A Christian Hacker House, ca 1880
by Susan Hale
This gorgeous 1880's era Christian Hacker doll house waited for six months for me to come and get it. It is about 130 years old, so it has mastered the art of patience. I am still working on that particular virtue. You can't imagine how eager I was to see this house.
The Christian Hacker factory was founded in Nuremberg, Germany in 1835. It built high quality, expensive wooden toys (stables, guard houses, dollhouses, rooms, kitchens, shops, warehouses, castles, cars, and trains) until1927 when a major recession in Germany caused the business to close down.
I find it interesting that a few decades ago these houses were considered French. Could it be that they were made in Germany for the French market?
The outside of the house was painstakingly restored a few years ago. There are some touch ups to the exterior, and the roof has lost its original blue diagonal tile paper, but otherwise the house is looking much as it did when it was new.
The balcony is a replacement, but was copied from a similar Hacker house and it is painted to match the muted colors of the exterior, so it is hard to tell it is not original.
I purchased this house last November, but couldn't pick it up until this summer due to circumstances that prevented me from traveling for a few months! Finally, in July, all the stars aligned and I was able to go get it.
My dear friends in Pennsylvania, Ann Meehan, antique doll house expert, and her husband Michael, also a collector of exquisite antique toys, kept if for me over the winter. I can't thank them enough for this. I knew the house would be well cared for in their keeping, and their kindness in doing this is more appreciated than they could know.
I have furnished it with the Boulle furniture that I collected for it over the months I was waiting for the house to come home.
I was lucky enough to spend last Christmas in Paris and I found a number of items for the house there.
One of the things I love about Paris is the Flea Market or Marché aux Puces, as they call it. At the Porte de Clignancourt I was delighted to find some rare Boulle antique dollhouse furniture.
The drop front secretary is a particularly lovely piece.
Boulle furniture is also referred to as Biedermeier style or Waltershausen, the latter being the area of Germany where toys were made before the First World War.
Boulle is named after French ébéniste (or cabinetmaker) A.C. Boulle (1642-1732). The elaborate painting on the miniature pieces is meant to represent his fine decorative schemes of brass, tortoiseshell and other materials on a background of dark woods. He, and the cabinet makers that followed him, applied veneers and marquetry inlay over secondary wood. These tiny pieces of furniture are meant to represent that delicate work.
I also found this delightful 3/4" scale bedroom suite at the Flea Market. The friendly vendor had no other doll-related items. When told the price I immediately said "non". But the vendor was motivated and came down to what I was willing to pay, even though it was close to half of the amount she originally said.
Here are the two vanities side by side so you can see the difference in scale.
Once we had agreed on the price I needed to find an ATM. The happy vendor walked with us to the nearest one, about a half a kilometer away, and escorted us back to the shop. We never would have found her again otherwise.
The pieces have some wear, but that is to be expected in toys that are 100+ years old.
I love the wallpaper in the bedroom and I believe it is original. The lovely Kestner lady with the bun at the back of her head is proud of her pretty bedroom.
The vanity has Treen toilet pieces on it. The picture on the wall has "Crystal Beach, Ontario, September 1908" written on the back. I know the picture is too new for the house but I like it anyway.
I put the dining room above the kitchen, as I thought the decor of the room made it an inviting spot to enjoy a meal. I believe the wallpaper is a replacement with reproduction borders.
The ceiling retains its original decorations, but unfortunately has a split in it. The ceiling is actually the bottom of the attic section of the house.
The ringletted lady is a Simon and Halbig 1160 doll with her original wig and glass eyes. She is wearing her original outfit. It has shredded from age but is still elegant. The older lady is a Kestner doll. She has a painted ribbon on the back of her hair.
When visiting Ann Meehan's wonderful collection last year I fell in love with the little painted wooden dishes called Treen.
Since then I have acquired a few and I am proudly displaying them in this kitchen. They are not in pristine condition, but they are so hard to find I accept them as they are.
The dresser the dishes are in and the stove at the back of the room are original to the house. The wall and floor papers are also original
The lovely doll is wearing her original regional costume. I don't know what region she represents, but I think she is just wonderful.
Another view of the kitchen.
There are also a few Treen pieces on the table.
The upstairs hall has replacement wallpaper, but the floor paper is original. A small glass-eyed doll plays with her dolly. She is hoping that her governess is still napping and won't drag her off to her lessons. The doors and door frames are original. Again you can see the unfortunate crack in the ceiling. I don't know how to fix it, so I will just live with it until I figure it out.
Mrs. Featherbonnet takes a look around the parlour. The wallpaper and floor paper are original with some touch ups. The paintings on the back wall are original art work by the same artist as those in the dining room.
The settee, drop front secretary that I got in Paris and writing table with curved drawers are Boulle, as is the sofa. I think they look wonderful in this room.
Another Simon and Halbig lady with original wig and age-shredded dress welcomes us into the entrance hall. The wall and floor papers are original here too.
Her Airedale is hoping she will open the door to the kitchen so he can steal a treat.
A Christian Hacker doll's house now lives in my house. I still wonder if I am dreaming when I look at it. When I started collecting dollhouses a few years ago I thought these wonderful antique toys existed only in museums. Now I actually own one of these exquisite items. It just goes to show you dreams can come true.
I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I enjoyed furnishing the house.
See more of Susan Hale's collection at Susan's Mini Homes here: http://susanshouses.blogspot.ca