the violin resting in the green wing chair is a modern accessory. My brother, a skilled model-maker, painted the grazing sheep figurine on the mantel.

You get a slightly better view of the lovely Hepplewhite mirror over the settee in this photo, which is flanked by tables with Tynietoy lamps. The rare mirror was an exciting discovery at an auction, where I noticed it glued to the wall of an awkwardly displayed Keystone Tudor dollhouse along with a wag-on-wall clock. I suppose no one else noticed it there, because I bought the dollhouse and contents for a mere $50 later in the day.  The parlor contains three desirable tables: the Mt. Vernon drop-leaf table, a mahogany tripod table in the background, and a small flip-top table in the foreground. I'm also pleased to have the two Tynietoy table lamps with hand-painted shades in this room. I didn't care for lamps in this dollhouse originally, but I came to appreciate the artistry in the delicate lampshades.

The dining room draperies are also made from Liberty fabric, a fine printed cotton lawn which pleats easily. The needlepoint Persian rug was at the bottom of a box lot purchased for only $35 but I had to wait four hours for it to come under the hammer. The rolling tea cart was a lucky buy on ebay, and the painted tin box on the side chair is filled with old silverware.

Desirable accessories in the dining room include a pair of knife boxes on the large sideboard and two pairs of silver-plated Tynietoy candlesticks. One pair has the familar scalloped square base while the others have unusual round bases. Also rare is the finely detailed bowl of fruit on the table, and the stained highchair in the background - the only one I have ever seen that was not painted. Several pieces of treenware are placed throughout the room, including a pair of plates on the right wall. The white painted corner cupboard has been borrowed from the furnishings I received with the Colonial Mansion because its red interior is so harmonious with the colors in this room.

The kitchen is dominated by the large painted wooden range with attached boiler. It is unmarked and possibly German, and I am pleased I could just fit it into this kitchen. The Tynietoy towel bar was in the house when I got it and the embroidered dish towels were bonus items from Merriam Hibbard. The red treenware tea set on the table is German and probably dates from the 1930's. Under the sink is a miniature crate of oranges, a popular souvenir for tourists who discovered Florida after WWI. The yellow chairs are German imports, very possibly made by Gottschalk and sold by the Toy Furniture Shop, Tynietoy's retail outlet, but not offered in the catalogues. I don't really consider them Tynietoy, but used them here to further the cheerful yellow and red color theme.

This bedroom was over-painted an unattractive turquoise color when I bought it, so I didn't pause too long before deciding to paper it. At that time, I also added a chimney breast to cover the exposed electrical wiring. The canopy bed was purchased at auction with the Sheraton chair upholstered in the same fabric. The tiny silhouettes hung over the dresser came with the house, and I painted the hatbox on top of the highboy. 

All the fireplaces in this house have Tynietoy andirons and decorative brass fenders. The tilt-top table under the window has a little German tray holding an assortment of five Vienna bronze potted plants.

The black Windsor chair was the first one I ever bought and came in a very affordable box lot I purchased at auction. Until I purchased my furnished Mansion, I never thought I would own so many of these coveted chairs. The floor lamp's handpainted shade features a colorful parrot. I made pillows from an embroidered handkerchief to soften the outline of the Mt. Vernon settee on the right.

This second bedroom was covered with a dark green printed chintz fabric to which had been glued a crude wainscot made of painted popsicle sticks. A white painted Tynietoy corner cupboard had been wedged into the right hand corner between the wainscot panels. Fortunately, the fabric was removed with a little effort, taking the wainscot with it and freeing the corner cupboard. The floor of that room had been painted over as well, but that came off easily with a minimal application of paint stripper. Sorry about the shadow....

After removing the fabric on the walls, I found the painted surfaces somewhat damaged. Rather than repaint, I chose to wallpaper the walls and cover the electrical wire runnning into the nursery. The wallpaper is a miniature version of the same paper that hung on the walls of a New England inn where my wedding party stayed and we took pictures, so it is a sentimental favorite. The fireplace is the smaller version that is a little harder to find. More painted hatboxes are stored behind the delicately painted wing chair. The Godey print and the silhouette of George Washington on the rear wall are Tynietoy.

I left the striped wallpaper in the nursery as I found it. I believe the dotted swiss ruffled curtains are Tynietoy curtains, as are those in the kitchen. The little toddler dolls are Hertwigs I bought as part of a large lot of dollhouse dolls at a Noel Barrett auction. The German aquarium has a soft metal stand and the "glass" is celluloid. I put fish from a Shackman aquarium in it. The Erzgebirge doghouse was purchased from the Sagendorf yard sale mentioned previously - I've had it for ages! 

I have sold this house  (8.31.10)

Archived Material

Tynietoy Colonial Mansion

A 1922 Collection of Tynietoy


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